Healthy Pregnancy and Postpartum

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Healthy Pregnancy and Postpartum | Real Food RN

I am a firm believer that the most important time to pay attention to your health is when you are pregnant. I think everyone should have a healthy pregnancy and postpartum. So many people share the belief that when you are pregnant you “are eating for two” and should throw caution to the wind and eat everything in sight. While you do have an increased caloric demand, you still need to pay attention to the quality of food that you eat. I was always vigilant of the quality of food that I was eating and made sure to pack in as many nutrients as possible. This does not mean potato chips and ice-cream. Yes, I did crave those foods as many do! I simply found other, more nutritionally dense foods to satisfy those cravings.

You NEED “Superfoods” daily!

Let’s face it, some days you do not feel much like eating when you are pregnant — or you don’t have much room to eat towards the end! There were days in my first trimesters that I just wanted to sleep all day, actually making food seemed impossible. This is why it’s important to have some super healthy staple foods on hand so you can just grab them out of the fridge and pack in a lot of nutrition with little to no effort, or without having to consume a huge amount of food. What are these foods? Fermented foods, organ meats, eggs, leafy greens, and healthy fats. I focused on very nutrient dense foods throughout my pregnancy. Eggs and liver being two of my daily staples. The bonus is that these foods are very affordable, so healthy eating while pregnant does not have to break the bank! Also, eat a rainbow to ensure that you are getting a variety of phytonutrients, enzymes, and vitamins & minerals. Keep it easy: sip bone broth throughout the day, make a big salad every night, eat a few scoops of sauerkraut every day, pack in some organ meats!  Eat them daily, however you do it!

In short: Super foods = your body the gets nutrients it needs = less cravings & less fat storage!

P.S. I recently found an awesome new company that makes healthy snacks for pregnant and breastfeeding Mamas. They are so delicious and I always have them on hand now for snacks in a pinch. They support a healthy pregnancy AND healthy lactation! They are made by a Mom for Mom’s!!! Check them out HERE.

Cravings

Our bodies are smart. They will send signals to you when you need a particular nutrient. Some people crave things like dirt and chalk. These are signs of a nutrient deficiency. For example, often times a craving for chocolate can be from a deficiency in magnesium. Do you get leg cramps at night? You might be deficient in magnesium! Use some magnesium oil, or up your intake of leafy greens — then watch those chocolate cravings diminish

If you consume a well rounded diet every day, then your cravings will greatly diminish because your body is getting the building blocks that it needs to keep you healthy and to grow a healthy baby. Organ meats, eggs and leafy greens pack such a huge nutrient profile — that is why I made sure to get these foods in every day! If you eat a diet scarce in nutrients, your body will crave and crave and crave until it gets the nutrition it needs. This is a big factor in weight gain. When you eat nutrient-poor food your body thinks it is starving, and it goes into starvation mode. This means storage! Your body will store all of the empty nutrients as body fat! Always consider the nutrient content in your food before you take a bite. Eat the foods your body needs and it will utilize them efficiently, not simply store them and ask for more.

In short: be mindful of your cravings, your body might be telling you something about what you are deficient in. Fill that void and your cravings will diminish.

Filling the Holes

I took supplements. Yep, I said supplements. Some people think of vitamins as “expensive urine” and a waste of time. I am not of that belief. Now I do not think you can supplement your way out of a bad diet, but they are great to take if you are not eating as much, or as much of a variety. I personally took a prenatal vitamin every day to make sure I was getting all of my vitamins and minerals, especially folate. I also supplemented with fermented cod liver oil (here is why), and probiotics.

Read up! Learn where your holes are in your diet. I DEVOUR nutrition books. I could read about food all day long. I especially read up when I was pregnant. I learned so much and am so thankful to have this knowledge now for my growing family.

Here are the books that I found to be the most useful:

In short: Supplement to fill the nutrient deficient holes, along with eating a balanced diet. This will lead to less cravings and less over eating empty foods

So, now you have your diet in check. Let’s talk about movement!

It is a pretty common belief that exercise while pregnant can hurt the baby. This could not be farther from the truth. Studies show that exercise is just as beneficial when pregnant as it is when not pregnant. I continued to run daily up until the day that I delivered. I ran 4 miles the day all three of my babies was born!

A recent study published by the Institute of Movement Sciences and Sports Medicine at the University of Geneva, in Geneva, Switzerland, found that “regular physical activity has proven to result in marked benefits for mother and fetus.”

