How do you heal the body with nutrition after having a baby?
Guest blog written by Michele Kingston from TNM Clinic, St. Albans.
Hello, I am Michele Kingston, I am a registered nutritional therapist and functional medicine practitioner. Nutritional and functional medicine addresses the root cause of health problems and uses natural therapies such as diet, supplements and lifestyle to support the body back to optimum health and wellness.
I have been practising for 11yrs, both in private practice and on staff at an environmental medicine clinic working alongside doctors and other clinicians. I have worked with both adults and children, from all around the world with a variety of different illnesses and needs, such as IBS, hormonal imbalance, weight issues, skin problems, autoimmune disease, fatigue, depression and more.
I also work with clients who want to prevent health problems, or wish to switch to a vegan diet or need support whilst pregnant and post-natally. I have consistently seen amazing results and I am living proof that nutritional medicine can have a powerful impact on health. It’s something I am so passionate about.
So you’ve just given birth?
I often get women asking… What should I eat?
After giving birth we need to nourish our bodies. They have done a magical, miraculous thing and are often left rather nutrient depleted and exhausted from their efforts.
Especially in the first 3 months postnatally, also known as the 4th trimester, this is not the time to worry about losing weight and dieting, but helping the body heal and nourishing yourself back to full health.
Specific needs the body has in the 4th trimester that can be accomplished with a nutritious diet:
Extra requirement for nutrients
After pregnancy you can be deficient in some nutrients, micro-nutrients like vitamins and minerals and macro-nutrients like carbs, protein and fat, because of a few reasons:
During pregnancy you were literally building a human being from scratch and it is built from the nutrients you provide, the baby gets priority and uses your stores and what comes in through the diet and supplements.
Labour and 4th trimester are mentally and physically exhausting and this drains nutrients.
Healing requires extra nutrients, all pregnancies and labour will require some level of tissue healing. So, the diet needs to provide the constituent parts of collagen, muscle and skin, which are essentially protein, fats and micronutrients.
If you are breastfeeding, nutrients are prioritised to make good quality milk so you have an even higher need.
Inflammation is a necessary response that occurs naturally during pregnancy and labour. Inflammation can also occur in the 4th trimester due to lack of sleep and stress experienced at this time and we need to help the immune system bring this inflammation back under control to be able to heal. So we don’t want our diet and lifestyle to exacerbate inflammation, but rather heal the damage that inflammation can inflict and allow it to naturally reduce.
Post-natally you are in the midst of a symphony of hormones, your body is creating and reacting to an abundance of oestrogen, oxytocin, prolactin, prostaglandins, insulin, adrenaline and cortisol. Good nutrition is required so you can:
make these hormones, many of them are made from cholesterol and essential fats
detoxify and eliminate the hormones once they are used, otherwise they can accumulate and cause issues
keep blood sugar balanced so as not to cause cortisol and insulin spikes.
What is optimal nutrition in the 4th Trimester?
Keep things simple, there is no pressure for a perfect diet just do your best and try to do as much of the below as you can manage and think about what you should be including rather than excluding.
3 balanced meals per day, which are 50% vegetables, 25% protein, 20% complex carbohydrates and 5% good fats from nuts, seeds, olives, oily fish and avocado. A meal balanced like this provides good amounts in the right ratios of the nutrients you need to balance blood sugar, keep you feeling full and satisfied and rebuild and heal tissues in the body.
At least 5 servings of veg and max 2 of fruit and try to eat a rainbow of different colours. Eating an abundance of veg and some fruit provides good amounts of vitamins and minerals, lots of fibre and calms inflammation.
Fresh, wholefoods rather than processed as much as possible
Careful with the sugar and refined white carbohydrates as these have zero nutrients, increase inflammation and actually increase fatigue.
Try to include the specific foods mentioned below that are rich sources of nutrients
Eating like this provides 5 key things your body needs to heal:
1. Vitamins (really you will need all vitamins and minerals), but those to really focus on are:
Vitamin C is excellent for healing and rebuilding collagen, aiding iron absorption, antioxidant protection and supporting immunity. Foods rich in vitamin C are peppers, herbs especially chives, parsley and coriander, kale, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries and oranges.
