Updated: May 14, 2019
If you’re not in the best health of your life, your offspring won’t be either. I’ve been a Registered Nurse at the postpartum bedside interacting with mamas and their newborns for nine years and I’ve seen this truth. I’ve held and assessed thousands of newborns—enough to know that what goes on in mama’s body before and during pregnancy has a lot to do with the outcome at birth. Not only from a health standpoint, but newborn temperament as well. It's a magical, but critical period of time that sets our children up for life.
If you're not in the best health of your life, your offspring won't be either.
Prior to becoming spontaneously pregnant with my daughter, I battled for almost two years with a diagnosis of "unexplained infertility". At a crucial fork in the road in my journey to motherhood, I bowed out of conventional medicine with its lack of answers, and down the path less traveled towards functional medicine. Instead of injecting myself with expensive synthetic hormones full of side effects, I opted to partner with a practitioner who could fix my underlying issues and get my body in a state of ultimate health. She looked beyond my reproductive hormones and organs and treated my body as a whole.
She got my liver up and running at peak performance. Gave my burned out adrenals a well needed rest. Put my body back in balance. And that’s when the magic happened. Not only was I pregnant in a few months time, the little bean liked it so much in there she stayed put for over 42 weeks. Despite having mild food aversion early on, I barely “felt” pregnant in the traditional sense. Just because the pregnancy woes are common (nausea, vomiting, reflux, fatigue, etc), doesn’t mean they are normal. If you follow me long enough, you’ll hear me say this a lot—just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s normal! If your body is in good health and balance before you conceive, pregnancy can actually feel pretty wonderful. Even with a 9 1/2 lb baby brewing long past your due date. True story!
It's no wonder my liver was, well for lack of a better term, jacked up. The liver is a major powerhouse in the body's detoxification system. It plays a HUGE role in hormonal health and balancing not only the sex hormones, but the thyroid and adrenals as well. So the years I spent bending my elbow at the local pub and downing Excedrin to mask my hangovers, coupled with a decade and a half of taking oral contraceptives set me up to be the “1 in 8” who struggle with fertility. For years I had never really even considered the toxic things I was putting on my body. Deodorant, lotion, makeup, shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, soap, hand sanitizer, nail polish, pads and tampons!.. and so on...
And don’t forget about the air we breathe and the water we drink— pretty vital to our health, right? How much control do we even have over that? Actually a little more than you might think, but it’s enough to make your head spin. It can seem overwhelming, because when you go at it alone, it is… To be honest, I wonder how long it will be before the statistics trend to a higher prevalence of infertility, and when the chemical load of our newborns spikes from 300 to upwards of 400, 500… and they will be, if we let it. Though it seems mind boggling, the good news is the solution isn’t that complex and it’s right here in front of you.
The truth is, you have the power to lower the toxic load in your body and in your home.
You can heal your body at the cellular level. You organ systems can function optimally. You don’t have to live with debilitating symptoms. You can have a super healthy pregnancy, and a super healthy newborn. The fate of this is more in your hands than you realize, the responsibility is yours.
You have the power to lower the toxic load in your body and in your home.
Over 50% of our nation's children are sick with chronic disorders... this is not ok! Only the healthiest, happiest mama’s have a shot in having and raising the healthiest, happiest kids. It’s common, but not normal for infants today to experience being sick up to 10 times in their first year of life. Doesn’t that strike you a little bit odd? I thought so, too, when I read that statistic in my Advanced Pathology textbook. My daughter is a year old and has had only one low-grade fever that broke rather quickly at home with a very non-toxic remedy. Her only trips to the doctor have been well-baby visits. She’s flown over 10,000 miles, has been passed around at weddings with over 250 people, and lives at home with a mama who works in the hospital and is exposed to all sorts of germs. In no way am I disillusioned to think she will never get sick— but the point is… as you’ve guessed it… just because it’s common, doesn’t make it normal. We’ve set goals in my household to not get sick, and at the onset of any sneeze or sniffle, we get right on top of it. It works.
I had a much lower toxic load going into my pregnancy than the average woman. I viewed the pre-conception period as a time to make the ultimate environment for my baby-to-be. I lowered my toxic load and exposure, made sure all of my body systems were up in their best working order, nourished myself, and followed some pretty sage advice from badass old-school doctors like Dr. Klenner. Decades ago he studied mega dose vitamin C in pregnancy. While he found some very positive findings for mothers (no reported pre-eclampsia, no postpartum hemorrhage to name a few), his nurses noted that the babies born to the mothers in his vitamin C trials were characteristically very calm. They called them the "Klenner Babies". Lo and behold, my Klenner baby was just that. Calm, alert, easy-going, and a great sleeper from week one. As a note, anyone with a G6PD deficiency or known kidney disorder such discuss using vitamin C in high doses with their doctor.
I viewed the pre-conception period as a time to make the ultimate environment for my baby-to-be
As mama’s (and papa’s!), we need to put as much attention to our role and responsibility in our children’s health as we do on picking out paint colors and swooning over newborn clothes. Don’t get me wrong, those things are important, too! But nothing, as a parents, beats having a healthy, happy kid smiling back at you. Take the time before pregnancy to get your body running at peak performance so you can up your chances for that. Instead of spending nights awake chasing fevers and coughs, taking off work to drive to the doctor's office to sit in the waiting room getting exposed to all of the really nasty bugs only to leave with an antibiotic to cause more issues… we’ve spent the majority of her first year sitting on the beach, living in the sunshine, going for walks, and enjoying parenthood.