Maternal benefits include improved cardiovascular function, limited pregnancy weight gain, decreased musculoskeletal discomfort, reduced incidence of muscle cramps and lower-limb edema, mood stability, and attenuation of gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension.”

Now, this is not to say that you should BEGIN a new exercise routine when you find out that you are pregnant. Maintain what you already had been doing. Do not go out and start crossfitting the day you have a positive pregnancy test! If you were not active before you became pregnant, then start slowly — just go for a walk every day. Anything to get the blood and lymph flowing will be beneficial.

I noticed that on days that I did not run, I would puff up more. I am a firm believer that my running circulated my lymph enough to keep me from swelling. I never had issues with edema when pregnant, ever! Get outside and move around. Yoga is an excellent exercise to pick up when pregnant, it prepares your hips for delivery too!

One study showed that “exercise during pregnancy at a level great enough to produce or maintain a training effect does not adversely affect birthweight or other maternal and infant outcomes but may be associated temporally with fewer perceived pregnancy-associated discomforts”. I felt great when I got my runs in, and not so great when a few days would go by without hitting the trails!

Buy a kettlebell and do gentle exercise in your living room. I did this to keep my core, back and arms strong for labor. I did very gentle exercises and did not do a lot of sets. Just enough to maintain some muscle. Always listen to your body! If weights are too much and it just doesn’t feel right, then don’t lift them. Kettlebells are all I could use, the weights at the gym were too much. Listen to your body! Don’t push yourself too hard. If you need to walk on your runs, WALK. At the end of my pregnancies I had to walk up every hill, that was perfectly fine. I was out in the fresh air and moving around, thats the most important thing!

In short: Move, do whatever makes you feel good. Just do it every day! Pregnancy is not the time to just sit around.

Finally, You Need to SLEEP!

Sleep is when our body rests, repairs, and rebuilds. It is of particular importance when you are pregnant because you are growing an entire human being inside of your body! I made sleep a priority. I never stayed up late, pregnancy is a perfect excuse to go to bed at 8:30! I always wore my blue-light blocking glasses at night so my cortisol did not spike before bed while watching TV or working on my computer. Every night I wore a sleep mask and ear plugs so my sleep was not disrupted by light or sound. I could not sleep without my pregnancy pillow — total game changer for sleep when pregnant! And I never forgot to use my magnesium oil before bed, and I mean NEVER! One night I forgot, and woke up with paralyzing leg cramps. Even though I ate leafy greens every day, I still needed a little more magnesium. It also helps you sleep. Here is how I make it.

Bonus: I would put lavender essential oil on my pillow and sheets to help have a more restful sleep. Here is where I get my oils (I only use therapeutic grade)

In short: sleep is important for hormone regulation, rebuilding and repairing of your body, and to maintain normal cortisol levels. These are all extremely important for keeping fat storage down and muscle repair up!

So, to recap

  • Eat Nutrient Dense Foods: Especially super foods like organ meats, eggs, butter, and leafy greens. Eat them every single day! Your body will stay healthy when you provide it with the necessary building blocks. Feed your body junk and it will store it as fat and you will feel awful!
  • Move: Get outside and move around. Do not over do it, but you can certainly continue doing what you had been pre-pregnancy. Listen to your body, if it feels like too much, then it is. Go for a walk instead. But, keep moving every day!
  • Sleep: Make sleep a priority and you will feel so much better. Sleep rebuilds your body and mind. Plus, when baby arrives you will not be getting much of it, so take advantage while you can!
  • And again, don’t forget to read this post and watch the video I did about eating well Postpartum:
  • Here is what I eat every day postpartum

Always keep it in mind to love yourself and your changing body! You will get new lines and curves and things will move around. Embrace these changes and see them as reminders that you are doing such an important job, you are growing a healthy baby! You will get your body back after baby is born! Love your belly, love your waddle, love those kicks. You will miss them when they are gone. Believe me. Take time to be present and enjoy every day of your pregnancy as much as you can. It’s a beautiful time in your life.

 I would love to hear your pregnancy and postpartum stories! Please leave them in the comments below.

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Healthy Pregnancy & Postpartum -- Real Food RN

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27 Replies to “Healthy Pregnancy and Postpartum”

  1. no offense, and I’m sure your advice is wonderful, but I think this type of standard is putting WAY too much pressure on the expecting/postpartum woman. Not all are alike. Basically, I don’t think the extreme approach is either practical or realistic.

