Let’s look at pregnancy and motherhood, what supplements work, what’s tried and tested, and what’s new, to assist you in enjoying health, wellness and happiness for you and your child.
Parenthood doesn’t come with a manual or a map. We have to feel our way forward, learning on the job, often navigating unreliable or biased information. Amongst the flood of advice a mother may struggle to find her way forward, and to trust her instincts, and to do what she feels is right for her and her child.
Here we aim to help you take the unnecessary pain out of motherhood, sharing some unbiased information on basic nutritional and herbal supplements, so that hopefully you can enjoy your journey of motherhood.
As a father of three kids I have witnessed the miracles, trials and tribulations of pregnancy, childbirth, infancy, early childhood through to teenage years. It has been both incredible as well as challenging. There’s no manual, and you learn on the job.
I remember each of my children being born, sharing their arrival closely with my partner, and I recall the feelings of holding each child for the first time. That look of I’ve been here before in their eyes, their delicious sweetness, their vulnerability, their aliveness.
There’s nothing to quite prepare one for any part of the experience of pregnancy and birth, or for the many aspects of parenthood. Sure there’s lots of advice and many stories told, but nothing gets close to the real thing.
When it comes to well-being and health, the available information can be fuzzy. It seems that health and wellness information especially is highly influenced by, and subject to, opinions, agendas, trends, the healthcare system of the day, and the corporate spin of food, neutraceutical, and pharmaceutical companies.
Sometimes it’s hard to sort the truth from the B.S.
Other times knowing who to trust and what to do seems downright impossible.
It is the intention of this article to give you very simple, easy and unbiased, consumer to consumer guidance.
Nutritional and/or herbal supplements
Because each pregnancy is unique, the best way to use herbs or supplements is under the care of a doctor, herbalist, naturopathic or homeopathic doctor. In conjunction with these, my partner found that an experienced doula can also be very helpful.
Folate (aka folic acid)
A B vitamin that may be needed for healthy growth and development. The body needs more of it during pregnancy for normal growth of the unborn baby. Adequate folate intake may help to prevent birth defects in the baby, including ‘neural tube defects’ such as spina bifida.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) states:
“The recommended dose of folic acid is at least 0.4mg daily to aid the prevention of neural tube defects (NTD). Where there is a known increased risk of NTD or a risk of malabsorption, a 5mg daily dose is recommended.”
They also state: “Folic acid should be taken for a minimum of one month before conception.” (RANZCOG Nov 2014).
Present in fish, seafood and sea vegetables such as seaweeds. General iodine levels in a normal diet have dropped since intensive farming has commenced.
“Women who are pregnant, breast feeding or considering pregnancy should take an iodine supplement of 150 micrograms each day.” (RANZCOG Nov 2014).
Handy hint: You can conduct a simple test for iodine deficiency, by dabbing some iodine (or even betadine) with a cotton ball on the inside of your arm at night. As a general guide, leave a 10cm long x 1cm brown line. If it is gone by the morning it is likely you are deficient and should consider a supplement even if you are not pregnant or planning pregnancy.
Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) a.k.a. ‘Chinese Angelica’ and ‘Female Ginseng’
A herb that can help regulate your cycle, help boost fertility and help you to get pregnant without chemical or hormonal infertility treatment.
There are positive side effects as well as potentially negative ones. Note: Dong quai is NOT considered safe during pregnancy.
Olive leaf extract
Brilliant in assisting you maintain general health, toxin elimination and adequate immune function. It is also an anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial agent. A must. Best taken in a high strength extract made from fresh leaves. Note: Olive leaf extract is NOT considered safe during pregnancy.
Recommencing supplementation is generally safe after breastfeeding has concluded.
Note that due to the strong detoxifying effect, it is always a good idea to allow for the possibility of not feeling well – there may even be mild ‘flu-like’ symptoms. This is considered normal, lasting a couple of days until the body has processed any toxins, or destroyed any microbes, and is usually followed by a surge of energy and a feeling of well-being.
Folate (aka folic acid)
Dosage as per pre-conception, as above.
Especially suggested for vegetarians and/or vegans. “The RDI of B12 in pregnancy is 6 mcg/day.” (RANZCOG Nov 2014)
Red raspberry leaf
Amineral-rich tonic, traditionally used to support pregnancy and to ‘tone’ the uterus to help a woman prepare for birth. Some studies have shown that it can help reduce complications and interventions associated with birth.
The ginger root is often the main ingredient in morning sickness formulae produced by major supplements companies. Have it fresh or in a tea or supplement.
Chamomile (German, NOT Roman)
Highly soothing and relaxing. Pregnancy is often a time of disturbed sleep, whether from vivid dreams, concerns, or discomforts of your growing tummy making it hard to find just the right position.
A natural source proanthocyanidins which may prevent pregnancy-associated UTI, hypertension, varicose veins and generally support healthy cardiovascular function.
Fish oil /Omega 3
“Women whose dietary intake of Omega-3 fatty acids is low, for example those who eat very little seafood, should consider a dietary supplementation which may be obtained from fish oil and some commercially available pregnancy supplements.” (RANZCOG Nov 2014)
Important for helping regulate gene expression. It can be particularly important in supporting the rapid cell growth that occurs during pregnancy. Avoid zinc oxides as they tend to not absorb so well. I’ve found zinc chelate and zinc gluconate to be effective. If buying gluconate, make sure it is in a lozenge, chew-tablet form or powder form, and keep it in your mouth for at least two to five minutes to allow fast absorption through your mouth’s mucous membranes.
