Having had six pregnancies and helping many women optimize their pregnancy through holistic care, I thought I'd offer the ultimate holistic pregnancy guide to ensure the best possible pregnancy ever for all of HFFG's readers! This will go into the most important holistic things to do before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and postpartum to have the healthiest mama and baby possible! Please feel free to share this with everyone you know who can benefit from it!
Before Getting Pregnant
The BEST way to ensure a healthy mama and baby is to do some things BEFORE getting pregnant! This is especially crucial for those whose hormones are not properly balanced and/or who have struggled with miscarriages and/or infertility.
Ideally, determining what the body's current levels of all fertility hormones are should be done first.
At the very least, it is essential to ensure that progesterone levels are adequate before getting pregnant. The majority of miscarriages and infertility are caused by low progesterone. You can have it tested with your local provider, but I have found that many conventional practitioners are extremely resistant to testing this one simple yet incredible important thing.
Ideally, progesterone should be tested before pregnancy during the luteal phase of the cycle (Days 19-21 if doing this home progesterone test). This should be monitored monthly for awhile if progesterone tends to be low during the luteal phase. (The luteal phase is when the body requires progesterone to spike. If it does not spike sufficiently, this indicates it may likely not increase sufficiently to maintain a pregnancy before the placenta takes on production of placenta in the 2nd trimester.)
If you do not have a provider who will monitor this and/or you would rather do it at home, grab some that you can have on hand at home to test. (Results take 5-7 business days to be sent via email so plan accordingly or see a practitioner if they are needed sooner.)
It is also extremely beneficial to assess things like Vitamin D and thyroid health before getting pregnant.
Optimizing Vitamin D levels before and during pregnancy is one way to give your newborn the best possible immune health. In fact, things like RSV and polyhydramnios (excessive accumulation of amniotic fluid) are even linked to maternal deficiency of Vitamin D. (Click here to see how Vitamin D levels are connected to RSV risk in babies and click here to see how it's connected to polyhydramnios.) This is just a couple of many examples!
Ideally, Vitamin D should be tested before pregnancy. February is generally the best time of year in the U.S. to test Vitamin D levels but they should be checked anytime before getting pregnant or after a positive pregnancy test.
To optimize Vitamin D levels, first start with cod liver oil that has naturally-occurring D3. Liver support will be discussed below and is something that will normally help achieve healthy Vitamin D levels (as the liver is responsible for converting Vitamin D3 precursors into the form the body can use). If more Vitamin D is needed still, a Vitamin D like this can be used but should always be taken in conjunction with K2 like this. (Click here to read why taking an isolated D3 without K2 can be dangerous.)
Optimize Thyroid Health
Our thyroid gland is responsible for so many functions, including our metabolism, and energy, and directly affects baby in utero. If a woman's thyroid health is not ideal, her body may actually "steal" some of her baby's thyroid hormones which can negatively affect baby's immediate and long-term health.
Another reason to optimize thyroid health before pregnancy as much as possible is because many women suffer from postpartum thyroiditis which is caused by the drain that pregnancy takes on our thyroid. Postpartum thyroiditis is actually a leading cause of postpartum depression, hair falling out, etc. It can be prevented easily with a few adjustments.
Your care provider may agree to test your thyroid health, but many conventional practitioners are not willing to run a FULL thyroid panel. (Most just run TSH.) You can request for a full panel (which will include Free T3, Free T4, and thyroid antibodies).
NOTE: The above thyroid panel test kit includes testing for minerals and metals that also affect thyroid health. The Fertility Profile kit above includes thyroid hormones TSH, Free T3, Free T4, and thyroid antibodies (TPO).)
Optimizing thyroid health before pregnancy can go far in helping prevent postpartum depression, excessive hair loss, fatigue, etc. and instead give us more energy and help make losing our baby weight easier! (See below for supplements to support thyroid health.)
