Is It Healthy to Live a Primal Lifestyle While Pregnant?

Sandra Rose
Sandra Rose

Hello everyone! The following is a guest post by Sondra Rose who knows a little bit (ok, a lot) about living a primal lifestyle while being pregnant. Listen up ladies! Gentlemen… point your significant other to this post! I’ll let Sondra take it from here.

Hi there!  I’ve been asked to write a guest blog post about Primal Pregnancy for Primal Toad (aka Todd Dosenberry.)  Given that the Primal lifestyle and Pregnancy are both passions of mine, it was a match made in heaven!

Many newly-pregnant mothers wonder if it is appropriate to stay Primal during pregnancy and I hope to answer some of their questions and offer some tips to make a Primal Pregnancy easier and more fun!

Who are you?

My name is Sondra Rose.  I have been a nutrition consultant, personal trainer and life coach for over 10 years and in the the last four years have been supporting pregnant moms emotionally and nutritionally as a Pregnancy Coach and EFT Practitioner.  I’ve been Primal for nine months (isn’t that interesting!) and eating WAP style for two years prior.  I was also a vegetarian/pescaterian for 14 years, so I have lots of experience with those diets as well.

What are the benefits of eating a Primal diet during pregnancy?

Eating a nutrient dense, high fat, moderate protein diet while your baby is growing will give your baby all the building blocks they need to create healthy, strong neural connections and a resilient body.  You will benefit from better sleep, more energy, less nausea and a body that bounces back quickly!

Eating a variety of whole foods, preferably from organic/free-range/grass-fed/wild-caught sources will minimize pesticide, antibiotic and synthetic hormone exposure to your baby, so that they will grow up with a strong immune system, normal hormonal profile and good fertility.

Adding bone broths, gelatin and organ meats from free-range animals will provide essential micronutrients that are often missing in the SAD and ensure that your babe has strong bones and teeth.

Is it safe?

Eating Primal (no vegetable oils, low sugar, no grains or legumes) is perfectly safe.  Avoiding PUFAS, gluten and excessive lectins will help decrease inflammation. Reducing sugar intake by avoiding processed food will decrease bloating, avoid excessive weight gain, help prevent gestational diabetes and eliminate candida/yeast infections.

How much fat should I eat?

In general, I avoid recommending specific macros, since I trust that women who listen to their bodies will know what they need.  Of course, some women can use a few guidelines to help them transition from a conventional diet.

Eating 50-70% fat is great!  Just make sure it is predominantly healthy fat from free-range animals and wild-caught fish.  If you must eat conventional meat then get most of your fat from pastured butter and cream and/or coconut oil and eat lean cuts of meat.  Avocados are great, too.  Minimize nuts to avoid excess PUFAs.

How much protein do I need?

I suggest aiming for 15-20% of your calories from protein–but not stressing if you have some low protein days and then want to eat nothing but meat or eggs for awhile.  The big picture is more important than adhering to a specific daily amount.  Stressing about your diet is not helpful for momma or baby!  Remember that grass-fed/finished ruminants and wild-caught salmon will have the best Omega 3 profile–really important for baby’s brain growth and your hormonal balance.

Some moms I have worked with ended up eating a slightly lower protein diet for their first trimester, but they more than made up for it in the latter stages of their pregnancy.   Our bodies will accommodate quite a range of food sources/availability and still ensure that our babies get what they need.  Making sure we are eating adequate protein and exercising ensures that we don’t lose muscle mass during pregnancy.

What supplements should I take?

If you are very careful in sourcing your food, get lots of sun and eat a 100% Primal diet, you may choose to take no supplements at all.  That said, few of us are perfect and sometimes we can find it challenging to eat the very best food, so here are my recommendations, just in case!
Omega 3:  I recommend 1000 mg/day of Neptune Krill Oil for the best mercury-free Omega 3 source.  Essential for the production of prostagladins; Omega 3 essential fatty acids have been linked to reductions in pre-term birth, pre-eclampsia, as well as post-partum depression.  They are required for baby’s healthy brain development.

Vitamin DDeficiency is widespread and I recommend to all of my pregnant clients that they get their Vitamin D levels tested right away and if they suspect a deficiency, that they start supplementing  4,000 IUs of oil-based D3 immediately and/or increase their sun exposure (depending on their latitude.)  Sufficient Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the chance of pre-term labor, decrease the incidence of pre-eclampsia, prevent rickets and is essential in creating a healthy immune system and healthy teeth.