Important for the formation of collagen, which is especially important in blood vessels. The need for vitamin C may be increased in pregnancy due to larger blood volume in the mother and the growth of the unborn baby. There are different kinds of vitamin C supplements, some more readily absorbable than others, and some non-acidic.
Pregnancy can tax a mother-to-be’s iron stores. It is beneficial to have an appropriate intake of iron to help build and maintain healthy iron levels. Low iron stores in early pregnancy have been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
An American study states:“Low iron intake was associated with a five-fold greater risk of autism in the child if the mother was 35 or older at the time of the child’s birth or if she suffered from metabolic conditions such as obesity, hypertension or diabetes.”The UC Davis MIND Institute study found that mothers of children with autism “are significantly less likely to report taking iron supplements before and during their pregnancies than the mothers of children who are developing normally”.
RANZCOG states: “Routine iron supplementation is not recommended in every pregnancy. All women should have their haemoglobin level checked at the first antenatal visit and again at approximately 28 weeks’ gestation and any anaemia investigated and treated.”
Handy hint: Some iron supplements have been known to cause constipation. Not pleasant at any time, but especially not during pregnancy. Some very high quality liquid iron supplements are available, and I am told there’s even readily-absorbable colloidal iron.
To test or not to test
Unfortunately I cannot help you with information on prenatal screenings, tests, or info on vaccinations, or pharmaceutical medicine. A commentary on this is not the focus here, nor is it my place to discuss it with you, even as a consumer.
I do, however, advise you to educate yourself regarding the modern epidemics of allergies, asthma, ADHD, anxiety, autism, depression, obesity and diabetes, and consider how our health care system seeks to prevent, diagnose and treat these.
A handy hint before subjecting yourself and/or your kids to any diagnosis or treatment is to always do your own research and ask yourself who pays for what research and whether there is any agenda or vested interest in certain outcomes.
They do happen. They’ve happened to me and my partner. At the time they were extremely painful. Much later, we could see that either we weren’t ready emotionally, and/or the body was preparing for a successful pregnancy.
Dong quai may be helpful in completing the miscarriage and helps regulate your cycle, which is known to help prepare the body for pregnancy once more.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) strongly recommends ‘a healthy, balanced diet’ before, during and after pregnancy. Eat fresh, local, seasonal produce, preferably organic. Eat often. Eat smaller meals. Chew well.
Yoga, deep breathing, mindfulness and meditation
Yoga helps you breathe and relax, which in turn can help you adjust to the physical demands of pregnancy, labour, birth and motherhood. The practice of yoga during pregnancy may be beneficial as it seems to improve birth weight and reduce prematurity and overall complications. Educate yourself about types of yoga, postures, and at what times in your pregnancy it is safe to practise what.
The Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation in Bangalore conducted studies which found that the yoga-practising control group enjoyed a significant reduction in premature deliveries and lower incidents of pregnancy-related high blood pressure.
Some likely mechanisms whereby yoga improves pregnancy outcomes include increased blood flow to the placenta, decreased transfer of maternal stress hormones, and the decreased chance of premature release of hormones that trigger the onset of labour.
The Indian study included various loosening exercises, postures (asanas), relaxation, deep breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation, which were practised for a total of one hour per day.
In my experience any breathing and/or moving mindfulness exercises, such as tai chi or chi gong, have a similar effect.
Hypnobirthing techniques are an upcoming trend for good reason. Hypnobirthing is highly effective to assist in pain management, as well as in relaxing the mother and helping her connect with her own innate intelligence and intuition.
After my extensive studies of hypnosis, I combined hypnotic techniques with deep mindfulness states with exciting results. Clients experienced that the resultant ‘state of wholeness’ is a powerful means of assisting mothers-to-be to resolve underlying tensions, blocked emotions and anxieties, allowing them to be holistically prepared for all the aspects of pregnancy, birth and motherhood.
Such ‘inner yoga’ may also support general health –physically, emotionally, mentally and energetically.
Enjoy the journey
More than anything my partner and I found that pregnancy and childbirth can be prepared for, but can’t be managed the way other aspects of life can be managed. There came a point where we had to let go and trust our preparation, as well as surrender our need for the pregnancy and birth going exactly as we planned.
I recommend exploring any of your misgivings, fears and doubts. I’ve found that, as annoying and disempowering as they can be, they are always certainly precious portals to your personal empowerment and healing.
Pregnancy, birth and parenthood can be an incredible journey, a rite of passage, helping you step into your power, tapping into inner guidance and opening to the faith and trust of knowing that all will be okay.
When a child is born, there is the simultaneous possibility for a parent to be born, to evolve, and to take their life experience to a new and fulfilling level.
Happy Mothers Day!
Although Boris has a professional holistic health background, the advice given is general advice only, from one consumer to another. No warranties are made or responsibilities taken. Listen to your body, do your own research. Even good herbs can be dangerous in large doses or for extended period of time or in combination with other herbs.It is always advisable to consult your local health food store, pharmacist, naturopath, herbalist or doctor. The views expressed are not necessarily the views of LivingNow magazine.
Boris von Rechenberg, DoCH, is a transformational energy healer, coach and educator; combining holistic psychology and transpersonal hypnotherapy with quantum source energetics. Based in Melbourne, he helps others rediscover true self, life purpose, ease, abundance, radical forgiveness, peace of mind, youth and wellness through whole being.
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