So you might be wondering about a holistic pregnancy and what that looks like. I mean how can you survive the first trimester? Well, you’ve come to the right place because I’m going to share all my secrets with you. Ok, they’re not really secrets but things that have helped me to continue living my holistic life, which is pretty huge when you become pregnant.
So you get a positive pregnancy test- now what? Often the process of getting pregnant can seem daunting but then once you are pregnant you realize there is so much that goes with pregnancy that you were unaware of. I know that’s how I felt in my first pregnancy. I want to help answer some common questions when it comes to a holistic pregnancy and what that even looks like.
*Affiliate Disclosure: I do have affiliate links in this blog post. If you purchase something from my link, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This comes at no cost to you but is paid by the company. I do not take becoming an affiliate with any company lightly. If I am, it’s because I believe in the company and their product.
*Suzi (Gurl Gone Green) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
*This is not medical advice. As always I am not a doctor, please always consult with your physician before taking on any new regimen that you are unsure of.
How Long Should Women Prepare Their Body For Pregnancy?
I’ve gotten this question a lot when I’m pregnant and when I’m not, I have even wondered this myself. After having three kids and now being pregnant with my fourth I’ve felt more prepared the more babies I’ve had and the more I’ve learned about holistic health. So if you’re reading this and you’re already pregnant and felt like you didn’t prepare, don’t worry I’ve felt the same way! I think if you can plan and prep your body for pregnancy it’s great but sometimes you just can’t.
From all the research I’ve read and podcasts I’ve listened to on preparing your body for pregnancy, it seems most experts say 3-6 months. With 6 months being optimal. (1) Some even say as much as a year. I think if you live a healthy lifestyle in general then you shouldn’t need to switch up your normal routine much, other than possibly supplementing with certain vitamins more. The more time you give your body to prep for a healthy pregnancy, the better you will feel all around and the better for baby.
What Does It Look Like To Prepare For A Holistic Pregnancy?
- Start eating a real foods diet- this means less processed foods and more wholesome real foods that feed your body nourishment from the inside out. Grass-fed meats, organic veggies, healthy fats like pastured butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil. Setting your body up in the best way possible!
- Exercise- This not only helps you stay in shape better throughout your pregnancy but it also can help with gestational diabetes. (2)
- Supplements- Taking a good prenatal vitamin before to help your body prepare for pregnancy is always a great idea. You want to get a prenatal that has folate in it and not folic acid. Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate. Folate is what naturally occurs in leafy greens, nuts and seeds and other foods. We need folate during pregnancy especially because it helps with DNA formation and growing of healthy cells. (3)
- Get labs done- It’s always a good idea to get bloodwork done before trying to conceive to see if you are deficient in anything and to know how to properly supplement your body. Some things you could test for would be, overall thyroid health(ask for a full thyroid panel), iron levels, Vitamin B and even a hormone panel if you want more information on where your body is at.
- Avoiding or Limiting Alcohol- From research we know that alcohol can reduce your bodies nutrient stores overall. Research suggests that alcohol can have affect conception. (4) (5)
- Limiting or Minimizing Stress- It’s impossible to avoid stress but finding ways to lessen it and relax more can help prepare your body for pregnancy. Research suggests that our lifestyles can affect the development early on in the embryo. (6)
What Foods Induce Pregnancy?
Often we talk about wanting to induce labor but the question I’ve been hearing is what foods should I eat to help induce pregnancy? There are so many real food options out there but what is the best to be eating is often the question. I’m breaking down my favorites to help increase conception. As well as a few you could avoid as well.
- Fermented Foods- Gut health has been all the rage the last several years, but for good reason! The gut health affects everything else in your body. The mother’s gut health affects her child’s gut health as well. Fill up on fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt(plain is best for low sugar), kefir, even swap your regular bread for sourdough bread.
- Eggs- If you can tolerate eggs, then eat up! These are full of choline, which is very important in preventing neural tube defects too- similar to folate but not often mentioned. (7) They also are loaded with protein and are essentially the perfect food. They even have folate in them.
- Leafy Greens- Think of spinach, kale, collard greens, boy choy, swiss chard, mustard greens, and arugula. Fill your plate up! These are loaded with antioxidants, and folate. Antioxidants like Vitamin C, CoQ10 and Vitamin E are said to be the triple threat for boosting fertility. (8)
How To Prevent Diabetes in Pregnancy?
This is a topic I feel pretty passionate about because I’ve experienced it myself. Although I haven’t actually been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, my blood sugar was elevated with my last pregnancy and so it really pushed me to figure out how to naturally lower it.