Vitamin D is important for bone development so especially important if you are breast feeding to have good levels to pass on to baby, supporting immunity and alleviating inflammation. Vitamin D production is stimulated by sunlight on the skin so the best way to get this is being in the sun without spf. It is also a nutrient that often needs to be supplemented to get optimal levels. There is a small amount in some foods like fish, mushrooms and fortified foods.
Vitamin E is great for healing, antioxidant protection and reducing inflammation. Foods rich in vitamin E are nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil
Zinc is essential for healing, antioxidant protection, thyroid and hormonal health. Foods rich in zinc are seafood, meat, nuts, lentils, soya beans and oats.
Magnesium is used up when you are stressed. It is required to relax muscles, required to make energy and aids sleep. Foods rich in magnesium are cocoa (craving chocolate can be due to low magnesium), dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Selenium is necessary for healing and hormonal balance. Foods rich in selenium are brazil nuts ( 1 contains enough for whole daily intake), fish and seafood.
Iron is crucial, especially if you suffered with blood loss. It is needed for energy and detoxification. Haem iron is found in red meat and non-haem iron is particularly found in dark green leafy vegetables and apricots.
3. Protein is absolutely essential for healing, it provides the building blocks for collagen and tissues like skin and muscle. Quality complete proteins are only found in animal products like meat, fish, eggs and dairy. You can get protein from vegetable proteins like beans, chickpeas, lentils, grains, nuts and seeds, but they are incomplete and therefore lower quality. If these are your only source of protein ensure you combine them adequately and eat them in abundance.
4. Fats are key for healing and dampening inflammation, aim to consume each day several tablespoons of anti-inflammatory fats like olive, flax, avocado, hemp, walnut, sesame oil and omega 3s from oily fish. Do not be scared to eat fat, remember fat doesn’t make you fat, it heals and builds the body. Did you know that baby brain is caused by the body taking fat from your brain to give to the baby? So it is crucial we replace that lost fat as soon as we can post-natally. Also, if we don’t eat fat we can’t absorb fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A and E.
5. Healthy calories in abundance, are needed right now to provide the energy for healing and coping with the stress and busyness of your new normal. Weight loss is not the objective right now and so please don’t restrict calories. Something low calorie doesn’t necessarily mean it is healthy, likewise something high calorie doesn’t mean it is unhealthy. Focusing on eating 3 balanced meals that are high in veg, low in sugar and minimally processed will naturally provide the right amount of calories you need. Please note that if you are breastfeeding and/or finding you are getting extra hungry add in some snacks and/or increase portions at mealtimes.
So there you have it, some of my key nutrition tips to help you to heal and nourish your body back to optimal health after having a baby. I really hope this has been useful.
If you would like to know more on this subject or perhaps you have a health issue you would like some help with, do get in touch, I would be delighted to help you. I offer a 15min complimentary discovery call so you can ask me any questions you may have before you book. Consultations are currently over zoom and the initial consultation is 60-90 minutes.
After the consultation I create for you a bespoke nutrition, supplement and lifestyle programme. The first consultation plus the programme is £130 and follow ups are £65. I look forward to hearing from you and nourishing you back to health. Thank you for reading, Michele.
Antenatal Education – Starts from the moment you find out you are pregnant.
Guest Blog written by Emma Trollope from PBB Events.
Hi! My name is Emma Trollope, I am a midwife and have been working within the NHS for the past 13 years. With my mum (who is also a midwife) we run the Pregnancy Birth and Beyond Events Company – PBB Events. For the past 18 months we have drawn on our vast knowledge of antenatal education, from working, teaching parents, and mentoring students within the NHS. This vast experience over the years has enabled us to create events to help empower expectant and new parents, support them and provide them with information to be able to make informed choices to have a positive pregnancy and birth experience. It has also enabled us to provide courses for birth professionals to help keep them up to date on their knowledge and introduce interesting topics.
Midwives from PBB St Albans
Antenatal education is a huge part of the pregnancy experience and we feel pregnant women and their partners are entitled to realistic and affordable classes. Antenatal education’s purpose is to prepare expectant parents for pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.
Antenatal education is recommended by healthcare professionals around the world, and there are many different courses to choose from. The research around what the benefits of attending antenatal education is lacking. A Cochrane review in 2007 suggested antenatal education did not make a difference to the way a women birthed (vaginal delivery, instrumental or caesarean section) however from other studies and our experience it can make a big difference to a couple having a baby, helping to reduce the fear of childbirth, reducing the false labour admissions, and increasing partner involvement.
