Natural Approaches to the Side Effects of Pregnancy
Story and photos by Elaine Loft
In addition to the medical advice of their physicians, pregnant women can seek naturopathic remedies for common symptoms. Dr. Laura Jones earned a doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Arizona, and a bachelor of science in biochemistry from the University of New Hampshire. She is not in charge of her patients’ treatment plans during pregnancy, but is another source of support. Jones practices at Whole Health Concord. Fiddlehead recently discussed with her safe and natural practices for some of the unpleasant side effects of pregnancy. Jones is also a mother of three.
Fiddlehead (FH): Morning sickness is the most widely discussed complaint from pregnant women, but what are some others you often hear about?
Laura Jones (LJ): Fatigue and constipation are other common side effects of pregnancy.
FH: What would you recommend to combat each of these symptoms?
LJ: As far as morning sickness goes, you need to stay ahead of the nausea. An empty stomach actually makes you feel more nauseous, so it is important to keep food in your stomach. Bitter or sour foods are often more appealing when you feel queasy. Tart berries, either fresh or frozen, are great for breakfast and snacks. Cooked dark greens (beet or collard greens or kale) or bitter salad greens (including arugula) may also be appealing. Although plain crackers or pretzels may settle your stomach, they also contribute to constipation. Bitter foods stimulate more enzymes, which help to break down food. Additional fiber can be added to your diet via ground flaxseeds or chia seeds − both are safe and neutral.
FH: And tiredness?
LJ: Women who are pregnant often experience additional fatigue, due to changing hormones or lack of sleep. The best way to combat fatigue is with a regular exercise routine. Walking and yoga are two of the least stressful forms of exercise for a pregnant woman. Going through labor takes as much energy as running a marathon, so you need to train to prepare for it. Light hand weights are another way to keep your muscles in shape.
FH: What can one do to alleviate the symptoms of a common cold during pregnancy?
LJ: To prevent getting sick in the first place, a pregnant woman should keep up with her Vitamin D. Vitamin C can also be taken throughout pregnancy, but in low dosages. Once a cold has arrived, essential oils can offer some relief. Peppermint can be applied to the forehead or temple to relieve headaches. Eucalyptus in a steam bowl can clear nasal passages.
FH: Speaking of vitamins, which are recommended for pregnant women?
LJ: All pregnant women should consult with their medical professional before deciding which vitamins or supplements to take during pregnancy. Women are most often prescribed prenatal vitamins, which typically contain more folic acid, calcium and iron than standard adult multivitamins. Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester, when calcium demands increase. Taking vitamins on an empty stomach can increase nausea, so vitamins should be taken after eating or at night before going to bed.
FH: What would you recommend to a pregnant woman to help her cope with stress and tension?
LJ: Exercise is the best stress reliever. There are many classes, especially for pregnant women, like prenatal yoga. The side benefit of a group class is the opportunity to network with other pregnant women. Aromatherapy is also helpful with stress relief. Many people find lavender or wild orange, dispensed through a diffuser, to be calming.
FH: All parts of your body experience change during pregnancy. What do you recommend for stretch marks and dry skin?
LJ: Coconut oil, diluted with an essential oil (like lavender), can be applied daily to dry skin and a stretching belly.
FH: What sort of diet would you recommend to a pregnant woman?
LJ: Lean protein is extremely important. You can also supplement with nuts and seeds, which are other sources of protein. The dark, leafy greens and dark berries (blueberries, blackberries and cherries) that I mentioned as anti-nausea foods are essential because they are rich with vitamins and fiber. One area of caution is seafood, especially those species prone to contain mercury (like swordfish and tuna).
FH: What advice have you given to others that you did not follow yourself when you were pregnant?
LJ: As much as I knew that eating and drinking would make me feel less nauseous, it was definitely hard to put anything in my mouth when I was feeling so queasy.