As promised, here is my guide to the Healthiest and Happiest Pregnancy and the Healthiest Happiest Newborn:
1. Shift your perspective. What’s common is not always normal! Headaches, digestive disorders, skin issues, frequent illness, low energy, low libido, fatigue, painful periods… are all signs your body is telling you it needs help! Get out of the mindset of taking a pill for these ills and figure out why they are happening. If you run to the doctor for every non-urgent ailment for a prescription of antibiotics or medication, you will likely do this with your own child.
2. The time to start thinking about a healthy child is before you get pregnant! There are no guarantees even if your body is in the best state of health. Some of us have underlying genetic predispositions and genes that at this point in our understanding of health and the human body, there isn’t much we can do about. The field of epigenetic (what turns on and turns off genes) is VERY interesting though. And we now know there’s ways to improve the qualities of our egg and sperm. So why not up the odds and concentrate on that? Resolve the underlying issues in your body, get your microbiome and immune system up in peak performance, and concentrate on improving the quality of eggs and sperm.
3. Be mindful of what you eat! Ever heard the saying you are what you eat? Well your baby is what you eat, too. Consistent low quality choices up your odds for complications like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. There is no universal diet for anyone, especially pregnant women. You’ll hear a lot of guidelines along the way, but really the only way to properly nourish yourself is to eat real foods that your body tolerates. The only way to know this is to get tested for your food intolerances— and well all have them!
4. Know that your are biochemically and individually unique! To be in the best state of health, you need to know exactly what’s going on in your body. The ideal time to do this is before you’re pregnant! You need to understand what food intolerances you may be experiencing. Broccoli might be great for me, but based on whats going on in your system, could be wrecking havoc for you! You also need to get tested to see what nutrients you’re deficient in. Not all vegans need B12. Not everyone needs to be taking calcium supplements. Taking unnecessary supplementation is not only expensive, but can throw your body out of whack. And as a side note: not all supplements are created equal! Not only is it an unregulated market, low quality supplements are often made with cheap, synthetic, non-bioavailable forms of the nutrient you’re looking for… Folic acid is actually an example of this! It’s the synthetic version of B9, a nutrient needed by most pregnant women. What you really need though, is folate. If your doctor or practitioner is still recommending a prenatal with folic acid, they aren’t up to date on best practice. Opt for a whole foods prenatal vitamin like Garden of Life.
5. Lower your toxic load! Be mindful of what you come in contact with and make better choices about what your put on your largest organ— your skin! The Think Dirty app is one of many that rates cosmetics and beauty supplies by breaking down the chemical ingredients and giving each product a grade. I always opt for organic— not just for my food, but for my products. Putting chemicals and aluminum under your arms that drain right into your lymphatic system and breast tissue is a NO-NO! Putting non-organic cotton full of glyphosate into your vagina each month? THINK AGAIN! Testing your body for heavy metals and environmental toxins and detoxing BEFORE you’re pregnant is one of the best gifts you can give to your unborn baby. Work with a practitioner who understands that your body can't properly detox without being fully nourished.
6. Partner with practitioner you trust who will treat you 1:1 with a game plan unique to you. Find someone who you trust. Someone that asks the right questions, listens, and runs the right tests. This likely means stepping outside of conventional medicine and partnering with clinician who has a more healing approach. Functional Medicine practitioners, like myself, are trained to find the root cause of dysfunction in the body. You matter. You are not a number and don’t deserve to be treated like one.
7. A healthy preconception body makes for a healthy pregnant body makes for a healthy baby and postpartum period. If your baseline is healthy and you continue to treat your body right, you will bounce back to healthy. Your body is pretty smart and knows what to do during this miraculous time. But underlying, unresolved issues will resurface and manifest in different ways throughout the process. An example of this is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Some women with PCOS can conceive naturally and some might need help. But studies are now suggesting women with PCOS are at risk for low milk supply. If you have PCOS, this does not have to be your fate! Resolve the unresolved issues.
8. Learn as much as you can about breastfeeding BEFORE you attempt it. Breastfeeding is challenging! I’ve helped thousands of women do it over the years, yet when my time came, I still needed assistance with a latch. (Humbling for someone in my field!). Know that lactation consultants exist and seek them out beforehand if you can. When it comes down to building your baby’s immune system, breastfeeding is a big component. You may not be thinking about it now, but I promise you if it’s your plan, when the time comes you will be concerned if you’re doing right and if you have enough milk. With a proper latch and a properly nourished body, you’ll meet your goal. You'll frequently hear about supply and demand. Hormones can have a lot to do with milk supply! Having a well-balanced and properly nourished body will support this need.
It is my personal mission to help my clients thrive— especially those who are willing and ready to invest not only in their own health, but the health of their children. I have been down this road and know the challenges women face. I understand what you’re up against, and what you have at stake. I treat my clients as individuals— as unique goddesses we are! Whether you’re struggling to conceive, being proactive in your preconception period, are currently pregnant, or are just a mama who needs some fine tuning— I’m here for you.