But actually, the antenatal education starts from the moment you find out your pregnant….
At your booking appointment (usually before 10 weeks of pregnancy) you will be given information about screening options for mum and baby, your diet in pregnancy, foods to avoid, foods to increase, vitamin D and ferrous sulphate, exercise, plan of care for your pregnancy, contact numbers and when to be concerned. As well as options around place of birth, dental care, safety at home, starting to think about feeding your baby and risk assessments at work to name a few. That sounds like a lot to cover in one appointment doesn’t it? Well, it is, and most women come out of that appointment feeling overloaded with information!
Some of this information you may have chosen to read up on beforehand, or you may know if you have been pregnant before. If it is all new, do not worry you will be given leaflets and there is more information and links in your handheld maternity notes that you will be asked to carry round with you and take to every appointment, and I have included some great websites at the end of this blog for further reading. Some hospitals may have gone completely paperless and in this circumstance you will be asked to download and app.
All this information is important though so you can make choices about the kind of care you will receive during your pregnancy, what kind of screening you would like, if any, and to ensure you have the healthiest pregnancy possible for you and baby.
Throughout your pregnancy approximately every 4 weeks or so you should have an appointment with a midwife or obstetrician to complete a check up on how you are doing physically and mentally as well as following the development of the baby.
Even if your pregnancy is classed as high risk and you need to see an obstetric consultant, we would recommend you make some of your appointments in between to see your midwife as well. Different information is given at different appointments as it is relevant to different weeks of pregnancy. Doctors appointments tend to focus on the medical issue that you may be at risk of or going through where as at a midwife appointment you can have discussions about things like further screening for you and baby as well as talking over your birth preferences and plans for postnatal care as well as an opportunity to discuss the plan the consultant has documented for you.
There are sooooo many types of formal antenatal education available that will go over preparation for labour, birth and the first few weeks with your new-born. You can even find your own sources of information via You Tube, websites, or books (just be careful that you make sure they are reputable, trustworthy places).
Some you pay for, and some are free, some are face to face while others virtual. You can book classes with other parents or if you prefer you can go for a one to one session. A few of them include some kind of exercise like Pilates or yoga as well as being packed full of information and others focus on techniques to help you in labour like hypnobirthing.
Then there are the more traditional classes, some taught by midwives, like ours, which can be a course of classes over several weeks or individual modules. Individual modules on caesarean section, induction of labour or feeding can be especially good if you are not a first-time mum and just want to remind yourself about different aspects of labour and birth or life with a new baby. Perhaps you have done another type of class and want to top it up with a specific subject which matches your circumstances or risk factors.
With so much choice you need to think about what you want. How you learn best. Do you want to form a support network by meeting other expectant parents. Do you want it to be interactive with a facilitator and to be able to ask questions live or do you prefer just to sit and listen to a pre-recorded video. Whatever your choice there is something out there for you, just ask.
What we do know is that when women and their partners who feel prepared for birth and know about the possible complications that can arise, they feel more equipped to be actively involved in the decision making during their pregnancy, labour and birth. This decreases the fear of childbirth and parents end up with a much more positive experience, so it is well worth preparing yourself in which ever way you feel right for you.
Thank you so much for reading.
Emma & Debbie Trollope owners of PBB Events
Events run by Midwives for Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond.
Please head to our website for more information and helpful blogs from us and the women we have supported during their pregnancy and parenting journeys www.pbbevents.com
Encouraging Optimal Foetal Position – GUEST BLOG, written by Grace Lillywhite, Founder of Centred Mums Pilates and Wellbeing
How daily movement can guide your baby into the perfect place for birth.
The position of your baby in the womb can have a huge impact on the way your labour progresses. It is often assumed that if baby is head down, then they are in the perfect position for birth, but in reality, small changes to way your baby is situated can improve your birth outcome and speed up your labour. If they have their chin slightly lifted or head at an angle this can make it more difficult for them to move through your pelvis and encourage your cervix to dilate.
There are many things you can do during your pregnancy to create room for your baby to move into the perfect position to be born. This advice is even more important if you find that your baby is: Transverse – lying sideways. Breech – head up. Or back-to-back – lying with its spine against yours. The guidance in this blog is designed to give your baby as much space as possible to move into an ideal place for birth. And, whilst that can only be a good thing, it is also important to remember that your baby is very wise, and knows what it needs, sometimes they get into their position for a reason and you should never feel that you are ultimately responsible for your baby’s position. Anecdotally, there has been a rise in breech babies over lockdown. One of the reasons for this, could be the more sedentary lifestyles we are all currently living.