    1. Thanks for your feedback Dawn, but I do not think my approach is extreme by any means. Yes I probably ran more than the average pregnant woman, but my diet recommendations are anything but extreme. Nutrient dense foods are super super important when growing a little human.

  2. I worked out during all of my pregnancies by walking and no impact aerobics. It really helped to keep the weight off and made me sleep better. I also strength trained as well–nothing too strenuous. Unfortunately, I never got a flat stomach back since my muscles separated after my first pregnancy. Anna

    1. Thats awesome Anna! It feels so great to remain active throughout pregnancy. I also had a separation of my muscled, still three fingers width actually. I am working on some exercises to pull them back together. It’s a strange way to work your abs, but I need to because it can be uncomfortable at times!

  3. Let me first start that applaud the way you put your health as a priority and the dedication you put into it. However, you have posted this picture multiple times. On Instagram, Facebook. Did you ever stop to think that it was giving new Mama’s (first time Moms and ones who it isn’t their first) a bad feeling instead of encouraging them? Yes, you look wonderful in a bikini after 4 weeks- but you are the probably making those Mama’s that don’t look like this inadequate. Ok- maybe your husband made you do it but you are a woman and should of realized this. Looking good and being healthy is one thing- but staying humble about it is another and not flaunting it all over social media. A picture not in a bikini with some clothes would of got the point across.

    1. Hi Jamie, thanks for your feedback. I do not think that I am flaunting myself by posting this picture however. I indeed shared it across all of my social media, as I do with all of my posts. I wrote this post with the intention to show people that you can be healthy when pregnant and postpartum. My husband made the suggestion of adding the photo as evidence. I feel very strongly that our population is receiving poor education from our modern medical model about how to stay healthy. Very little is provided about nutrition, and many share the belief that you should eat a lot — whatever it may be — and stop exercising completely. The future of our health begins at conception. Out population is very sick, and getting much much sicker. I see it in the hospital and it scares me. What will the future be like for our children if our current state of health continues in the direction that it is going. I do not mean to put the burden of our future on pregnant women, I just think that optimizing pregnancy –> healthy babies –> they have a chance at lifelong health –> less disease in the long run. I hope this makes sense. I am in no way trying to offend people, or boast that I think I am so awesome or something. Sometimes an image can get someone to read the post. I hope a lot of people read it. I want to see healthy moms, babies, kids, and adults.

      When I was in college, I had a summer job at Baker’s Square and ate WAY too much pie! I worked two jobs and had to give up running because I didn’t have time. I gained 38 pounds that summer and I felt simply awful, inside and out. To motivate myself to get my health back on track I made a vision board. I cut out pictures from magazines that I thought represented health: healthy meals, healthy habits, healthy looking people. I kept that on the wall in my dorm as a visual motivator for myself. Every morning I would see it and it would motivate me. I credit that visual to how I got back on track with healthy eating and living. I am a visual person though. Maybe my photo will inspire someone who is not living as healthfully to get back on track.

      Sorry if my post offended you

  4. I never make comments on posts anywhere, but I felt compelled to do so about this one.
    I love your blog and think you have some wonderful ideas. However, I think that showing a photo of yourself to try to point out that someone could look like you if they just followed your advice is a little off base.

    My son is nearly 16. I had a home birth, I had prenatal care and nutrition advice from 2 midwives and a doula. I was practicing as a doula myself at the time, so I followed all the advice I gave my clients. I was using herbs and essential oils, etc. to care for myself. I drank a gallon of water every day. I took fantastic care of myself during pregnancy. I did yoga, walked, ate organic food, took whole food supplements, got massage, etc, etc. I am very into natural health and have been for years. Breast fed each of my children until they were 3 ½.

    However, my body is built differently than yours. I had a client who looked very much like you do, and was tiny when she was pregnant and quickly regained her pre-pregnancy shape. I on the other hand blew up like a balloon both times I was pregnant. I was showing at only 11 weeks with my first pregnancy; my breasts grew 2 cup sizes in only 8 weeks time; by 5 months, my mother-in-law asked me if I was having twins, I was so big. Stretch marks were everywhere in spite of everything I smeared all over myself. And my skin doesn’t bounce back after getting stretch marks. So in spite of doing all the healthy things I was doing, I looked and felt like a whale. During my second pregnancy I followed all the health advice given to me by my midwife and once again blew up immediately.

