This month to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, we take a look at Pregnancy and Post Natal Mental Health and some of the things we can do to help prevent issues and treat symptoms. We know that the diet us as mothers in pregnancy have can positively or negatively affect our physical health and our baby’s but do we think to make the connection with what we eat during and after our pregnancy and the effect it may have on our own mental health?
Current NHS guidelines for pregnant women are:
- Some types of cheese
- Raw or partly cooked eggs
- Raw or undercooked meat, caution with cold cured meats
- Caffeine limit to 200mg daily
- High dose multivitamin supplements/fish oil supplements/ Vitamin A
- Shellfish, sushi, smoked fish, shark, swordfish, marlin & limit tuna to 4 cans/week
- Foods with soil on them
- Herbal teas – limit to 4 cups daily
- Milk – pasteurised and UHT only
There are many other nutritional organisations (Institute of Optimum Nutrition UK and Western Price in the USA) that recommend a very different diet in Pregnancy and you can make an informed choice once you have read the research.
Here are some key points to note:
The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents & Children (ALSPAC) is one of the few studies in the world that has followed a population cohort from pregnancy through to adulthood of offspring and their key findings are:
− Maternal diet during pregnancy is predictive of offspring diet during childhood.
− Nutrients mostly likely to be judged inadequate – iron, magnesium, potassium & folate.
− Eating fish/seafood during pregnancy benefits both infant (brain/eyesight)
and mother (less depression/anxiety)
− Limited intake of seafood during pregnancy found to have only a small effect
on mercury levels.
− Evidence that maternal intake of magnesium, potassium & folate (not
calcium) is positively associated with bone mass in child at 9 years.
Pregnancy involves significant anatomical and physiological changes in order to nurture and accommodate the developing foetus. These changes begin after conception and affect every organ system in the body.
INCREASED NUTRITIONAL NEEDS IN PREGNANCY:
IRON – 2-3 fold increase in requirement for iron:
− Haemoglobin synthesis
− Foetal stores
− Development of foetal organs
- IODINE – A key nutrient for implantation and neurological development.
- ZINC – Active transport of zinc across the placenta into the foetal circulation
- PROTEIN – increased requirements. An excessively low intake of protein is associated with potentially negative effects in terms of weight and length at birth.
FOLATE – 10-20 fold increase in folate requirements.
− It is estimated that taking enough ‘folic acid’ before you conceive and while you are pregnancy can prevent unto 7 out of 10 cases of neural tube
defects. Maternal intake of ‘folic acid’ during first month of pregnancy also shown to be protective against Down’s syndrome, cleft lip, cleft palate and autism.
− Mothers who ate vegetables only 3-5 times a week, rather than daily increased risk of type I diabetes in children by 70%
Key nutrients needed for Brain Development of your baby:
VITAMIN A: Cod liver oil; liver, butter and egg yolks from grass-fed animals
VITAMIN D: Cod liver oil; lard, butter and egg yolks from grass-fed animals
VITAMIN K2: Butter, egg yolks and organ meats from grass-fed animals
CHOLINE: Liver, egg yolks
DHA: Cod liver oil, liver, butter, egg yolks
ZINC: Red meat, shell fish
CHOLESTEROL: Seafood; dairy foods, eggs and meat fats
POST NATAL MUMS
I have had three children myself (youngest 19) and looking back I realise how I pushed myself to get “Back to normal” as soon possible. It is traditional practice in a number of cultures, to confine the new mother and her infant to the home.
− Usually varies from 40-60 days.
− To help prevent infection and to allow mother to recover form the birth.
- Food eaten during this period are chosen to:
- Enhance milk flow.
- Provide high levels of depleted nutrients.
- Enhance digestion and blood flow.
Do we do anything vaguely resembling this…..? Err Nope!
I have been teaching Post Natal Yoga for over 10 years and I am finding even more so that new mums are trying to squeeze into their jeans, diet to regain their pre pregnancy shape and running themselves ragged to try and keep up with the never ending plethora of activities for their babies.
We know that “Health in Pregnancy predicts health Post Natal”
Studies have shown a key link between low vitamin D and zinc levels in Pregnancy and a tendency for Post natal depression and interestingly Probiotic supplements during the first trimester of pregnancy may help women lose weight after the infant’s birth.
Pharmacy shelves are stocked with several brands of prenatal vitamins, but few brands are marketed specifically to new mothers. Supplementing with vitamins after giving birth, however, can help you recover from the physical and physiological effects of pregnancy and can even benefit the health of your newborn if you are breast-feeding.
Here are the main ones you need to ensure you are getting enough of!
B vitamins – important for the normal functioning of the immune system and regulation of a mother’s hormonal activity.
Beta Carotene – helps protect, safely, against Vitamin A deficiency and cell mutation. Supports normal cell differentiation, normal function of the immune system as well as the normal metabolism of Iron. Passed on through mother’s milk.
Biotin – essential for metabolising most macronutrients as well as for the normal function of the nervous system. The concentration of Biotin in breast milk is 15 times higher than in the mother’s blood, which suggests that Biotin may be very important for a baby’s growth and development.
Calcium – needed for the development of your baby’s nervous system and strong, healthy bones and teeth.
Choline – an essential nutrient required by the body to make important compounds necessary for healthy cell membranes.
Folate – contributes to normal cell division. Supplementation can be valuable as good supplies are hard to get from food alone.
Iodine – an essential micro-nutrient in the human diet, most particularly as a component of thyroid hormones, which play a vital role in the regulation of metabolic processes such as growth and energy expenditure.
Iron – needed by the mother to help build up haemoglobin in the blood, especially if there has been considerable blood loss. Also helps to support normal cognitive function and to supply oxygen to the muscles.
Magnesium – essential for energy production, for proper nerve function and for every major metabolic reaction. Few enzymes (the protein molecules which carry the DNA’s instructions in the body) can work without it.
Selenium – an important antioxidant. Helps to protect DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage. Also important for the normal functioning of the immune and thyroid systems.
Vitamin C – helps wounds to heal by manufacturing collagen, connective tissue and blood vessels. Supports the immune system, helps to fight infection and increases the body’s absorption of Iron. Particularly valuable if you are breast feeding.
Vitamin D – important to help maintain a healthy inflammatory response and the normal functioning of the immune system and to improve mental health
Vitamin E – Essential for metabolism and the development of the nervous system.
Vitamin K – controls blood clotting. Your child cannot manufacture Vitamin K within his or her own gut yet and relies on breast milk for his or her supply.
Zinc – helps to support the immune system and normal DNA synthesis. Levels of copper (which is antagonistic to Zinc) rise during pregnancy, reaching a peak just after the birth. The placenta is an exceedingly rich form of Zinc, which is why most animals eat the placenta after giving birth. New mums are often Zinc deficient and as mentioned it can cause post natal depression, poor healing and skin and hair issues.
Please consult a fully qualified or registered Nutritionist and don’t buy supplements from the Supermarket! My recommended brands are BIOCARE and LAMBERTS both available on line or from a professional therapist.
If you don’’t want to take supplements then research on which foods contain the vitamins and minerals you are lacking – the Mental Health Foundation has a list of Good Mood Foods. Please email me if you want a copy.
“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”
Please be advised the health suggestions contained in this article are only the personal opinion of Carole Baker, they do not constitute medical advice. Please always consult your GP before taking any alternative or complementary remedies, particularly if you are currently on prescription medication. Please ensure you always see a professionally qualified and insured complementary therapist or teacher.