Pregnant with PCOS? Firstly - well done to you!
Secondly, make sure you check out my best selling PCOS book the PCOS Repair Protocol to learn more about eating to support your condition AND your baby.
So, you’ve found out you’re pregnant – congratulations! After getting over the initial excitement and shock, you are probably wondering what you can do to support this new life.
Doctors may have warned you about foods to avoid, not to drink alcohol and to reduce caffeine, but so far, my guess is no one has told you what you should be eating.
Much of the preparation for pregnancy and birth is focused on avoiding risks, but did you know that the way you eat throughout pregnancy can boost your baby’s IQ, lower their future disease and obesity risk, make birth easier and less painful and help you recover faster post-birth?
Read on to find out how to give your baby the best start in life.
Focus on nutrient dense whole-foods: this means minimally processed and as close to the natural form as possible. When buying packaged foods – a good rule of thumb is if there are ingredients on the packet you don’t recognise – don’t buy it.
Good quality protein: most women require around 80 grams (2.8 oz.) of protein during pregnancy. Good quality proteins are minimally processed and from high quality sources e.g. grass fed/free range/organic where possible. To calculate your estimated protein requirement, times your pre-pregnancy weight by 1.2 - this is the amount in grams suggested to eat daily. (E.g. 65 kg woman requires ~78g protein per day).
Adequate healthy fats: contrary to much of the now outdated government advice to reduce fats, modern research is demonstrating the importance of healthy fats for all body systems. During pregnancy, adequate fat intake is crucial for the development of baby’s organs and brain. Healthy sources of fats include: olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, eggs, oily fish, meats (if you choose to consume them).
An abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit: fruit and veg are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Eating a wide variety of fruit and veg will act as a cover-all in providing your body with many of the nutrients it needs, as well as plenty of fibre to avoid constipation. Focus on including plenty of leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens, parsley etc) for a good quality source of folate.
At least 10 cups of fluid a day. As blood volume increases rapidly during pregnancy, adequate water levels are crucial for replenishing baby’s amniotic fluid and can prevent morning sickness and constipation. Ideally, most of this fluid comes from water, herbal tea and occasionally juices. Stay away from soda/soft drinks, alcohol and high intake of tea and coffee.
Steer clear of processed/packaged/high sugar foods: processed foods offer very little nutrition and often contain chemicals which can be harmful to you and your baby. Don’t waste space with low nutrient foods – crowd them out with nutritious, satisfying wholefoods and you won’t feel deprived.
Moderate levels of grains/starch: when eating grains, go for whole-grains such as brown rice, whole oats, quinoa or whole-grain pasta. Nutrient dense starches include sweet potato, pumpkin, parsnip and beetroot. High consumption of carbohydrates (particularly refined carbs and sugars) during pregnancy can imbalance blood sugar levels and contribute to gestational diabetes, so aim to include moderate serves each meal. To make your grains more digestible and higher in available nutrients, read this article about soaking grains.
This is a general guide – please talk to your health care provider before beginning any of the suggested supplements.
Inositol - Particularly for women with PCOS and insulin resistance, supplementing inositol can be a safe replacement for Metformin during pregnancy.
High quality pregnancy multivitamin that contains at least 400 mcg folic acid (to help prevent neural tube defects) - this supplement is most important in the very early stages of pregnancy as the spinal cord is developed 4 weeks after conception.
It is important to start as soon as you know you are pregnant, or ideally before you start trying to conceive. If you know you have an MTHFR gene mutation (which is responsible for the conversion of folic acid to other compounds required by the body), you may benefit from supplementing folinic acid and/or 5-MTHF instead.
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus probiotic. If both parents have a history of eczema, the chances of their baby developing eczema is around 60-80%.
Probiotics containing lactobacillus strains have been shown to reduce the chances of the child developing allergies by almost 80%.
One of the most studied strains: lactobacillus rhamnosus has been shown that when taken in the final trimester of pregnancy (and in some cases postnatally as well), it greatly reduces the chances of the baby developing atopy (asthma, eczema, hay fever). If you or your partner have a history of allergies, talk to your health care provider about whether this probiotic might be helpful for you.
Magnesium is essential for foetal bone and teeth development and can prevent premature contraction of the uterus. It’s also a great supplement to take throughout pregnancy as it helps muscles to relax, so can help with constipation, assist your tissue growth and promote restful sleep.
Fish oil/omega 3’s are essential for neurological and visual development in your baby, and in the production of breast milk.
Studies have shown that supplementing with omega 3 during pregnancy can increase the cognitive development of your baby and boost future IQ. Other studies have also shown that a higher intake of omega 3’s may decrease the risk of allergy development in the baby.
Furthermore, omega 3’s have been shown to reduce premature labour, lower the risk of preeclampsia and mother’s risk of depression.
Talk to your doctor about whether an omega 3 supplement may be beneficial for you but please note – quality of these supplements varies widely.
Choose brands that have proven purity and appropriate storage – not the cheap brand off your chemist’s shelf.
In the second month of pregnancy your baby is around the size of a kidney bean and has distinct, slightly webbed fingers.
Nausea and fatigue are common in the second month. Have a read of this article for some natural remedies for morning sickness.
Need your partner to understand what you’re going through? Get him to read this funny male perspective on nausea.
1. raw almonds
3. olive oil
4. sunflower seeds
6. egg yolk
In the third month of pregnancy, your baby is around 7 to 8 cm (3 inches) long and weighs the same as a pea pod.
Tiny, unique fingerprints are now distinct.
Nausea usually starts to disappear at the end of this month.
To get you through, have a read of this cute article on one women’s experience on debilitating morning sickness and the lessons she learned along the way.
Welcome to your second trimester! In the fourth month of pregnancy, your baby is around 13 cm (5.5 inches) long and weighs 140g (5oz).
The skeleton is starting to harden from rubbery cartilage into bone. Your baby bump will usually begin to show this month.
In the fifth month of pregnancy, your baby’s elbows and eyelids will now be visible. Baby is around 27cm (10.5inches) long.
Your energy usually increases this month and your baby bump is probably obvious by this point. You may start to feel baby’s kicks in this month!
In the sixth month of pregnancy, your baby weighs around 660g (1.5 lb).
Their wrinkled skin is starting to stretch out as baby puts on some fat.
Welcome to your third trimester! In the seventh month of pregnancy your baby is now more than 40cm (15 inches) long. They can open and close their eyes and see what is around them.
Baby now weighs around 2.4kg (4.7lb). Layers of fat are filling out and lungs are well developed.
Baby is almost ready to come out. At birth, they are usually more than 51cm (20.5 inches) long from head to toe and weight around 3.4kg (7.5lb).