Six Keys to Preventing Complications and Giving Birth to a Healthy Baby
by Marci O'Daffer, CCE, Doula

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Having a Baby Today, Spring 2001, No. 1.]

You've probably experienced one of these, or know someone who has:

  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH)
  • Preeclampsia, toxemia, HELLP syndrome
  • Placental abruption
  • IntraUterine Growth Retardation (IUGR)
  • Preterm labor and bed rest
  • Drugs to reduce blood pressure and halt preterm labor
  • Small for Gestational Age (SGA) babies
  • Premature babies
  • Stillbirth

Pregnancy is scary these days, especially when we are constantly told that there is no known cause and no known cure to any of these common complications. But is that really the truth?

More than 100 years of medical research has shown that there is indeed a way to avoid these problems: proper pregnancy nutrition. Your growing baby gets every nutrient needed for growth—from nerves to muscles to bone to brain—from your bloodstream, and nowhere else. If you don't eat the right foods, the baby cannot suck nutrients out of your body like a parasite, as myth has it. The baby is fed by placental circulation, which gets nutrients only from the mother's bloodstream, and the only way nutrients get into the mother's bloodstream is through what she eats.

What can you do to prevent complications and give birth to a healthy baby? Based on Dr. Tom Brewer's proven Brewer Medical Diet, here are six simple steps that you can start today:

  1. Eat 80–100 grams of high quality protein every day. Protein forms the foundation of every cell of your baby's body. These can be lean meats or vegetarian combinations.
  2. Take in at least 2,400 calories every day, to prevent your body from burning the protein you eat for energy. Don't hesitate to use real butter on your bread—it's a natural and concentrated source of fat your body can use.
  3. Salt your food to taste. You actually need more sodium in pregnancy, not less, especially if you're experiencing excessive swelling or increased blood pressure. Lack of sodium will actually worsen these symptoms! Your taste buds are uniquely designed to tell you how much sodium you need, and your body is naturally able to regulate how much sodium stays and how much is excreted, according to its needs. Feel free to use alternatives to table salt, such as kelp, and let your taste buds be your guide to quantity. If your food tastes flat, don't be shy about it!
  4. Make milk and eggs the foundation of your pregnancy nutrition: four cups of milk and two eggs a day equals 50 percent of your protein needs and supplies your baby with many essential nutrients for growth. Vegetarians and the lactose intolerant will need to carefully choose equivalent alternatives.
  5. Choose whole grains over refined and processed grains whenever possible. Whole grains (including brown rice, whole wheat flour, bran and oats) offer about 1/3 more nutrients than their processed or "enriched" counterparts.
  6. Round out your pregnancy diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, and real juices (not sweetened juice "drinks"). Include both dark green and yellow varieties, and drink plenty of pure water when you're thirsty. Fruits and vegetables contain water, as well as important nutrients to help your body fight infection and metabolize other nutrients.

The metabolic processes that sustain life are very complex, and all the nutrients are interdependent. When your diet is lacking in any single nutrient, then you are in an overall state of malnutrition. It's never too early to start. It's only too late once your baby is born. Start today!

Marci O'Daffer is a Certified Childbirth Educator/Doula, Webmaster for Dr. Tom Brewer and editor of the new e-book, The Brewer Pregnancy Hotline.

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