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Preconception

Updated: Aug 3


One of the biggest challenges that breastfeeding women face is overcoming the many common and uncomfortable lactation issues that can occur. In fact, breastfeeding pain and discomfort affect 1 in 3 women, especially in first time mothers. While breastfeeding challenges can happen to anyone, those who take antibiotics during the last trimester of pregnancy, birth or during early postpartum are at a significantly increased risk of developing lactation issues. 


A common problem lactating mothers face is plugged ducts, which happens when a blockage in the milk duct blocks the flow of milk, causing discomfort, pain, and inflammation. There are a variety of causes of plugged ducts, including oversupply, irregular feedings, tongue/lip ties, improper latch, sudden weaning, and excessive stress. If untreated, it can lead to mastitis, a painful bacterial infection, so taking care of plugged ducts as soon as symptoms arise is key.




Fortunately, there are many ways to help release plugged ducts. We are extremely lucky to have Breanna Duncan, Owner and Lactation Consultant at The Mama Mantra, LLC, and winner of Austin Birth Award for “Best IBCLC/Lactation Consultant Practice” in both 2017 and 2018, share with us her top tips for treating plugged ducts naturally. 






Things to take orally


1. Daily probiotic - Probiotic supplementation has been shown to significantly improve breast comfort during lactation. 

  • Garden of Life Women's Probiotic has been shown in many studies to have 2 specific strains (Lactobacillus Fermentum and Lactobacillus Salivarius) that assist with plugged ducts/mastitis.

  • Our Mother Nutrient Breastfeeding Probiotic also includes Hereditum Lc40, a targeted probiotic strain that has been clinically proven to provide greater support compared with antibiotic therapy and offers short term and long term nursing benefits

2. Vitamin C (upper limit ~2000mg), Vitamin D, Echinacea (as directed on package), raw garlic 2-3 cloves daily (up to 4-5 cloves per day) during acute plugged duct. Continue these remedies after the duct has cleared for about one week.

3. Homeopathic Remedies:

Homeopathic Phytolacca for when breasts are firm, lumpy, or when you experience radiating pain, especially when baby latches. Take as directed on the bottle or as directed by homeopathic practitioner.

- Homeopathic Belladonna for plugged ducts/mastitis that has an acute onset of fever, chills, and throbbing pain. Take as directed on the bottle or as directed by homeopathic practitioner.

4. Happy Ducts Tincture - A liquid herbal blend tincture that includes Poke root, which is very helpful for plugged ducts/mastitis.

5. Lecithin: The recommended dose is 1200mg 3-4x daily. After every week or so of ducts being released, decrease by 1 capsule (1200mg). For recurrent plugged ducts, mother may need to continue to take 1-2 capsules a day to keep plugs at bay.

6. Iron supplement for any history or symptoms of anemia, as anemia can exacerbate plugged ducts



Therapies to try:


7. Laser therapy or therapeutic ultrasound treatment - If your blocked duct has not resolved within 48 hours or so, therapeutic ultrasound is a great option that helps break up the blocked duct. Most local physiotherapy or sports medicine clinics can provide this therapy for you. However, very few are aware of this use of ultrasound to treat blocked ducts so it is best to see an ultrasound therapist with experience in this technique. One ultrasound treatment is typically sufficient to help resolve your pain and discomfort. If two treatments on two consecutive days have not helped resolve the blocked duct, it is likely more treatments will not help. Your blocked duct should be re-evaluated by your doctor or by an IBCLC at The Mama Mantra. Ultrasound therapy may also prevent recurrent blocked ducts that develop in the same part of the breast. The recommended dose of ultrasound is 2 watts/cm² continuous for five minutes to the affected area, once daily for up to two treatments (from International BreastFeeding Centre).

  • Dr. Katherine Melot at Precision Chiropractic in Southwest Austin performs a hot laser therapy for plugged ducts and it works WONDERS. The treatment is fast and affordable. 

