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Paleo Pregnancy Journeys with Paleo Mums – Part 2

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We get a lot of questions from readers about following a Paleo diet and lifestyle during pregnancy, so we thought we’d interview a few real life ‘Paleo’ mums to get the low down. As part of our Paleo Journeys series, we have a 2-part post, in which a few gorgeous women share their personal experiences. We didn’t seek out a specific positive or negative experience, so the stories we’re featuring are those of women who came forward willing to tell their stories as they are.

In this second part of posts, we hear from Shan Cooper who has just had her first baby and Anthea Lock, who is currently nursing her third baby. You can read the first part of Paleo Pregnancy posts here.

We’d also love to hear from you – what was your experience (positive or negative) of following a Paleo / Primal / dairy free / real food diet while pregnant? Let us know in the comments.

Disclaimer: this article is not intended as medical advice or to replace guidelines supplied to you by your medical professional. Make sure to consult a medical professional before undertaking a new diet or exercise regime, especially while pregnant.

Paleo Pregnancy with Shan Cooper

Shan is the Brisbane based blogger and recipe creator behind My Food Religion. Shan is in her early 30s and has just had her first baby – when we interviewed her, gorgeous baby Grace was just 10 days old.

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Pre-pregnancy

How was your health before you were pregnant?

My health before pregnancy was excellent though I was probably overtraining a little doing crossfit.

How was your diet prior to your pregnancy?

My diet was excellent prior to pregnancy – very Paleo/primal focussed especially including ancestral foods like some organ meats, bone broth, and fermented foods.

Did you have any issues with conception? If so, did you find that dietary changes affected this?

I did have trouble falling pregnant and it took about 2 years. No dietary changes came into play in that time but stress was the major component. Dialling back my training, putting on a little bit more weight and working on reducing my stress was ultimately what allowed my body to conceive.

During pregnancy

What was your experience with morning sickness, tiredness, energy levels, and cravings? Were any of these symptoms affected by your diet?

I had morning/all day sickness up until about 10 weeks. I felt hungover all day every day and found certain smells like my beloved coconut oil really offensive. After that it was all fine. No cravings and just the usual levels of tiredness towards the evenings especially in the last trimester. My energy levels in general throughout the pregnancy were great and allowed me to continue to exercise up until the day I gave birth. I believe that nutrition was paramount to this.

Do you feel that your weight gain during pregnancy has been more stable and healthy as a result of your diet? Did you also follow a specific exercise regime?

Absolutely! I was very conscious to listen to my body in regards to food and exercise during my pregnancy and ate very intuitively and never restricted myself as I knew that all the foods I consumed were the most nourishing. I didn’t weigh myself often (about 3 times throughout the whole pregnancy) and in the end put on about 12kg. I trusted that my body would put on whatever amount of weight it needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy and I was not worried about a number on the scales.

I maintained my weight training, walking and 1 higher intensity session during the entire pregnancy. Some days I took it easier than others depending on how my body was feeling. I never trained if I didn’t feel up to it.

What did your Dr. think of your diet? Were you concerned about any nutrient deficiencies, and if so did you get any tests?

My Dr was very supportive of my diet and I was not concerned at all about any nutrient deficiencies… Though others around me did have concerns that my baby might have some deficiencies because I don’t eat bread!?

Did you have to take any supplements during your pregnancy?

I chose to take a B-complex supplement, magnesium and fermented cod liver oil/butter oil blend.

Mainstream health advice tells us that dairy is important for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Did you consume any dairy during your pregnancy?

I consumed some butter.

Post-pregnancy

Do you breastfeed your baby? How is this going, and have you made any changes to your diet while breastfeeding?

I am currently breastfeeding and have increased my carbohydrate consumption to support this within a Paleo template.

Do you feel that your diet helped your recovery time after giving birth? How are your energy levels?

My diet has definitely contributed to how both my body and mind have recovered post birth. Apart from less sleep, I feel really good and Grace is such a calm and content baby.

Do you feel that eating Paleo helped you get back to your pre-baby shape quicker? Did you also follow a specific exercise regime?

I have done no specific ‘exercise’ so far (currently 10 days post partum) apart from a few gentle walks. My nutrition and following a Paleo template made a huge difference to my birth experience and the way that my body has (very surprisingly to me) returned to my pre-baby weight already without any effort from me.

Baby health

How is your baby’s health generally?

So far great. She sleeps well, feeds well, doesn’t cry often and is a very content and relaxed baby.

Does your baby have any allergies?

Not that I am aware of.

Do you feel that your diet affected the health of your baby?

Without a doubt. McDonalds and lollies do not grow a healthy human!

Do you plan to feed your baby Paleo foods when they begin to eat solids?

Yes. Why would I not want to feed my baby the most nutrient dense good possible?

Are there any other experiences you would like to share? Would you do anything differently next time?

I would not do anything differently. My pregnancy and labour were the best experiences I could have hoped for.

Paleo Pregnancy with Anthea Lock

Anthea is a busy mother of three, currently nursing her third baby. She is coeliac and has been gluten free since 2006.

How would you describe your current diet?

I am gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, somewhat Paleo and mostly vegetarian. I will however have some dairy after I have finished feeding my baby (at 12 months) – not milk, but cottage cheese or yoghurt. I limit my meat intake and was a vegetarian for 12yrs prior to falling pregnant.