Here are some things to bear in mind:
Do what you can to promote balance in your body. No one is perfectly balanced. But by taking care to distribute your weight evenly through your feet, and ensuring that you don’t sit with your legs crossed – you can create more balance in your body, which in turn will help you to feel more comfortable throughout your pregnancy and allow your body to function better. Make your posture work for you! When your bones are aligned your body can function in a way that is better for both you and your baby. When you slouch, and sit on the back of your pelvis, you shorten and tighten your pelvic floor – preventing it from functioning effectively, which is especially important during a vaginal birth. Try to sit with your knees lower than the level of your hips, so that – once it is big enough! -your belly can be lower than your hips too. By sitting on the front of your ‘sit bones’ you encourage your pelvic floor to function better and give your baby more space to move and get into a position that will help the birth process.
Move, move and then move some more! If you can keep your pelvis balanced and mobile throughout pregnancy, your body will thank you when it comes to giving birth! You’ll find that your pelvic opens more easily and allows full mobility of the four pelvic joints. I can’t stress enough how important it is to walk throughout your pregnancy – walk as much as you can – it promotes both flexibility and stability. And a consistent amount of daily movement, combined with specialist pregnancy Pilates, yoga or exercise classes, can also support length and tone within your muscular structure, keep your pelvis aligned and assist with the engaging and descent of the baby.
Once you are in labour, staying active is just as important, movement – such as gentle walking – will continue to aid your baby’s descent into your pelvis and help your body to stay relaxed. Some top tips for daily movement and exercise that will optimise your baby’s position: Walk every day
Work yourself up to 3-miles a day if you can. If your body doesn’t like it then don’t force it, just do what feels good for you. And do listen to your health professional’s advice if you have PGP or have been advised to rest. Be mindful of jaw release. There is an important relationship between the jaw and the pelvis. Many of us hold tension in our jaw and relaxing this muscle is really important. Start to be more mindful of whether you are gritting your teeth or tensing your jaw muscles. Use your fingers to massage into your jaw muscles for 2-minutes every single day. Begin simple exercises to gentle stretch and mobilise your muscles
Try to do the following exercises every day:
Neck rolls – Roll your head to the right and left 5-10 times.
Elbow circles and arm circles – Bring your hands to your shoulders and make big circles with your elbows, making sure that you are mobilising your shoulder blades as you move.
Then, to mobilise your ribcage, circle your arms and do side bends.
Thoracic rotation – On all fours, bring your right hand to your shoulder and lift your elbow up to the ceiling, allowing your ribcage to rotate with you. Then go the other way. Repeat this movement 5 times on each side.
Calf stretches – Put the ball of your foot onto a rolled-up yoga mat or towel and allow your heel to drop back to the floor. Ensure your knee is kept fairly straight but not locked. Repeat this movement on the other side.
Glute release – Standing up against a wall, take a spiky ball or a tennis ball and massage it into your bum cheek. Your pelvic floor and gluts are really connected, so releasing the glutes can also help to reduce pelvic floor tension. Look for a tight spot at the top of your bum cheek, this is your piriformis which runs from your lower back to the inside of your hip and is often an area of tension.
Glute stretch – Sit on the front of your sit bones with both feet on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and allow the right knee to fall. Make sure your sit bones stay connected to the chair. Stay very conscious of how your pubic bone feels – if it is aggravated at all, then you may need to skip this one.
Psoas release – Stand with one foot on a stair and allow your other leg to hang, gently swing your leg allowing it to be heavy as it swings. Stay there gently releasing the hip joint for a few minutes then do the other side. Again, be mindful of how your pubic bone feels as single leg work doesn’t work for everyone during pregnancy.
Centred Mums Pregnancy Pilates classes use restorative Pilates and yoga-based movement to address postural changes and demands throughout each trimester. We can help you to maintain strength, connect you to your breath and relieve tension in your body. As we work through the exercises mentioned above, we will help you to increase your understanding of the way your body functions and naturally create space for your baby to move and to grow.