Supplements for A Healthy Pregnancy
Let me just start off by saying a fabulous, healthy pregnancy is not cheap. Optimizing mama's nutrition and health, especially after years of neglect and toxic burden, can require some serious effort and investment. This is where each woman can decide for herself what she can do. After five high-risk pregnancies, I personally decided it was worth it to give up a family vacation to afford the supplements that would deeply nourish my growing baby and myself. It's what I felt was best and I'm glad I did it! (Of course we found other fun free activities to do to make up for the missed vacation!)
And contrary to the idea that a woman can get the nutrients she needs from her diet, I have reviewed lab work for woman for the last eight years. From what I see, supplements are crucial. Even in women with an ideal diet.
There are some supplements that, quite frankly, are a waste of money. And can be dangerous. Like anything with artificial colors, flavors, or dangerous sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose. Anything with folic acid (we want folate). The cheap forms of many nutrients are so poorly absorbed that you would be peeing out money basically. So to save money and help your money be used more wisely, I'm going to offer a list of the best supplements I've found to be worth every penny and go far in supporting a healthy pregnancy.
These can and should absolutely be started BEFORE pregnancy!
In all honesty, a prenatal is not ideal if a mama can customize her supplement regimen. I personally find it better to use various other supplements that have higher amounts of nutrients. Because the amounts in many prenatal vitamins are so minimal, especially for the cost. For those who really prefer a prenatal to cover their bases, some options include:
HFFG's Prenatal & Nursing Multi: Due to the high demand of mamas who need something simple to cover their bases, I found a good prenatal to offer to women who are going to become pregnant, who are pregnant and/or nursing, and those who just need something simple to help replenish their bodies from pregnancy and breastfeeding. Prenatal Formula focuses on several key nutritional needs of pregnant women often overlooked in other formulas. It provides a full complement of essential vitamins and minerals in wellabsorbed, well-tolerated forms and includes extra vitamin D (2,000 IU) to meet increased needs for fetal growth, bone development, and other essential functions.† Substantial amounts and active forms of folate (as Metafolin®‡ L-5-MTHF), vitamin B12, and B6 are included to support optimum folate metabolism and methylation.† Phosphatidylcholine, a bioavailable form of choline, helps meet increased needs for choline during pregnancy to support optimal fetal brain development and maternal liver function.†
Master Formula is a good option for those who want food-sourced nutrients along with herbs and other things safe for pregnancy to really support so many other areas of health as well.
MightyVites is a good option for those who prefer a chewable. It is ideal to consume at least twice the recommended dosage for children on this vitamin.
In my personal and professional experience, here are the supplements that I feel are most beneficial and can be used with or without a prenatal vitamin:
B-Complex--B vitamins have a wide range of functions in the body and are especially crucial during pregnancy. Most prenatals contain less-than-ideal amounts of B vitamins for anyone, especially pregnant women, so I prefer to use a separate B complex supplement that contains folate (not folic acid). Super B contains folate derived from organic citrus peels and contains other things for more adrenal (energy) support. For those who know they have MTHFR, I would definitely use HFFG's Methyl B's.
Magnesium--This is also incredibly important to supplement during pregnancy. Think of anything that has to do with muscles tightening. Notice how that happens more during pregnancy?! A good, bioavailable magnesium will go very far in supporting great prenatal health and a full-term pregnancy. A cheap one will be peeing out money basically. There are two that I use and feel are best during pregnancy as well. Mineral Essence is a multi-mineral liquid supplement that has over 60 minerals in naturally-occurring forms, making it the most bioavailable magnesium (and other mineral) supplement I've ever found. (It does taste unpleasant as do any liquid minerals so I put it in empty capsules or a small amount of organic unsweetened juice.) The second best form is magnesium glycinate which is isolated (so it is only one mineral and not balanced with other minerals) but much more bioavailable than other forms of magnesium like citrate or oxide.