- Lily Nichols Book On Gestational Diabetes- This book I got later on in my third pregnancy but I wished I would have had it from the very beginning. If you’re pregnant than you’ve probably heard of gestational diabetes. I didn’t have it with my first two and didn’t give it much thought with my third. However, after testing my blood sugar myself it was elevated. I wasn’t diagnosed with gestational diabetes but I did want to lower it. This book really would have been a great resource in the beginning because she recommends you have a certain test done in the very early part of your pregnancy to determine if you’re at risk for developing gestational diabetes. This test is pretty accurate if done in the beginning of pregnancy. It would have been great to know in the beginning since you can change your diet, etc. early on. I learned so much from reading it! My blood sugar was lowered with just a few tweaks and I felt better overall. Get it here!
- Testing Your Blood Sugar Yourself- This might sound annoying but honestly it made such a difference for me. I had just taken the glucola drink with my first two pregnancies but with my third I wanted to avoid the drink. I did get the undyed glucola drink both times but still, it’s not my favorite and I never have that much sugar at once. I thought it would be interesting to test my blood sugar myself instead for a couple weeks. This is what they will have you do if you don’t want to take the glucola drink. You prick your finger in the morning upon waking, and then and hour after each meal. Some practitioners may have you even do it after snacks. You write down your results each time. It was so eye opening! It made me realize how my body was processing different foods, compared to others. For example, I found white rice would really skyrocket my blood sugar. So I knew to avoid that. Personally, in the long run I think it’s the best method because it really gives you an individualized approach to what foods affect your blood sugar. It also just makes you aware of how blood sugar works in general. I didn’t fully understand it all until testing myself. Here is the kit I bought from Amazon!
- Get 80-100 grams of Protein A Day- I remember thinking this seemed crazy with my first pregnancy! However, your baby is growing so rapidly and needing the extra protein for fetal development. Plus, for me the biggest thing I noticed when I ate enough protein, especially in my first pregnancy was increased energy and less nausea. It helped keep me full longer which kept my nausea at bay. I know you will crave carbs really and that’s it a lot of times but if you can really get some good protein in it helps so much. They say the average pregnant women needs 80-100 grams of protein! And if you’re having twins it’s more like 120-150 grams. This also helps with blood sugar regulation. I have an extra protein shake everyday using Activ Whey Goat Whey Protein. It’s so tasty and the protein powder is the best! You can read more about the protein powder here and why it takes the cake in my opinion. I will add 1 cup of coconut milk, 3 ice cubes, a teaspoon of chia seeds, and blend that all together. Then I’ll add the two scoops of the Activ Whey protein powder after the ice is all mixed up and smooth. I only blend the protein powder for a few since if you over blend it can add air to the drink and make you feel gassy when you drink it. Sometimes I’ll even add a scoop of cacao powder- it legit tastes like a chocolate milkshake! Check out Activ Whey here. Also, check out my protein podcast I did with my naturopathic doctor here!
- Inositol- This is great for helping with blood sugar regulation. It’s just a powder that you add to some water. It almost tastes a little sweet. My naturopath had recommended it to me initially after seeing that my antibodies were getting pretty low(I have Hashimotos) and he said that taking a combination of that plus selenium had shown to help reduce antibodies even more. So I was already taking it but then after my blood sugar testing had shown my blood sugar was elevated he said to keep taking it since it helps regulate blood sugar as well. Check it out here.
- Exercise- This might seem obvious to some but it really is a big deal! Exercise uses up excess glucose in your body- so it essentially has somewhere to go. I started to exercise with my third consistently after finding out my blood sugar was high and it made a huge difference. Now with my 4th I have been consistently exercising and feel so much better when I do. Lifting weights and strength training can especially help with blood sugar. I heard one person describe muscles as a bucket. When you have a large bucket meaning muscle on your body you can store more sugar in that bucket, when you have a small bucket or no muscle you can’t store much. Having muscle improves your blood sugar regulation overall. One more reason to start lifting weights! Even walking after meals has proven to help regulate blood sugar as well. (9).
- Glucose Goddess- A great resource I follow on Instagram for regulating blood sugar is @glucosegoddess. She has so many tips and tricks for blood sugar management. She specifically talks a lot about what foods you eat first. She recommends eating veggies, fats and then proteins first for better blood sugar management. This helps to slow the release of blood sugar into your body.
- Skip The Processed Foods- Obviously it may go without saying, but avoid processed foods. These are packaged foods that are void of fiber and usually loaded with lots of carbs and sugar. These carbs and sugar hit your blood stream and cause a major blood sugar spike. Instead if you need something quick grab and apple and almond butter, or some fiber rich berries, nuts or seeds, even make your own trail mix. Your blood sugar will thank you!
How To Reverse Anemia In Pregnancy?
