The word "holistic" refers to taking an "all of the above" approach to health and, therefore, pregnancy. This may include the use of exercise, nutrition, herbs and supplements to support a healthy mom and baby, but it also includes using medications and modern diagnostics when and where appropriate. In addition to this, a truly holistic approach considers not only the physical body, but our emotional, mental and spiritual health.
While there's an adage which refers to "eating for two," the reality is closer to eating for 1.1. Therefore, increasing the quality of foods during pregnancy is much more important than increasing the quantity.
While studies conflict over whether organic food is more nutritious, it's clearly a better choice to minimize exposure to pesticides. Many studies suggest a detrimental effect of pesticide exposure to a developing fetus. In addition, they may interfere with certain changes in hormone production which are essential to a healthy pregnancy. Other potentially hazardous foods to avoid include genetically modified (GM or GMO) foods, particularly corn and soy and food products derived from these. There's also evidence which suggests livestock raised on GMO feed are more prone to certain infections, which require high dosages of antibiotics to treat.
Micronutrients, such as folate, zinc, iron, magnesium and vitamin E are often very low in our diets. While the risk of a micronutrient-deficient diet is higher for those who subsist mostly on processed foods, it's very possible even when eating a majority of whole foods. For this reason, it can be helpful to consult with a naturopathic doctor, dietitian or nutritionist, or other health professional that has specific training in nutrition. Keep in mind that most MDs and DOs have little training in nutritional science, unless they've sought it out on their own. Nutrition education also can vary widely among chiropractic (DC) programs.
Taking a high quality prenatal multivitamin every day is the simplest way to ensure an ample supply of micronutrients. However, a multivitamin cannot make up for poor dietary habits, or for poor digestive function. Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in flaxseed oil and fish oil, are essential fats which play a critical role in neurological development and regulation of inflammatory processes in mom that are important for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
It's particularly important to consult with a trained professional before taking herbal supplements during pregnancy. While the majority of medicinal herbs pose little risk to pregnancy, there are quite a number which can induce a spontaneous termination of the pregnancy. Incidentally, many of these same herbs can be helpful during childbirth if it's not progressing sufficiently on its own.
Teas are generally safe, when consumed in moderation. In particular, mint, fennel and ginger tea can assist with morning sickness and to help regulate digestion in general. It's very important for the digestion and absorption functions to be working properly in order to ensure an abundance of nutrition for the developing fetus.
Put Together a Team
As holistic care is so encompassing, it would probably be quite a stretch for a single health professional to cover all the ground necessary. A one-stop-shop mentality makes for bad medicine, no matter what style is practiced.
It can be helpful to understand our own personal philosophy of health and to actively seek out practitioners which support our personal views. But it can be just as helpful to have those views challenged from time to time. Pregnancy is often one of those times. The bottom line is to choose practitioners that offer educated opinions rather than commands and who focus on the benefits of their own practice, rather than the risks of their competitors.
Midwifery, nutrition, exercise, massage, yoga, visualization, meditation, herbal remedies, dietary supplements and even medications and modern diagnostics are all part of a holistically-balanced approach to pregnancy. Acupressure and acupuncture are modalities that can address a number of health conditions associated with pregnancy, including morning sickness, pain relief during labor and reduced stress. However, similar to herbs, stimulating certain points is contraindicated in pregnancy, except to induce labor.
Every mother should find the best set of options for their health and comfort, which makes for a healthy baby. Your baby might not literally thank you later but, then again, they might.
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