Iodine--Iodine has many benefits, but specifically supports mom and baby's thyroid health as well as baby's brain health and IQ. I have two favorites for iodine supplementation. For those who need or desire extra thyroid support, Thyromin contains iodine as well as other things like thyroid glandulars to support thyroid health. For just iodine, I prefer Harmonic Innerprizes Nascent Iodine drops.
Cod Liver Oil--Mom's and baby's brains desperately need supplemental Essential Fatty Acids (like DHA & EPA). Cod liver oil differs from fish oil as it also contains Vitamins A & D which are so incredibly beneficial for all stages of life. I'd love to be able to make it easy for you and recommend a cod liver oil, but my perfectionism with supplements has been greatly challenged in this area as I have not found any that I absolutely love and recommend. I have researched and used about every cod liver oil on the market. To make it easy, I'd say look into Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil or Simple Truth Cod Liver Oil Softgels. (These are higher in nutrients than Nordic Naturals.)
Digestive Enzymes--In my experience working with a midwife, we found that most prenatal women need help digesting protein. We're told we need more protein during pregnancy, and we do, but many women aren't even properly digesting the protein they're consuming. The same holds true for fats, starches, etc. That's why I feel a good digestive enzyme is extremely beneficial for pregnancy and beyond. During pregnancy, I prefer Mightyzymes or Vital-Zyme Complete.
Grass-Fed Beef Spleen--Supplements with isolated iron forms (like ferrous sulfate) actually feed pathogenic (bad) gut bacteria. So while this may make iron levels seem more ideal towards the end of pregnancy when they tend to look low on tests, this can compromise the precious microbiome balance and predispose mom and baby to complications. (Click here to read my article about low iron and how iron supplements can make it worse.) Ideally, we should maintain iron levels with beef spleen (from grass-fed cows). Why spleen over liver? Spleen has FIVE times the amount of natural heme iron as liver! Since most women aren't going to sit down and eat beef spleen, taking Ancestral Supplements Grass-Fed Beef Spleen daily during pregnancy is a great option.
Vitamin C--Vitamin C is seriously miraculous. But most people don't realize this because they don't take enough of it to see the benefits. Vitamin C is needed to make collagen, works as a natural antihistamine, supports immune health, helps thicken the amniotic sac, and so much more. Larger doses of Vitamin C are perfectly safe during pregnancy (provided it's a good Vitamin C supplement without any synthetic ingredients added to it). I personally aimed for between 2,000 and 4,000 mg daily (in two separate doses) of HFFG's Vitamin C powder per day during pregnancy. (And it definitely worked to strengthen the amniotic sac!)
Liver Support--Pregnancy is definitely tough on the liver. All those excess hormones to detox can overwhelm an already-taxed liver. This is actually the main cause of PUPPS (pregnancy-induced rash) and "morning" sickness. Our body also depends on our liver in order to convert/metabolize many nutrients and hormones. My preferred liver-supporting supplements to take daily during pregnancy are Chlorella Detox and Milk Thistle Plus (coming soon).
The following can be added in as needed:
Healthy Foods for Fertility & Pregnancy
I'm not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to "diets." There are many good dietary guidelines like Whole 30, Paleo, Pegan, etc. but no two people are the same and these especially need to be adapted during pregnancy. (But I absolutely do not recommend a vegan diet during pregnancy.) But every bite we consume during pregnancy either nourishes or robs our body and our baby of nutrients, so proper nutrition is so incredibly important! I can't stress this enough!
The most important thing is to focus on the most nourishing foods, such as:
Good fats (organic virgin coconut oil, butter from grass-fed cows, extra virgin olive oil, avocados, etc.)
At least six servings (1/2 cup) daily of fresh and frozen organically-grown vegetables, especially leafy greens
Quality protein (grass-fed beef, organic/pasture-raised poultry, wild salmon, eggs from pastured hens, raw milk from a good farm, etc.)
And avoiding the most damaging foods, such as:
Refined and artificial sweeteners (cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, organic sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium, etc.).