This is such a popular topic and one I wasn’t familiar with until I started having babies and quickly realized how easy it is to have an iron deficiency in pregnancy if you aren’t proactive. If you aren’t pregnant I would get a blood test to see what your levels are, that way you can be ahead of the game. I even suffered from iron deficiency even before I was ever pregnant, and so you definitely want to be making sure your levels are up to the normal range before you even get pregnant if possible.
The reason why iron is a big deal in pregnancy is that the demand for oxygen increases dramatically during pregnancy. Your metabolic rate increases by 15% and the amount of oxygen consumed increases by 20%. (10)
Here are some things I did to help get my iron up:
- Supplement- Most iron supplements can take a while to get your body back up to the normal range, but my naturopath recommended to me a supplement that can make a difference so much quicker! It’s called Blood Vitality. This is the one thing that I can say drastically made such a difference in my iron levels, when I was pregnant and when I wasn’t. Throughout my pregnancy I was feeling weak and dizzy, especially after working out, but after taking Blood Vitality for a month consistently I had so much more energy and didn’t get dizzy. I love that it wasn’t irritating to my stomach either like other iron supplements. Plus, my lab results showed my Ferritin levels had gone up! Check it out here.
- Eat Iron Rich Foods- From spinach, to beef, dark chocolate, beans, broccoli, organic meats, seafood like salmon, oysters, sardines, bison, and oats.
- Cooking With Cast Iron- Cooking with cast iron has shown to increase iron levels because as you cook your food the food absorbs the iron. Especially if you cook with acidic foods.
How To Find a Holistic Doctor For Pregnancy?
You first need to ask yourself how do you want to give birth? Do you want to give birth in a hospital? Then you would be looking for an OB/GYN with a holistic approach. If you are wanting to give birth at home or birth center then you would be looking for a midwife. While there isn’t necessarily a specific title for a holistic doctor for pregnancy, you can find OB/GYN physicians that are more natural in their approach. It’s best to ask friends, naturopathic physicians in your area, midwives and birth centers if they know of any OB/GYN doctors that are familiar with holistic practices even in a hospital environment. I have many friends who want a holistic pregnancy and have to have their babies at the hospital or feel more comfortable at a hospital and have achieved great success with this. They tell their doctors their wishes from the start and that really helps to guide the relationship throughout pregnancy.
Having had all my babies at home and with a midwife, I’ve been able to interview each midwife before consenting to their care. This has helped me feel at ease and really be able to ask them questions beforehand. I highly encourage this if you’ve thought about having a midwife. It will get you both off on the right track. Here is a list of common questions you can ask your midwife before you consent to their care.
I’ve also had friends have a midwife attend a hospital birth to make sure holistic practices were taken when birth was happening. There are a variety of options now, you just have to consider what works best for you and your family.
What To Expect With The First Trimester?
Here are just a few of the common symptoms first trimester mamas can feel:
- Tired- ALL THE TIME
- Food Cravings and Food Aversions
- Not Motivated
- Weight Gain
- Mood Swings
- Heightened Sense Of Smell
- Frequent Trips To The Bathroom
- Out Of Breath
- Swollen Breasts
- Changes In Sex Drive
I like to describe it as being on a roller coaster. One minute you’re up and the next minute you’re down.
To be honest, sometimes I feel like two different people. There’s the me before pregnancy, and then there’s the me during pregnancy. There’s just so many changes happening all at once. You want to just feel normal and carry on but that is anything but how it is.
I wished I felt good being pregnant but truthfully I usually don’t. I know so many people who don’t have symptoms or feel amazing throughout their pregnancy which is awesome. But it hasn’t been my case. I literally feel like I’m in survival mode. Everything that came easy to me before feels 10 times harder. Whether it’s doing laundry, making dinner, cleaning the house, doing my job, or being a parent to my kids. It just takes more head space and energy than before.
Suffice to say babies really can take it out of you. I’ve experienced all of the symptoms in the first trimester listed above. Overall, the fatigue is real. I don’t know how many times I would literally just end up taking a nap when I should have been blogging or cleaning or anything besides napping. I’m not a napper at all, so taking a nap is just all around foreign to me. But when I’m pregnant sometimes it’s the best medicine.
I’m going to be sharing my experience and tips and tricks throughout my pregnancy that really help me. Trust me, if you’re reading this and you’re not a mama yet, don’t worry! Pregnancy looks so different on everyone and you might not experience these symptoms at all. It also usually gets so much better as you get further along in pregnancy, especially nausea.