    My point is that different women have different body types and it was not only because of your healthy life style that you were able to look nice in a bikini 4 weeks postpartum. You are lucky and that is wonderful, but not okay to judge and believe that if everyone followed your advice that they would have results like you.

    1. Everything you did sounds wonderful! Unfortunately, today it’s not the norm. I agree that everyone has different body shapes and also rebound differently. That being said, when I eat poorly, I gain weight and my skin gets bad. So, paying attention to what I put into my body is still very important. I am absolutely not judging other women or writing this post to point the finger in a negative way. I want to educate. That is all.

  5. Wow, there is no way I could have eaten what you ate during your pregnancy while I was pregnant. My plan was close to your but I was so nauseated all the time for the first 5 months there was no way. Leafy greens of any kind made me sick. I couldn’t eat garlic or anything remotely spicey. Eating liver and sardines would have done me in for sure. For awhile there all I ate was chicken pot pie (homemade so as healthy as I could do it) because I couldn’t stomach anything else. Your advice is great but wouldn’t work for most of the women I have known while they were pregnant. There was also no way I could have done much exercise other than walking. Most have been nice to have been able to be uber healthy.

  6. Thank you for you helpful post with so many links and references! I have not had a baby yet but that time is on the horizon and your posts about pregnancy and labor are super helpful and full of great information! Thank you thank you! I read through some of the replies to your post and it is a shame that women go strait to tearing informative posts apart and then make accusations of character and bad intentions. You work hard to take care of yourself and have a great figure that isn’t just based on good genes or luck, you have worked hard to stay healthy and you share your journey with others to help and inform. Many many people appreciate it!!! I am developing my own blog and I know I have to get thicker skin after reading what people say about recipes and health tips, so much anger and no grace out there! You are fantastic and I love your blog, thank you for working as hard as you do Kate!
    Carrie

    1. Carrie, thank you so much for your wonderful and sweet comment. It made my night. Very true that just want to get the information out there!!! Good luck with your pregnancies in the future. I read about 50 books during my first pregnancy to try and figure it all out and now want to try to put some of the highlights out there for others so they don’t have to read as many books. Although I love to read so it was not so bad 😉 Good luck with your blog! Thick skin is a must. Thanks again, you really made me smile! ~ Kate

      1. You are so welcome. We are both RN’s and want to see people healthy, whole, and living their lives to the fullest! Do you ever see people in the hospital with exacerbations of chronic illnesses/conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and the many autoimmune conditions that you know are rooted in poor diet and unhealthy lifestyles and get so overwhelmed with how much education and coaching is needed? You are doing such a great job! You are changing the world! The lack of healing I see is wearing me out! I just know that without a total diet and lifestyle reboot the medical complications will just keep coming. I signed up for the Health Coaching Program through The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and it was so great seeing your post that you went their program too!

        1. Carrie, that is so cool! We are women on the same mission!!! I agree with being worn out, I am so worn out. Going to work at the hospital is just brutal these days, I have to mentally prepare the night before and sometimes I even feel sick to my stomach on the drive in. That’s not how I imagined my nursing career to be! That’s why I went to IIN. I went there back when it was still in Manhattan, so I got to fly to NYC every month. I would pick up an extra double shift to pay for the hotel and plane ticket. It worked out pretty well. Loved IIN! I am actually one of the people that Joshua interviewed up on stage, so when you go through the modules you will hear my interview. I am the Kate who just wanted her boyfriend to propose 😉 Thanks again for your support, I really appreciate it. Together we can change the world!

  7. Kate! I applaud you for showing this picture of yourself and sharing your story! And let me just say that even though I was different and it took longer for me to bounce back, I don’t have to slam you to make myself feel better!

    I can look at you and be happy for you and appreciate your story! You’re amazing, girl!

  8. Awesome post! Thank you for sharing! I agree with your reply to the above poster about your picture being motivation, not about trying to look exactly like you. Hopefully the negative comments didn’t get you down, you ate great and exercised and did the best for your baby and yourself! My boy is 11 months, and even though I ate super healthy, I still ate too much and didn’t exercise as much as I should have. I gained 40, but the past 11 months I have lost 33 of those pounds (and these last 7 pounds are sooo hard to shake since I am breastfeeding). I am pinning this post as motivation, so the next time I am pregnant I can have it handy to remind myself not to overdo food!

