Prenatal and Postnatal Health

Pregnancy is a very exciting time in a woman’s life and a healthy pregnancy requires eating real foods,taking the right nutritional supplements, following a safe, well-designed exercise program and ensuring mom is supported mentally, emotionally and physically. The following recommendations are helpful for women of all ages who are looking to feel strong, supported and healthy before, during and after their pregnancy.

As a woman’s body goes through many changes during her nine months of pregnancy, moms-to-be need to feel emotionally supported during this special time in their life. They require good physical health and they need to be well-informed, well-rested and well-nourished. Pregnant women have a greater need for wholesome, nutrient-dense foods such as organic fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and organic lean meats. It is also advised that during pregnancy, caffeine, alcohol, pesticides, chemicals and preservatives are avoided as much as possible. Working with a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) throughout pregnancy is very helpful – ND’s provide mental and physical support before, during and after pregnancy. They ensure moms-to-be are meeting nutritional requirements for themselves and their baby, and ND’s can naturally and safely treat common conditions in pregnancy, such as constipation, leg cramps, headaches, pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression.

From the moment a woman conceives, she holds the responsibility of following a healthy diet. To ensure her baby is receiving enough nutrients, mom is advised to eat foods that are twice as healthy, not twice the calories. My recommendation for all my patients is to consume smaller meals that are packed with optimal nutrients to support the developing fetus – protein (e.g. fish, organic chicken, legumes), complex carbohydrates (e.g. sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa), fiber (e.g. oats, bran, flax seeds, psyllium) and good fats (e.g. almonds, walnuts, olive oil, avocados). Caloric requirements during pregnancy vary considerably from person to person, as do protein requirements. Most pregnant women aim for 75 – 85 grams of protein per day, depending on their activity level and individual needs.Adequate protein consumption is associated with a decreased risk of pre-eclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension) and reduced sugar cravings. Greek yogurt mixed with fruit is a fantastic high-protein snack. Additional suggestions for a healthy pregnancy include increasing water intake to 2 liters per day, taking a high quality probiotic supplement, and consuming 30 grams of fiber per day. Liver cleansing foods in pregnancy also support healthy digestion – beets, dark leafy greens, apples and lemons are a few great choices.


Mom and baby may require additional vitamins, minerals and supplements that cannot be obtained through their diet alone. Essential vitamins and supplements recommended by an ND may include a high-quality, pharmaceutical grade multivitamin with extra folic acid, vitamin D, calcium/magnesium, iron, zinc and omega-3 essential fatty acids (EPA/DHA). For women who take extra DHA during pregnancy, the latest research shows a 2:1 ratio of EPA:DHA is most beneficial in terms of prevention for post-partum depression.

A well-designed prenatal exercise program 3-4 times per week has many benefits, including building stamina, preparing the body for labor, boosting energy, preventing potentially serious complications and relaxing the mind and body. Cardiovascular exercise combined with strength training provides the greatest benefit during pregnancy and may reduce recovery time post-delivery. For safe and effective strength training exercises, it is a good idea to consult a certified personal trainer who specializes in pre/post natal fitness. Avoid over-training during pregnancy and listen to your body as it communicates with you. For women who did not exercise pre-pregnancy, they should check with their ND or MD before beginning a new exercise program.

Walking, cycling, swimming, and low-impact fitness classes are the most favored forms of cardiovascular exercise in pregnancy. I also encourage women to incorporate yoga into their pre/postnatal healthy lifestyle routine, because not only does it help mom-to-be get into physical shape, it strengthens her pelvic floor muscles, which will be helpful during childbirth. Yoga is fantastic for relaxing the mind and helping de-stress – it encourages balance in the body, patience and gentleness – all very valuable for moms-to-be.

As mom’s body is recovering from pregnancy, getting back into pre-pregnancy shape is what most women are thinking about after having their baby. Most women return to exercise within six weeks of childbirth, but it is important they check with their ND or MD before returning to fitness. Women who had complications at birth usually require more time to allow for their body to heal. The most effective ways to shed the excess weight include breastfeeding (make sure you consume an extra 300-500 calories daily if you are breastfeeding), regular exercise and consuming balanced, nutrient-dense meals.A qualified naturopath can create a customized, weight loss program post-pregnancy, while ensuring your baby is receiving adequate nutrition if you are breastfeeding.

Many women sign up for postnatal exercise classes to help them get back to their pre-baby body. At Life With Baby, we offer Stroller Boot Camp classes which are very popular and allow women to perform fun and intense interval type exercises outside with their babe (the extra vitamin D from the sun helps boost mood as well). These classes increase strength and metabolism by helping women develop more lean muscle mass. Remember, the more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn. Many women actually get into better shape post-pregnancy….carrying a baby, holding diaper bags and running around all help shed that extra weight. With a little patience, the right foods and consistent exercise, new moms can get back into shape quickly while enjoying motherhood.

Written By: Dr. Sara Celik, BHSc, FIS, PTS, ND

Naturopathic Doctor at Life With Baby – Pre & Postnatal Wellness Centre

Life With Baby is all about making meaningful connections, sharing experiences, and being healthy & well in the process. With a wide range of pre and postnatal services, parents-to-be and new parents will find everything they need during their incredible journey of life with baby. The collection of dynamic, highly-knowledgeable practitioners are committed to supporting, informing, and nurturing families at a time when they need it the most. Life With Baby offers everything yoga, pilates, and fitness classes to Naturopathic Medicine, registered massage therapy, counselling, breastfeeding support, childbirth education…and so much more – all in a fun, relaxed, and supportive community. Visit www.lifewithbaby.ca and join our Facebook page to learn more!

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Comments

  1. Multi-Testing Mommy says

    What a wonderful and informative post!When I was pregnant, I tried so hard to eat healthy and to cut out all of the junk, but I certainly did have my moments 😉

  2. What a great resource. I hadn't heard of this site before. When I was pregnant I saved up questions for my OB who was awesome, but I know I could've used Life with baby for sure! http://www.theknitwitbyshair.com

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