Our pregnancy Pilates classes will introduce you to positions for labour, breathing techniques and other support to prepare your body and mind for your birthing experience and beyond. You will create a new awareness of your pelvic floor and abdominals and create a foundation of deep abdominal strength that will support your baby during your pregnancy and in your postnatal recovery. We have lots of experience in working with pregnancy-related conditions including diastasis recti, pelvic floor dysfunction (including prolapse), pelvic girdle pain, sciatica, back and neck problems and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Please feel free to contact me for any further information. Pilates and Osteopathy go so beautifully together, especially during pregnancy and postnatally. I work with the osteopaths here at Herts Osteopathy often, for the best outcomes for our mutual patients and clients, and feel that women really appreciate and benefit from both.
OK so we all know that working from home can really take a toll on your body. With increasing amounts of neck, shoulder pain, headaches and jaw ache coming in to the clinic… I have been asked by many patients WHAT CHAIR DO I BUY????
So in terms of chairs, it’s actually really important to think about the chair’s relationship to the desk. And getting a desk set up where you can just as easily stand as you can sit is probably THE most important thing. So if you’ve done this, then ideally you will only be sitting for 30 minute periods before moving around and going to a standing position. Sometimes it is just about moving more than anything else, but getting the right chair can help too.
I think seats where you have the ability to sit upright with your back supported, bottom right back in the seat, sitting evenly on both sitting bones so you don’t have to lean forwards and away from the back of the chair are the best ones you can find. So if the chair’s back slopes backwards then this really doesn’t help. Use a pillow to help support you if needed.
The seat needs to be able to come right in and under the table. So that your wrists and arms can rest, rather than having to over stretch or reach. Particularly with the mouse hand. That is vital. If you are too far away, your head neck and shoulders are in a compromised position, and this then causes compression of your ribs and diaphragm, and abdominal cavity, particularly when working for long periods of time without a break. There is a significant relationship between sitting for long periods and abdominal cramps, congestion, pelvic pain and constipation, and from this picture you can really see why.
If you have arm rests that can then be moved so you can get closer to the desk this is really beneficial. Being able to be square on to the computer or desk is also important, if you are always rotating one way then this will aggravate rib, shoulder, neck issues.
Then every 30 minutes do a check in on yourself.. Ears over shoulders, chest lifted, torso long rather than folded forwards. Almost like a chin tuck.
If you are standing, you can even add some squats in there. Set an alarm and do 10 squats every 30 minutes. Your legs, pelvis, hips, and entire body will love you for it. Even if you set yourself an alarm and change posture or position every 30 minutes, this can make a significant difference to you and your body. Making sure you can breathe a full deep breath, and not be in pain. Standing rather than sitting can positively influence your metabolic state, and use more muscles, burn over 120 extra calories, and keep your pelvis, spine and hips more open. You can breathe better, and have a happier gut too. 😊 Your stomach, and bowels are able to move more fluidly, and are not stuck in a compressed position for so long. Constipation can be a severe issue with sitting down for prolonged periods. Our immune system is found in our gut, so we need the whole of the abdomen to be happy, and not compromised.
No posture is necessarily a bad posture, unless you are there for too long! Allowing the fascia and muscles, ligaments and joints to change positions means that fatigue never gets a chance to set in, and our bodies are happier, more fluid, and less negative impact on our bowels, gynae, abdomen, heart and lungs, spine and pelvic floor. So keep moving 😊😊
If you want more individual advice, or a hands on treatment to help get your body more able to adapt to a more comfortable posture, then book in to see us. Sometimes we have restrictions in our neck, ribs, spine, hips, and pelvis, or anywhere else through the chain which can impede your body from being able to sit or even stand in a more comfortable balanced position whilst you work. If you are still in pain, or finding some of these positions difficult to get into, then you may well benefit from a full osteopathy assessment and hands on treatment. We are here to help.
You can book online to see one of our osteopaths, or email us on email@example.com
Jo has started her own podcast in all things Osteopathy for fellow osteopath, health pros and patients. Giving knowledge of various issues, ramblings of life as an Osteopath and chats with other health pros and osteopaths too.
Find All.Things.Osteo podcast on various platforms including Apple, Google and Spotify, and subscribe. Or listen by following this link directly.
This episode is all about the importance of the big toe (the Hallux) to whole body mechanics, and injury, and quite often can be the key to solving tons of issues.