  9. Thank you for your reply Kate. I’m glad I’m not alone in feeling that way when I’m going to work but I’m sorry that it’s so hard on you. I am actually leaving my current job, my last day is the 27th of this month. I just can’t do it anymore, at least not at the facility I’m at currently. I didn’t think being an RN would make me feel this way, I’m done dreading my job. I’m going to focus on IIN and building my business for now:) We want to start a family soon so I need to get my stress, diet, and sleep back to a health place (I work 10pm -6am 5 days per week!:() I love reading your posts because they are so inspiring and emphasize treating the root problem which promotes healing. Thank you! You are awesome❤️

  10. Thank you for this information Kate! I am 10 weeks pregnant and have eaten clean and worked out strictly for the past 10 years of my life. I’m currently not allowed to work out by my doctors “only walk”, and I am extremely worried about postpartum. I’m glad you shared your PICTURES and story because it reminds me that if you can do it, so can I. Thank you for your advice!

    1. Thanks Roxy, and congrats!!! As long as you can be out moving around, you are doing great! Keep that blood and lymph flowing 🙂 I hope you have an amazing delivery!

  11. Thank you for this wonderful post! Reading the comments, i am so sorry that you have to read such negative things! And you are so kind to reply to everyone and try to explain.. i agree that every body is different-but NOWHERE did i read someone saying that they ate liver, sardines and salad,and ran 4 miles every day and yet they still ballooned up like the average pregnant American woman. Looks like a bunch of excuses to me, women wanting to hear what our American society says ‘take it easy and eat for two!. So i can see how woman may be offended when they take from your post that sitting around earing whatever craving strikes them is not good enough. Its not going to make the healthiest possible baby, and it wont make for a fit mama! Also,thank you for posting a visual, the pics are great. It shows it CAN be done! Thank you for educating despite the haters. 🙂

    1. Thank you Jackee! That is so sweet of you to say. It was definitely a mission for me. I worked hard at it every day. Eating liver is not very fun, but totally worth it 😉 I was hoping to inspire some more mamas to jump on the crunchy bandwagon and be proactive about being healthy before, during and after pregnancy! It really means a lot to read your comment, thank you!

  12. I have never commented on a blog post (although I read many very often!). I just wanted to say THANK YOU posting all of this wonderful information! Your pictures are amazing, and you are an inspiration for all pregnant women! I am 23 weeks and constantly looking for ways to ensure I am staying healthy for my baby and myself. Informational posts like this are full of great tips and I truly appreciate them. Thank you again, and I’m sorry you had to deal with so many haters because of this post.

    P.S. I wouldn’t consider any of this advice to be extreme (as a comment above stated), but I’m not sure I could stomach the liver! Although you have made me think I should give it a shot 🙂

    1. Thank you Gina! I seriously appreciate you taking the time to leave such a wonderful comment!!!! I think you should definitely give the liver a try. I still eat it every day 🙂

  13. Hi Kate, great article! Wondered if you could do a post on (if it’s on your radar) 5-methylfolate instead of folate for women with MTHFR or other methylation gene mutations? (Like me!) The standard folate supplement prescribed by well-meaning but ignorant GPs goes nowhere in bodies of such women (and not to baby).

    1. Yes that is definitely on my radar, I have the MTHFR C677 gene mutation. I plan to write about it more someday! Thanks for bringing it up! I sure wish that genetic testing was a standard practice for everyone so we could know exactly how to handle our own unique supplementation needs, ESPECIALLY in pregnant women!

  14. Kate, you are an incredible inspiration! I have never commented on a blog post before either but I couldn’t resist letting you know how much I have enjoyed reading through your posts. I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant (only a few more to go – yay!) and just got back from a 5 mile run. I feel amazing! While I know that this kind of exercise is not for every pregnant woman, I’m thrilled that you took the time to write about the importance of exercise as a whole. It is so so so important and there are not enough people exercising these days! I wish I could try some of your recipies but I’m one of those people who can’t even look at vegetables at the moment so I have to mix them into smoothies and drink up.

    Keep up the inspirational posts! You’ve just earned a new follower 😉

    P.S. You look AMAZING in your bikini pic and should feel extremely proud of yourself! Post that pic everywhere you can girl! xo

    1. Thank you Chloe for taking the time to write such an amazing and heartwarming comment! You made my week!!! Awesome that you just got done with a run at 32 weeks too. It feels so great to be able to get the blood moving when you are pregnant! I almost feel like I needed my runs more then than I do now. I hope you have an AMAZING birth! 🙂

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