Your Most Common Pregnancy Questions Answered
Pregnancy tips from registered dietitian moms who have been through it
By Alison Epp and Christine Devaney Towsley
Expecting a child can be one of life’s most joyful experiences. Creating life and nurturing a baby throughout 9 months can bring many joyful moments, but it can also come with several unpleasant symptoms.
We asked two of our team members, who are both moms to help answer some common pregnancy questions expecting clients often ask us.
What foods can I eat to bring my energy up while I’m experiencing exhaustion?
The fatigue that the first trimester brings is no joke! It’s oftentimes described as feeling tired and sluggish from the minute you wake up in the morning, to the moment you go to sleep. This in and of itself can be tiring too! There are a TON of things going on in the body in this early stage of development; including building the placenta, hormone changes, an increase in blood supply and other physical changes¹. One can also experience fatigue and exhaustion during the third trimester thanks to carrying around an ever-growing baby all day, pregnancy insomnia, aches and pains, and general stress getting ready for the new addition to the family¹.
One of the best ways to support yourself and your growing baby during such tiring times is to nourish yourself frequently. Rather than eating 2 or 3 larger meals during the day, try having smaller, more frequent meals. This can help to keep your blood sugars stable and energy levels up. Furthermore, including a combination of protein and fibre foods can help slow the absorption of sugar into the blood, allowing for longer-lasting energy levels. Need some ideas? Try oatmeal with peanut butter and berries, whole-grain crackers with cheese and apple slices or whole wheat pita bread with hummus and red pepper slices. You can also try making a batch of energy balls such as these Nutty Chocoholic balls. Try freezing them for a quick and easy satisfying snack anytime.
I’m worried that all my food aversions are affecting my nutrient intake. What should I do?
Common symptoms of pregnancy are changes in appetite, such as cravings, strong sudden dislikes of certain foods, and nausea and vomiting. Not surprisingly, research shows up to 6 out of 10 women will experience a food aversion while pregnant². The reasons for these changes are still unknown, but experts suggest it may have something to do with hormonal changes, or psychological and cultural causes².
So, what can you do if you can’t stand the sight or smell of proteins such as meat and eggs, or other nutrient-dense foods? Maximize the times when your appetite is high and select a variety of different foods if you can. If you’re unable to eat meat, think about different sources of protein you may be able to tolerate, such as nuts and seeds, Greek yogurt, beans and lentils or tofu. If certain vegetables are suddenly not appealing, lean on those varieties that you can stomach, and consider switching up the way you prepare them; such as raw with dip, stir-fried or roasted. It may also be helpful to note that including a variety of fruit will also provide a similar nutrient profile to veggies during this time.
If you’re aiming to have a small meal or snack every few hours, and are trying to include a couple of different foods at each sitting, such as a protein and a carbohydrate or fiber food, you’ll help provide you and your growing baby the nutrients and energy you both need to thrive. In addition, your prenatal vitamins can help to fill nutrient gaps during these times of aversion.
My body is changing rapidly and it is mentally challenging. What can I do to help with this?
I can tell you from personal experience that the physical changes that occur during pregnancy can certainly throw our minds down a rabbit hole. It is especially difficult when one already was struggling with a difficult food and body relationship and then pregnancy throws another major curveball into the mix. One strategy that I highly recommend is what I call ‘Mirror talk’.
1. Every day, stand in front of the mirror and pick 1 thing that you like or are neutral about with your body. An example of something neutral is your earlobes.
2. After you have stated a like or neutral piece of your body, pick 1 thing that is changing for the sake of your baby. An example is, my breasts have grown in order to provide nourishment for my babe.
Mirror talk can help with your mindset around your body and the changes happening to your body that are healthy and normal. I also highly recommend talking with someone and journaling about the difficulties you’re feeling. This helps to take the power away from the thoughts and gets you the support you may need.
I wanted to lose weight prior to pregnancy, can I keep up with these weight loss goals now that I am pregnant?
This is a challenging question and connects well with the last question. Weight loss is not recommended during pregnancy as it leads to inflammation in the body. It is also important to ensure that the baby is protected from inflammation as much as can be controlled and that the baby is well nourished with all the essential nutrients. If you are losing weight or dieting during pregnancy, you and your baby may miss out on important nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy and infant. Weight gain may differ depending on your pre-pregnancy weight and size but weight gain is healthy and normal, especially in the second and third trimester as your body carries and nourishes a baby inside you. Providing your body with food that is healthful and soulful while include movement is the best recommendation during pregnancy.
What happens if I accidentally lose weight?
Weight loss can happen if a woman is experiencing severe morning sickness and food aversions. Talk to your physician right away about options to help reduce nausea and for monitoring both you and the baby. Hydration with electrolytes is central in this case and providing the body with whatever food that it can tolerate. Also taking a prenatal vitamin to ensure essential vitamins and minerals are getting in. Some prenatal can lead to more nausea but there are products on the market that have been created with reducing the nauseating effects of the vitamins in mind.
Pregnancy is a joyful yet challenging season in life. Know that if you are struggling, that can be normal and it is important to seek out help for both mental and physical symptoms- talk to your doctor, seek out a dietitian for nutrition support and look at finding a counsellor for emotional/mental health. You never have to be alone in this journey!
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