How To Heal Common Pregnancy Issues
Does this sound familiar?
Since you were a little girl you’ve grown up watching movies where the pregnant woman:
(1) vomits in early pregnancy,
(2) is incredibly uncomfortable in late pregnancy, then
(3) her water breaks at the shopping mall and
(4) she screams through her labour.
Did we just crack the 4-step formula that movies have been using since the 90s?
Then, on top of those media influences, others around you joke “just you wait” or even tell you directly “argh morning sickness is the worst” or “it’s soo painful…get the epidural!!!”.
So, what’s a woman to do?
There are things in pregnancy that most people accept as “just part of it”.
After all why fight against something that’s inevitable… right?!
I’ve round-up 10 of the most common issues that women face in pregnancy.
We’re going to look at the research and see if everything is necessary, “just part of it” and normal.
Top 10 Most Common Pregnancy Issues
1. Heartburn (8 out of 10 women)
2. Trouble sleeping (8 out of 10 women)
3. Morning sickness (7 out of 10 women)
4. Fatigue (6 out of 10 women)
5. Restless legs / leg cramps (5 out of 10 women)
6. Constipation (5 out of 10 women)
7. Back pain (5 out of 10 women)
8. Acne / skin changes (5 out of 10 women)
9. Gestational Diabetes (1 out of 10 women)
10. Placental insufficiency (1 out of 10 women)
There’s a lot of fear-mongering around what to eat, how to exercise and how to LIVE during pregnancy. One false move, and you’ll seriously hurt your baby…or, so it seems!
But it doesn’t need to be this way.
I want to show you how you can use what you do everyday to heal a number of pregnancy issues.
Pregnancy-specific issues like gestational diabetes, as well as discomforts like heartburn are considered “just part of the job”. You might get a badge of sympathy for enduring them from some people, but in essence they’re experiences that make it harder, more painful and more frustrating to be pregnant.
I want you to feel energised in pregnancy.
I want you to feel strong in the lead up to your birth.
I want you to regain energy after birth to enjoy your baby sooner.
The best way to achieve these things is with an eating style that’s high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, healthy fats and protein. But it’s not enough to just be filled with these good things, it also need to be low in the bad stuff that causes oxidative stress and adds inflammation to the body.
I want to show you how a whole food plant-based eating style can do all of this.
Did you know that you can get every nutrient you need from a plant based diet while reversing disease?
3 Life-Changing Benefits of Plant-Based Eating
— No Calorie Restrictions: Eating as much as you want and still stay lean
— Affordable, Convenient & Tasty: Lots of quick, cheap, grab-and-go options
— Rich In Nutrients: Get more than enough nutrients without the risks that can come with animal foods.
Protect Yourself Against These 3 Common Issues
Gestational Diabetes: Did you know that you can prevent GD or reverse it if you already have it? About 1 out of 10 birthing women in Australia and the United States are diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes in pregnancy. GD comes with risks to the mama and baby but is ultimately reversible! Research shows that women with GD had a higher chance of induced labour, caesarean section and were more likely to have a “preterm birth” (baby born before 39 weeks) than women without gestational diabetes. Plus, birthing women with GD were more likely to have their babies admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit. The conventional method for managing GD is stuffy, confusing and nonsensical. A whole food plant-based diet with low-fat is the answer! I reversed GD in my second pregnancy.
Preeclampsia: About 1 out of 10 birthing women (6-12%) in Australia have Preeclampsia. This research results suggest that a vegan (plant-based) diet with some lifestyle changes improves homocysteine levels which decreases your chance of having preeclampsia. This is a big win for mothers and babies, because of the string of issues that follow this pregnancy complication.
Reduce Preterm Birth: Preterm birth is an issue that fills our NICU units and causes undue stress on new parents when their baby is just born. As uncomfortable as it may be to talk about, we need to understand the potential link between meat and fatty foods and an increased risk of preterm birth, with all of its complications. About 30% to 40% of all preterm births are due to Premature Rupture of the Membrane (PROM). There’s a well-established association between oxidative stress in pregnancy and preterm PROM which is when the amniotic sac breaks long before labour is due to start. PROM is characterised by increased concentrations of biomarkers of oxidative damage and researchers know that the detection of amniotic fluid F2-IP concentrations seems to be a reliable predictive index of risk of preterm PROM. This study and this study show that plant-based diet improves oxidative stress markers, more than a conventional diet with red meat, indicating that removing meat lowers oxidative stress and the risk of PROM. Moving on from PROM, to another form of preterm birth: women with Bacteroides sp in their gut microbiome were more likely to give birth before 37 weeks and to have lower birth weigh babies. Bacteroides is positively correlated with diets rich in animal protein and saturated fat. Bacteroides are found in the gut of people consuming a Western diet. In contrast, this study looking at plant-based children in Bangladesh found it wasn’t part of the children’s microbiota.
Placenta deterioration (PD): Okay. Science class for a minute here: The vascular (or circulatory system) consists of three independent systems that work together (i) heart (cardiovascular), (ii) lungs (pulmonary), and (iii) veins, arteries, vessels (systemic). The placenta is a unique vascular organ—it shows up in pregnancy to take nutrients, through the blood in your veins to the umbilical cord and through to your sweet baby. It also takes waste away from your baby through the blood. Then you birth it, after your baby and it’s done. What’s the issue? Towards the end of pregnancy, some studies have shown that the placenta can start to deteriorate. PD is a risk that doctors try to mitigate by suggesting induction and recommending that women don’t go past 40 weeks gestation. There are lots of risks that come with induced labour that are not present in an undisturbed birth. So, can we improve the way the placenta functions? Yes, absolutely! Research has shown that a plant-based diet can prevent and reverse heart disease. The placenta is a vascular organ, like the heart! If a plant-based diet can reverse heart tissue deterioration, then why not placental tissue deterioration? How exactly does a plant-based diet reverse vascular disease? It strengthens your arteries and inhibits the buildup of plaques, which restrict blood flow. Blood flow is vital for blood to the heart and nutrient supply to your baby.