Bad fats (canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, bleached/deodorized coconut oil like LouAna, restaurant fried foods, etc.)
Artificial colors and flavors
As an example of my prenatal diet, here are just a few of my most common and favorite meals:
Eggs (from my own hens), organic sweet potatoes (fried in grass-fed beef tallow and evoo), brussels sprouts, avocado, kombucha
Loaded salad (organic veggies, organic turkey meat, organic feta, Primal Kitchen Ranch dressing)
Grass-fed beef roast, organic potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, peas, with fermented sauerkraut on the side
Wild salmon broiled in grass-fed butter with cauliflower rice and asparagus
Paleo waffles with grass-fed butter, almond butter, pure maple syrup, and fresh juice (done at home with a juicer--organic carrots, green apple, celery, parsley, ginger, lemon)
If you find it difficult to stay nourished, especially during the first trimester, check out the Slique Shake.
Essential Oils for Pregnancy
Therapeutic essential oils are incredibly beneficial for supporting a healthy pregnancy and aren't as dangerous as they are promoted.
The only essential oil available from Young Living that I would personally avoid using topically during pregnancy is Sage (Spanish sage, not clary sage; more info on clary sage in the above link.).
Oils for before pregnancy
Progessence Plus serum contains USP progesterone along with essential oils to support balanced hormones and adequate progesterone for achieving pregnancy.
Oils for the first trimester
TummyGize to calm the tummy
Citrus Vitality oils (like Lemon Vitality and Tangerine Vitality) as well as the Juva blends listed above to keep the liver (and thereby hormones) supported
Aroma Siez when muscles need soothing
Oils for the second trimester
Helichrysum for stretching skin
Keep up those citrus vitality oils for liver support!
Lavender also for rubbing on abdomen to keep those muscles soothed and calm ;) (or even better--Lavender Calming bath bombs!)
Peppermint Vitality to support digestion
Oils for the third trimester
Copaiba Vitality internally and lemongrass topically to promote circulation and keeping skin from getting puffy. (Note on copaiba: While safe dosage limits for pregnancy are not generally researched for essential oils, copaiba has been researched for this. The study concluded that up to 20 drops per day was safe and showed no adverse effects or defects with baby.)
DiGize rubbed on the tummy as needed for helping keep comfortable after meals
More helichrysum for stretching skin!
Deep Relief for soothing tired legs and back
Oils for Labor
Valor for promoting feelings of strength and courage
Peace & Calming for dad (and others)
Copaiba Vitality for internal use after birth to support the body's natural response to inflammation
Claraderm spray on the perineum
Cistus oil (I cannot publicly state why this one is essential to have on hand due to governmental regulations but it is so important; please feel free to use the contact form below to inquire for more information.)
Oils for Newborn
Frankincense on the crown
Myrrh on the umbilical
Gentle Baby blend for promoting a soothing, calm environment for mom and baby
Oils for Postpartum
Deep Relief for helping abdomen feel more comfortable in the days after birth
Trauma Life if labor/delivery did not go as planned
Inner Defense to reinforce systemic defenses, create unfriendly terrain for yeast/fungus, support microflora balance, and support mama's immune system
Fennel Vitality to help support breastmilk production
Lavender for hot compresses on breasts
Progessence Plus if needed to support hormones and mood
Detoxing Home/Body Care Products
Toxins in everyday home and body care products interfere with our body's hormone process, so detoxing those are crucial for keeping our hormones healthy for pregnancy and beyond! Click here for my Home Detox Facebook Class!
For more information
If you are not an Oily Friends member, please click here to learn more about that! We have weekly education videos, free online courses, discounted pricing on third-party educational resources, and so much more!
Beautiful Babies: Nutrition for Fertility, Pregnancy, Breast-feeding, and Baby's First Foods--A great overview of proper nutrition during pregnancy and beyond!
Nutrition & Physical Degeneration--This book solidified my reasons to avoid all refined sugars during pregnancy!!