I created a list of natural resources that have really helped when it comes to surviving the first trimester. I hope these help you like they did me! After all, us mamas have to stick together. 🙂
First Trimester Holistic Pregnancy Resources-
- Fizzy Water- I’m pretty obsessed with sparkling water even when I’m not pregnant but when I’m pregnant it’s a whole new level! The bubbles really help to ease my nausea. I love my Soda Stream because then I can make my my won fizzy water but have it be filtered! Plus, it saves you a ton of money. I love having the glass soda stream. It uses glass bottles versus plastic. I can’t recommend it enough! I’ll even add in some lime or lemon juice and some stevia liquid drops and it tastes like a lemon/lime soda. Check out the Soda Stream here!
- Real Food For Pregnancy Book- This book was recommended to me by my friend Dr. Ben Lynch. He’s a research doctor and knows his stuff. It has been such a resource for me! I’ve read pregnancy books before that have talked about nutrition but don’t have a lot of evidence to back up their claims. This book really gives so many references! It debunks so many of the common pregnancy nutrition guidelines people have been taught and turns them on their heads. Lily does such a thorough job of laying out what you should eat during pregnancy and why. She even goes into meal plans, recipes and supplement advice. I can’t recommend this book enough if you want to optimize your pregnancy. Get the book here!
- Seeking Health Supplements- These supplements have been taken on the daily by me. Supplementing is so important these days since are soil is so depleted and even if you’re eating a whole foods diet you can miss key nutrients. From Seeking Health I take their Optimal Prenatal, or their Optimal Prenatal Chewable, their Optimal Fish Oil, Vitamin B Complex Plus, NAC, ProBiota HistaminX, and Optimal Magnesium. It’s so important to take folate instead of folic acid. Watch this video my friend Dr. Ben Lynch did. So insightful!
- Blood Vitality- As mentioned above, this has been the best iron supplement I’ve found. It literally has increased my iron levels quicker than any other iron supplement. I can’t recommend it enough! Get it here!
- Vitamin D3 +K2 Supplement- This is a liquid Vitamin D3 +K2, I love that it’s a liquid. It’s so easy to take. Get it here!
- Podcasts: I’ve done two podcasts about fertility and conceiving and what to supplement, eat and so on in pregnancy. You can check them out here and here. Such great resources!
Other Holistic Pregnancy Tips-
- Make breakfast ahead of time- I’ve found for me that having some foods prepped has helped me a lot. In the mornings my nausea is at an all time high. One of my favorite foods to have on hand is homemade granola. Then I just add my favorite sheep yogurt to it from Bellwether. I just eat plain yogurt to avoid the extra sugars. I had two scoops of Activ Whey Protein Powder into it and swirl it all around. This helps to naturally sweeten the yogurt and up my protein. I’ll even make some chia pudding ahead of time and add that in too for some good fiber and Omega-3’s. The combination of the fat and protein with some carbs has been just the ticket for me. It helps to curb my nausea and keeps me feeling full a couple hours. Plus, it sounds good which is half the battle! If you have been pregnant before you know this is key. Knowing I have this quick breakfast in the morning to go too has been huge. It really has made a huge difference in helping me operate smoother in the mornings. Then I’ll make a smoothie a couple hours later after I workout. But right away I need something the moment I wake up. Scroll to the bottom for my granola recipe.
- DGL for acid reflux- I struggled with acid reflux in my first pregnancy but not in my second. Then it came back with a vengeance in my third. DGL is what has helped both times. DGL stands for Deglycyrrhizinated licorice. It’s an herbal supplement that helps to ease acid reflux. If you have a chewable form it takes like black licorice. This is what my naturopathic doctor recommended. It worked both times! I don’t get it everyday, just every now and then in my third trimester. I would take 3 chewables and it would go away. So much better than taking an OTC med in my opinion! This is the one I take!
- Compression socks or tights- I can’t recommend getting a pair of these enough! They have helped with every pregnancy. My mom suffered from varicose veins and I have one on my left side that will bother me. When I wear my compression tights, it feels SO much better. Plus, I wear the compressions tights for swelling. Most of my pregnancies have been more in the warmer months and I tend to swell more in my feet. Especially my left side which they say is common in pregnancy. When I wear my compression tights my legs and feet are so much less swollen. Plus, if you want to avoid getting varicose veins they recommend you wear them if you are pregnant too. Get them here!
- Probiotics- This is one I find not everyone considers taking when pregnant but I think it’s a great one to incorporate. Studies have shown that you can help achieve a negative GBS(Group B Streptococcus) when tested. This is the bacteria you get tested for towards the very end of your pregnancy. Taking a good probiotic might help your test to come back negative. If you have a positive GBS then they say you have a 1 in 200 chance of your baby getting an infection. The bacteria isn’t necessarily bad for adults but for babies. If you are positive your doctor will have you take antibiotics during your birth. It’s obviously not the end of the world, but if you can avoid getting antibiotics then why not. Check out the probiotic I take here.
- Chicken and Egg Salad- For whatever reason I’ve been craving both of these throughout my pregna