Pre-pregnancy

How was your health before you were pregnant? Did you have any pre-existing conditions?

I had great health prior to pregnancy I was fit and healthy, with good strong nails and clear skin. However, I am coeliac.

How was your diet prior to your pregnancy?

I have been gluten free since 2006, but prior to this I was vegetarian, eating organic, preferably raw, whole foods. I’ve also been dairy free since the birth of my second child in 2011.

Did you have any issues with conception? If so, did you find that dietary changes affected this?

I had no issues with conception, I fell pregnant within 2 months for all three pregnancies. However, my cycle is somewhat irregular and prior to being diagnosed as coeliac I had a very irregular cycle.

During pregnancy

What was your experience with morning sickness, tiredness, energy levels, cravings? Were any of these symptoms affected by your diet?

My first two pregnancies were perfect! No problems at all – I was energetic, fit and wanting fresh, healthy foods! During my third pregnancy I was a lot more tired and light headed, with low blood pressure. I had given up sugar completely two months prior to conception, so that was interesting. Based on my Obstetricians advise, I started including some sugar back into my diet, but this gave me a sugar rush and I then felt nauseous after eating. So I introduced more natural sugars, including fruit, rice malt syrup and eventually pure honey. The only noticeable craving I had was for starchy vegetables and oils.

Do you feel that your weight gain during pregnancy has been more stable and healthy as a result of your diet? Did you also follow a specific exercise regime?

Yes, I do. Up until 4 months ago, I worked out 5 days a week, mixing aerobics, running, walking and spinning.

What did your Dr. think of your diet? Were you concerned about any nutrient deficiencies, and if so did you get any tests?

My Obstetrician was considerate of my being vegetarian and ‘strict’ with my diet, but he suggested including sugar and some meat as a means to maintain my blood sugar, improve low blood pressure and tiredness.

Did you have to take any supplements during your pregnancy?

I took an iron supplement fortified with vitamin C and a mutlivitamin throughout the pregnancy. I had all levels tested, especially iron.

Mainstream health advice tells us that dairy is important for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Did you consume any dairy during your pregnancy?

Yes, I did during each of my pregnancies. However, it was limited amounts and rarely in the form of milk, but rather cottage cheese, yoghurt or ice-cream. This was more of a conscious effort to do so, rather than a craving or any real need. In 2011 after the birth of my second child I went dairy free.

Post-pregnancy

Do you breastfeed your baby? If yes, how is this going, and have you made any changes to your diet while breastfeeding?

Yes, I’ve breastfed all three and I’m currently breastfeeding my third child (the first two were breastfed until 12 months). All went well, my milk supply seems fine and sufficient. I made no changes to my diet for the first child. However, the second child was a very unsettled and windy baby, who could not settle nor sleep well. Looonnggg story… but I went from Paediatric to Dr to naturopath and fought off the claims he had ‘reflux’ and would not accept that medication was the only answer. I saw a kinesiologist who diagnosed allergies. While breastfeeding I went dairy, gluten, egg and soy free – and my baby’s health turned around in 5 days!! I remained dairy free until the conclusion of feeding at 12 months. The third time around I went dairy free from the time the baby was 1-2wks old, as it seems to help ease the bub’s tummy wind and improve digestion.

Do you feel that your diet helped your recovery time after giving birth? How are your energy levels?

Yes, a diet full of whole, real foods is beneficial for every reason, with vitamins and minerals especially getting your energy levels in check and helping your hormones to settle, therefore allowing you to get rest and recover.

Do you feel that your diet helped you get back to your pre-baby shape quicker? Did you also follow a specific exercise regime?

I think eating my diet definitely helped. I maintained an exercise regime prior, during and post bub, adapted to a degree to suit – but this was a very important factor too. I aim to work out 4-5 days each week. At the moment I do a mix of walking, aerobics and swimming.

How is your children’s health generally?

Good, all are in the healthy to higher weight percentiles and have clear skin and eyes. I am hesitant to give my children medication in the early days, so I am a big believer in trying to establish a strong immune system first. My eldest had not had any major sickness or even taken Panadol until 2.5yrs, this is similarly the case for my second child, despite having allergies initially, he has absolutely thrived and no one would guess the restricted diet he used to be on!!

Do your children have any allergies?

My second child is dairy intolerant. My first two were kept gluten free until 1 and 2 years (respectively), and then tested for coeliac disease. My third child is still exclusively breastfed.

Do you feel that your diet affected the health of your baby?

Yes in a positive way. My children’s health as new-borns and babies is seemingly better than many of my friends whom follow a different diet to me. I see the choices my eldest makes in food at age 5 and feel confident that they will all opt for and feel the benefits of eating well.

Do you plan to feed your children Paleo foods when they begin to eat solids?

Yes to a certain degree, they will not be Paleo as such, but will eat the foods that I stock and make.

Are there any other experiences you would like to share? Would you do anything differently next time?

I think I would do the same! Each baby is different as is the pregnancy. I believe that eating well and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime prior, during and after pregnancy can only have benefits for you and the baby. To fall pregnant and carry a baby the mother must be in optimal health. Post pregnancy you need every ounce of energy and rest you can get, so fuelling your body correctly is the only way to do this and sustain it! I also feel that the choices parents make influence children heavily, so practice what your preach and give your children the best start in life by providing them with a healthy, varied diet, so as teens and adults they will fall back on this and make better choices.

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