5 Ways to Boost Mom & Baby's Health During & After Pregnancy

pregnant woman with tea on her bellyEvery expectant mom wants to make sure she's doing everything she can to promote her own well-being -- not to mention her little one's!  But from the minute you find out you're pregnant, the number of recmomendations being lobbed your way can be overwhelming to say the least. Thankfully, there are natural supplements that can help a pregnant or breastfeeding woman cover a lot of ground.  

Here, five miracle products that can bolster both your own and your baby's wellness before and after pregnancy ...

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Coconut Oil
There's a reason this versatile oil is so popular these days -- especially with pregnant women and new moms. Celeb moms like Miranda Kerr and Gwyneth Paltrow swear by it for a variety of wellness and beauty uses.

Benefits for mom & baby:

  1. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a powerful anti-microbial fatty acid, which along with capric acid (also found in coconut oil) comprise about 20 percent of the total saturated fatty acids in breast milk. Both lauric and capric acid also have potent antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-parasitic properties that support the immune system, and in turn, can guard the fetus and nursing infant protection from illnesses, viruses such as herpes and HIV, and bacteria such as chlamydia and heliocobater.
  2. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that lactating mothers who eat coconut oil have significantly increased levels of lauric acid and capric acid in their breast milk, creating milk rich in health-promoting nutrients, etc.
  3. It also increases the quality of the womb environment.
  4. Coconut oil provides energy in the form of medium chain fatty acids to help the baby grow and develop properly.
  5. There's evidence that coconut oil, by helping to balance blood sugar, may help women avoid or control gestational diabetes.
  6. Coconut oil's moisturizing, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties can help sooth skin irritations like eczema, diaper rash, cracked nipples, and even thrush.
  7. Keeps yeast infections at bay due to anti-fungal properties.
  8. Coconut oil can be used for baby massage, which has been shown to calm and relax infants and improve their sleep.

Probiotics
These live microorganisms or good bacteria that are similar to those that are naturally occurring in the human gut can be taken as a supplement or are found in fermented dairy products, like yogurt or kefir. It's best to talk to your doctor or midwife about the best ways to supplement.

Benefits for mom & baby:

  1. Probiotics promote healthy gastrointestinal function, which aids in relieving constipation, which you may face during pregnancy.
  2. Some studies also suggest that babies whose mothers took probiotics during pregnancy and while breastfeeding were less likely to have eczema at up to 2 years of age.
  3. L. acidophilus yogurt suppositories are a safe and effective treatment of BV (bacterial vaginosis) in pregnancy, according to a systemic review in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology Canada.
  4. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and Harvard Medical School found probiotics could serve to reduce the frequency and severity of a common and often lethal disease in premature babies called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which affects between 8 and 13 percent of very low birth-weight infants.
  5. Urinary tract infections (UTIs), caused by bacteria, crop up during pregnancy. The good news: Strong scientific evidence supports the use of probiotics (specifically Lactobacillus acidophilus, 5-10 billion CFUs, or colony-forming units a day) to reduce symptoms.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s -- a family of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential nutrients for health and development -- have been found to be essential for both neurological and early visual development of the baby, notes the American Pregnancy Association. Unfortunately, your stores of the fatty acid may be depleted when the fetus uses omega-3s for its nervous system development, so experts recommend adding EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) - to your diet or supplement plan when expecting. 300 mg of DHA a day is the standard dose recommendation. (There's no consensus on how much EPA you need.) It's best to discuss the best food sources and supplements with your health care provider.

Benefits for mom & baby:

  1. Studies have shown that higher consumption of omega-3s may reduce the risk of allergies in infants.
  2. Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labor and delivery and may increase birth weight.
  3. Fish oil can also help pregnant women avoid two serious conditions that can occur during pregnancy: pregnancy-induced hypertension (pre-eclampsia) and gestational diabetes," explains biochemist Dr. Barry Sears, Ph.D., author of The Zone.
  4. Circumventing omega-3 deficiency could lower a mother’s risk for postpartum depression, according to research from the University of Connecticut School of Nursing.

Must-Have Multi-Tasking Products for Pregnancy & BeyondRaspberry Leaf
Raspberry leaf tea has been thought for years to tone the muscles of your uterus to promote an easier labor, thanks to the plant's alkaloid fragrine. But the herb -- taken in tablet form, teabags, loose leaf tea, or as a tincture -- has other helpful applications, as well. Many practitioners recommend that raspberry leaf is best commenced at 32 weeks of pregnancy and continued through to the birth, but it may be contraindicated, depending on your risk factors, so it is best to discuss with your health care provider.

Benefits for mom & baby:
  1. Raspberry leaf has been shown to ease morning sickness. Anecdotal evidence suggests raspberry leaf offers gentle relief of nausea and stomach distress throughout pregnancy.
  2. It may also reduce pain during labor and after birth. By toning the muscles used during labor and delivery, raspberry leaf eliminates many of the reasons for a painful delivery and prolonged recovery.
  3. A study done by midwives at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Australia found women who took raspberry leaf were less likely to require an artificial rupture of membranes, a C-section, forceps, or vacuum birth during labor than women who did not.
  4. It could also assist in the production of plentiful breast milk. The high mineral content of raspberry leaf assist in milk production, but its astringency may counter that for some women.
  5. Thanks to fragrine and the clot-affecting compounds in red raspberry leaf, women may be less like to experience postpartum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding) after using the herb during pregnancy.

Nettle leaves
Nettle leaves, also known as stinging nettles, are used in many pregnancy teas and contain abundant stores of vitamins A, C, D and K, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron and sulphur. It's best to talk to your doctor or midwife about the best ways to incorporate nettles into your prenatal and postpartum diet.

Benefits for mom & baby:

  1. Thanks to the plant's high calcium content, nettles can reduce muscle pains in the uterus, in the legs and elsewhere.
  2. Nettle is a superb source of vitamin K, and increases available hemoglobin, both of which decrease the likelihood of postpartum hemorrhage and slow postpartum bleeding.
  3. The plant's mild astringency and general nourishing action tightens blood vessels, maintain arterial elasticity, and improves venous resilience, which can reduce hemorrhoids.
  4. It has been said to gently loosen, dissolve, and eliminate any accumulated minerals in the kidneys and bolster the health of the kidneys overall, which is important, considering that the kidneys must cleanse 150 percent of your normal blood supply during pregnancy.
  5. It has been used by women for generations to treat anemia after childbirth and as a galactagogue to help make more breast milk.

Which of these have you tried? Any other similar things that helped you during or after your pregnncy?

 

Images via TK & Corbis

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