Three Surprising Health Benefits of Being Plant-Based
Remove Heartburn in 3 Days: Acid Reflux / Heartburn / GERD occurs when the stomach sphincter relaxes and lets some of the vital acids from the stomach back up the esophagus. This research paper hints at the diet changes that improve heartburn. Heartburn responds well to diet change, specifically increasing fibre and reducing fat, as this plant-based doctor recommends. Why? A plant-based diet is naturally high in fibre, while meat and dairy have precisely 0g of fibre. Incredibly, you can see results in 1-3 days!
Stay Regular: Constipation is a well-documented issue that many women experience during pregnancy. (Before becoming plant-based, I, too, endured the embarrassment of constipation in my first pregnancy!) Constipation is, however, a completely unnecessary discomfort. A massive Oxford study from the Journal of Public Health Nutrition found that plant-based eaters were three times more likely to poop regularly in comparison with omnivores (meat-eaters). Being “regular” on a plant-based diet is probably due to the high fibre content of all fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Did you know that dairy and meat products contain zero grams of fibre?
Lower Risk of Injuries: Plant-based eaters have up to a 30% reduction in inflammation compared with meat-eaters, one study has found. Why is this significant? Unlike short term inflammation, which promotes recovery and resolves quickly, chronic inflammation is an ongoing disease state. Chronic inflammation causes the bio-chemicals that should repair your muscles to do the opposite—they destroy tissue and cause cells to malfunction. Inflammation can expedite the body’s ageing process and increase the risk of injuries, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. A bit of inflammation for a short period is helpful. A lot of inflammation, for an extended period, can be harmful. Lower inflammation rate translates to less injury potential! Reducing the inflammation load on the body through a plant-based diet that lowers inflammation is a great way to ensure a quicker recovery after birth.
Perfect Protein Levels: “But where will you get your protein?” It is a common question! After all, protein is an essential building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Your body uses protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals needed for your baby’s development. Luckily, protein is in SO many plant-based sources. Research has found that plant-based eaters have higher blood levels than meat-eaters, possibly due to lower levels of inflammation. The study concluded with a recommendation from the research team: future studies into protein should shift away from unnecessary questions about protein adequacy in plant based eaters and instead look at the health implications of meat protein sources vs plant-based protein sources.
Is it healthy to eat plant-based during pregnancy?
In short, yes! Eating whole food plant-based is the best way to nourish yourself and your baby. It is safe and effective. The world’s largest organisation of nutritional professionals, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says that eating a vegan (plant-based) diet is suitable for all stages of life, including pregnancy and breastfeeding (postpartum).
3 Critical Questions To Ask Yourself While Pregnant & Plant-Based
— Am I getting enough calories to satisfy me and give me energy?
— Am I eating a wide range of foods to get all the nutrients my baby needs?
— Am I eating intuitively and enjoying my food, so this change is sustainable?
Read my Plant-Based Pregnancy Meal Plan.
How To Potentially Avoid A Cesarean
Can this diet help me avoid medical interventions like a cesarean and have a more natural birth?
This is sensitive territory. We probably all know someone who’s had a c-section. This isn’t definitive, but I do want to show you the research I’ve found.
Research indicates many obstetricians prefer to perform caesareans for women with severe preeclampsia, even when the baby is healthy. However, this may carry an increased risk of complications and worsen the outlook for mother and baby. As Carter, Furman, & Hutcheson (1987) found, a plant-based diet protects against the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia.
Here’s a look at the study:
Preeclampsia is a frequent problem that affects up to 1 in 10 pregnant women. Pregnant women with preeclampsia have symptoms such as high blood pressure, headaches, problems with vision and swelling of hands, legs or feet.
One study looked at the maternity care records of 775 whole food plant-based birthing women for preeclampsia symptoms. The illness is identified by new-onset high blood pressure (hypertension) and protein in the urine (indicating the kidneys are not working optimally) before 20 weeks gestation.
The study by Carter, Furman, & Hutcheson (1987) looked for these symptoms in the maternity care records of the 775 pregnant participants who were eating a plant-based diet. Out of 775 maternity care records, only one woman met the clinical criteria for preeclampsia. The researchers noted that since preeclampsia in our culture is frequently associated with high consumption of foods with high levels of saturated fat and rapid weight gain, a plant-based diet could alleviate most, if not all, of the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia.
This study is just one example of how eating a whole foods plant-based diet low in saturated fat may significantly reduce your chance of a cesarean section.
A plant-based diet is not just adequate but optimal for pregnancy. It isn’t only ‘possible’ or a ‘good idea’; it is a solution to several pregnancy-related ailments and discomforts that women frequently experience.
If you’d like to get started with a plant-based diet, go to my plant-based pregnancy meal plan. There you’ll be able to access a 7-day plant-based pregnancy meal plan. To learn more about why plant-based can reverse GD, read this.
Lastly, we need to remember that food is not our ultimate Sustainer.
We are in sweet-loving submission to a Father who leads us beside still waters and finds rest for our souls. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and is given to us by God. Therefore, we are free to care for and about our bodies. Food alone does not sustain us! God sustains us. As King David wrote in Psalm 63:5, “You satisfy me more than the richest of foods.”
When we honour God as our ultimate Sustainer and enjoy plant-based food for our bodies, then we will find a rich life indeed!
Remember: A plant-based diet is incredible for all stages of life, including pregnancy.
If you’re interested in plant-based eating, download my meal plan and I can help you customise it to suit your goals, personality and daily life.