40 Weeks to Forever
Optimizing Your Health During Pregnancy
Women undergo a lot of changes throughout the entire pregnancy journey. We try to ensure that everything we do and consume from this point on is healthy and beneficial to our budding little one. But not all have access to the information needed to navigate these transitions and adjustments properly. Fortunately, there are ways to keep the journey from preconception to postpartum as smooth sailing as possible — and one of these is naturopathic medicine. In this episode of 40 Weeks to Forever, Dr. Courtney Clayson-Russell talks about preparing your body for pregnancy through naturopathic medicine. She also discusses navigating the early pregnancy period, including morning sickness, prenatal vitamins, and movement. Then, she shares natural ways to induce and how to prepare mentally and physically for postpartum healing. If you want to find out how to optimize your health and prepare for all stages of your pregnancy, then this episode is for you! Here are three reasons why you should listen to this episode: 1) Find out the benefits of naturopathic medicine in all stages of pregnancy. 2) Learn natural ways to induce labour. 3) Discover crucial aspects of navigating the fourth trimester and postpartum healing.
[01:13] Preparing the Body for Pregnancy
- The preconception period is very optimal.
Dr. Courtney: “Preconception—so the time before you're trying to conceive is so optimal because we can change our health and our future baby's health.”
- Optimize your egg quality, hormones, and overall health.
- You can optimize your health with naturopathic medicine. It combines nutrition with movement, lifestyle, supplements, and herbs.
[02:36] Handle Morning Sickness With Naturopathic Medicine
- Many women experience morning sickness. It can happen in the first and second trimesters.
- Naturopathic medicine can help with morning sickness by reducing nausea and taking the edge off the symptoms.
- Ginger, B6, and acupuncture are three things that can help.
- It’s hard to eat during the first trimester. Simple proteins can keep nausea and mood swings at bay.
- You must get enough complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats on top of having ginger, B6, and other supplements.
[04:09] On Prenatal Vitamins
- Naturopathic medicine is not only about supporting people with their symptoms but also about education.
- Prenatal vitamins are not all the same. Some have more non-medical than medical ingredients.
- Stay away from supplements with a long list of food colouring, corn starch, sugar, and other sketchy ingredients.
- Find prenatal supplements that have more absorbable forms of vitamins. For instance, methylfolate, B12, magnesium, and iron may be more bio-available to the body.
- 60% of women can have a methylation mutation and can’t absorb folic acid as well as they can methylate folate.
[06:51] Getting the Support of a Naturopath
- Instagram is a powerful platform. It allows people to share information about ways to support pregnancy.
- Collaborations with midwives and OBs are significant.
Dr. Courtney: “If you're not getting necessarily what you need from your medical provider, there's definitely someone who will advocate for you. It’s just it can be a little bit of finding them, which is the hard part.”
- Courtney tries to work with local birth providers, so they know the services she provides.
- Naturopathic medicine is recognized as a way to support, advocate, and find something that works for people.
[09:30] Why a Balanced Diet and Nutrition is Important During Pregnancy
- The first trimester must involve optimizing the diet by adding more protein, fats, and fiber that can don't exacerbate morning sickness.
- Food and sleep are foundational for setting up the rest of the pregnancy and postpartum.
- Gaining the nutrition values in preconception or early pregnancy will make you feel confident and encouraged in the postpartum stage.
- It’s best to work with a nutritionist or a naturopathic doctor who focuses on nutrition.
- You can find good healthy fat and fiber-rich snacks that can help ensure you're getting adequate nutrition instead of restricting anything.
[12:00] Exercising in the First Trimester
- Every person is different. You can try to continue what you've been doing during preconception.
- Jumping into a new exercise program, like CrossFit, in the first trimester is not ideal.
- Movement is essential, but it's critical to go easy during the first trimester. You can explore yoga, stretching, walking, hiking, or swimming.
- The second and third trimester is when you can find a movement technique that will work for you.
- You don't have to do your chosen activity every day; it can be a couple of days a week.
[14:11] Natural Ways to Induce Labor
- Many naturopathic medicines and modalities can help induce labour naturally. Dr. Courney usually starts working with midwives around the 30 to 34-week mark.
- Red raspberry leaf tea can help prepare the uterus and prevent labour complications. It's rich in magnesium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus.
- Another big thing is acupuncture. Specific acupuncture points can help soften the cervix, help tone the uterus, and engage the baby.
- You can also do things at home like exercise balls, movement, walking, stairs, and primrose oil combined with intercourse.
- Pelvic floor physiologists can give individualized movement plans for specific patients.
[18:17] Acupuncture and Flipping Breech Babies
- Dr. Courtney used to work at a clinic with an 85% success rate with flipping breech babies.
- Combining acupuncture with moxa increases the success rate up to 70% for flipping breech babies naturally.
- The earlier you know the baby is in a breech position, the better. It can be around the 36 to 37-week mark.
- Studies show that you can still flip the baby and have vaginal births at the 39-week mark.
[20:33] Preparing for the Changes in the Fourth Trimester
- Try to seek out positive birthing experiences to lessen the fear and anxiety, especially if you're a first-time mom.
- Dr. Courtney recommends reading the book Ina May's Spiritual Guide to Childbirth.
- Prepare for what will happen postpartum and how to get physical and mental support.
- Focus on eating nutritious foods and recovering from vaginal birth. Tune in to the episode to learn more!
- Set up your team with a pelvic floor physiologist and a lactation consultant if you need them.
[25:19] Postpartum Healing
- A woman undergoes tons of bloodwork and assessments during the fertility stage and more testing in the first, second, and third trimesters on top of labour.
- Low iron correlates with low energy and hair loss, while a bad thyroid may cause postpartum anxiety and depression.
- Ferritin levels in pregnancy are usually low and carried forward in postpartum. It's where the importance of proper nutrition and vitamins D and B12 comes in.
- Bloodwork gives us a big glimpse into someone’s health.
- For nutrition, it's helpful to have bone broths and stews, quinoas, nuts, seeds, and energy balls on hand.
[29:06] Dr. Courtney's Final Advice
- Get support from a professional team that can resonate with and has your back at all stages of your pregnancy journey.
Dr. Courtney: “Getting yourself set up with someone if you have the means, I think, is so important. It doesn't actually have to be a naturopath—it can be a pelvic floor physio, a psychotherapist, even a chiropractor, or someone again who just knows your story, knows your journey, and knows you and what you want, and can support you no matter what.”
About Dr. Courtney
Dr. Courtney Clayson-Russell is a naturopathic doctor, birth doula, and entrepreneur. Courtney has a special focus on women's health, particularly fertility and pre/postnatal care, and is sensitive to the unique challenges women face today. Specifically, she specializes in nutrition, supplementation, botanical medicine, acupuncture, and physical therapy. She is also the creator of Well Baked Box and Fecunditas Fertility.
If you want to know more about Dr. Courtney and her work, you can connect with her on her website or on Instagram.
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