Magnesium:  Many women are deficient in magnesium and it can be difficult, if not impossible to get it from food sources.  I suggest 400-600 mg from Magnesium Citrate (if tolerated) or Magnesium oil applied to the skin.  Appolinaris is a great high magnesium mineral water.  Magnesium is great for preventing constipation and essential for optimum Vitamin D utilization and calcium absorption.

Folic Acid:  Current recommendations are to take 400 mcg of folic acid daily before pregnancy and 600 mcg during pregnancy to avoid neural tube defects like spina bifida.  Most women eating a varied Primal diet including liver can easily meet or exceed this amount, but because it is so cheap and readily available, I suggest supplementing it for peace of mind.

Calcium, Vitamin K:  Most women can get these from their Primal diet.  However, if you are dairy-free, hate leafy greens and are avoiding organ meats and seafood, then you may want to supplement 500 mg of Calcium Citrate and 90 mcg of Vitamin K.

Iron:  If you are eating plenty of red meat, some liver and/or dark leafy greens regularly then you are less likely to be deficient.  If you test low, then supplementation with chlorophyll or Floradix/Floravital works for most women and avoids the constipation caused by standard pre-natal iron supplements.

Vitamin A:  If you are eating plenty of eggs, dairy, liver, and occasional fish then it’s very likely you are sufficient.  In my opinion, it’s not necessary to supplement for most women and may even be dangerous.  We didn’t evolve eating huge amounts of high vitamin cod liver oil!  However, the Weston A. Price foundation has a different opinion.  In the end, it is up to you to do your own research and decide what’s best for you and your baby.

What about morning sickness?

Many women who eat 100% Primal during pregnancy experience NO nausea at all.  Often, keeping some food in your stomach most of the time is all that’s needed to prevent nausea.

A few moms cannot stomach meat or eggs early in pregnancy and may find their body is craving carbs.  Primal carbs such as sweet or white potato mashed with butter  (if tolerated) are great alternatives to adding gluten grains back in.

If you must add grains, then white rice is a great, gluten-free, low-lectin alternative.  Many moms seem to crave creamy foods during their first trimester, so rice or tapioca pudding (a low sugar version) and/or cottage cheese can be helpful to have around.

Sufficient Vitamin B6 has been shown to reduce morning sickness.

EFT is also a powerful tool for eliminating morning sickness!

How much weight do I need to gain?

This can be a loaded subject.  The current Institute of Medicine recommendation is to gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy if already at a normal weight and 15-25 pounds if overweight.  However, the recommendation was recently changed–so that tells me that the science may not be settled in this area.

One Primal mama I know gained only six pounds during her pregnancy and she was at a normal weight for her height pre-pregnancy.  She gave birth to an exceedingly healthy baby girl.  Another mama gained only 13 pounds.

If you aren’t carrying excess water weight from eating excess carbs, then it makes sense to me that you don’t need to gain as much as is recommended by medical authorities.  Trust how you feel over the scale!  If you are eating Primally and keeping your carbs under 150 gm/day, then it is unlikely that you will over- or under-eat.

What about stretch marks?

Skin health and elasticity/integrity are a direct function of diet.   Make sure you are getting sufficient (but not excessive) Vitamin A, zinc, and antioxidants.  Gain pregnancy weight slowly.  Drink plenty of water.

What about exercise?

For those new to exercise, I recommend the Primal Blueprint Fitness program (free pdf here.)  It’s well-rounded, easily adaptable and sustainable after your child is born.

Walking is fabulous for pregnant women.  And if you have a favorite activity pre-pregnancy, it’s likely fine to continue it as long as you track your energy levels.  You may decide to forgo sky-diving for awhile, though!

Any other suggestions?

Get as much sleep as possible!  Drink plenty of water and take naps, if needed.  Move slowly/often and spend time in Nature.  Nurture yourself with whatever helps you to feel relaxed and happy.  Focus on the positive and surround yourself with a loving tribe.

Remember that you are feeding your baby with more than just food–they are experiencing your emotions throughout your pregnancy–a happy momma = a happy baby.

Links to Primal/Paleo Pregnancy blog posts:

The Primal Parent
Paleo Baby

For more info about Sondra:

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