Guest Author - Maryn Leister
Are you one of the many pregnant women who worry that her baby will come too soon?
But what would you think if I told you that in the homebirth practice I work in, we hardly ever, ever see a baby born before about 39 weeks?
These 2 questions are related because the midwifery community supports and puts into practice certain beliefs about nutrition that the medical world does not. What I have learned is so simple, and makes absolutely so much sense that I hope you can read this and rest assured that if you follow the “advice”, your body will be able to support your baby until it is “full-term” (and in my world, that is 40 weeks, not 37).
Calories and protein, calories and protein, calories and protein. Unless you keep a diet log for even just a week, I can guarantee you that you don't know exactly what you are getting, or what you are not getting.
Proper nutrition prevents prematurity.
The average pregnant woman needs 2800 calories a day and between 80-100 grams of protein daily. As well, you need salt to taste on your food and a quart of water for every 50 lbs. body weight. But before you rush off to fill your plate, maybe you want to know why you need to eat this way?
Good question. To put it simply, your body must expand the amount of blood it has by 50 % by the time you are about 28 weeks pregnant. There is no way to make this blood if you do not supply your body with enough calories and protein to support you, grow the baby, grow your placenta and provide you with enough “extra” blood in case you lose some during or after birth.
If you do not supply your body with this extra blood, it simply cannot do a good job of taking care of both you and your baby. And then something has to give.
Now here is a typical scenario you might have run into yourself, or have heard about. The classic example that often produces an early baby (even if it is by induction rather than natural labor starting) is this:
Woman does not know there is a “pregnancy diet”. In fact, she is told to restrict her salt intake and to watch her weight gain. The pregnancy is going along well anyway and she doesn't think anything of it.....until.....
At about 32 weeks the trouble starts. Because blood volume expansion should have been completed by 28 weeks, at about 32 weeks her body finally gets the message that there is in fact not enough blood to keep her and the baby healthy.
In fact, her body starts to act like it is hemorrhaging and things start shutting down to protect the vital organs. Classic signs? Rising blood pressure and maybe lots of swelling too. Sound familiar?
And all too familiar...the premature labor that begins to get the baby out or more likely the induction because for “some reason” her blood pressure just started to skyrocket.
In most cases, it is no mystery. If you don't give your body exactly what it needs, it will take it anyway. At the expense of your baby.
Shoot for 2800 calories a day and about 80 grams of protein too. If you are eating good, whole, organic foods (and full dairy fats, like raw milk, whole milk yogurt) then getting calories will not be a challenge. For vegetarian and vegan diets, you'll definitely have to try harder but it can be done.
I challenge you to do this research yourself even if you are not provided with any information at all from your caregiver. When you are walking around, still healthy and pregnant at 40 weeks, you'll (almost!) be glad!