  • Sullivan Physical Therapy also offers ultrasound therapy for plugged ducts.

8. Acupuncture can also be helpful to relieve pain and encourage healing for mastitis and plugged ducts. Dr. Danielle Martinez of Danielle Martinez Acupuncture is a Licensed Acupuncturist that focuses on women's health and postpartum care. Her practice is based in Austin, TX.


Massaging the breast


9. Perform therapeutic breast massage every day to help with lymph flow and release the buildup of milk

  • Perform manual compressions/massage while breastfeeding or pumping of any plugged areas in the breast

  • Use the back of an electric toothbrush on the affected area as a massage tool to break up the blocked duct. 

  • Massage coconut oil onto the affected area and use a wide tooth comb to sweep over plugged areas from back to front to help release.


10. Other tips

  • Nurse frequently! Nurse around the clock, ensuring deep latch with proper positioning, and try to do skin to skin/resting with baby as much as possible.

  • Stay hydrated - increase your water intake. Fresh pineapple juice (not from concentrate), which contains enzymes called bromelain, can help reduce inflammation. 

  • This electrolyte powder contains minerals that help keep your body stay hydrated, contains very little sugar, and is sweetened with stevia. 1 package dissolved in 1 glass of water = 3 glasses of water.

  • Eat more probiotic foods like kefir, sauerkraut, and fermented foods. 

  • Decrease the amount of sugar, salt, saturated fat, and dairy in your diet and increase anti-inflammatory foods like green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, and blueberries. 

  • Potato poultice - Place either grated potato or raw slices directly on the breast to ease pain and swelling. Leave on for about 20 minutes and repeat several times a day. More detailed info here.

  • Dangle nursing or dangle pumping - Let gravity help encourage the milk to flow and massage the area as you pump or nurse.

  • Wear loose clothing to avoid compression of breast area.

  • REST! Take time for yourself each day, as stress and emotional upheaval can cause an increase in occurrence of plugged ducts. 


Things you can do if you have a milk bleb (if you see a white pore/milk blister on the nipple):

  • Gentle exfoliation 1-2x per day with a warm washcloth.

  • Massage from behind the bleb (directly on the nipple) in shower with warm water running after exfoliation.

  • Use a sterile needle to prick the bleb to aid in releasing the blocked milk if needed (ask your provider to do this for you, ideally not done at home).

  • Saline rinses at least 3x daily with epsom salts (soaking 3-5min) - a Haakaa is very convenient for this!

  • After 3 or more nursing sessions per day, apply warmed extra virgin olive oil on a cotton ball and wear it in a nursing bra over the bleb until the next feeding (ideally this is done after a saline soak).

  • Apply prescription Triple Nipple Ointment 2-3x daily or more for 10 day span or 10% hydrocortisone cream 2-3x per day to thin the skin until it breaks naturally. You can get the Triple Nipple Ointment from your OB/midwife and it is filled at a compounding pharmacy.


If you are trying to reduce your milk supply, try the following:

  • Take herbs: sage, jasmine, parsley, peppermint, lemon balm, spearmint. These can be taken as a tea. Have 1-2 cups per day while reducing supply. 

  • Use cabbage leaves - Use washed, chilled or room temperature green cabbage leaves and leave on the breast until they wilt. Repeat as often as needed. 

  • Express just enough milk to relieve your discomfort.



Wow, what a wealth of knowledge and information from Breanna Duncan, BSN, RN, IBCLC, RLC! Through her work as an IBCLC at The Mama Mantra, she has been providing a wide range of breastfeeding support for her clients. 


The mission of The Mama Mantra is:

"to provide exceptional care to help you reach YOUR goals with guidance, compassion and encouragement so that your breastfeeding journey is enjoyable and optimal. Breastfeeding can be a challenge for both mom and baby. We provide care for every situation, for full-term infants, pre-term infants, infants with breastfeeding challenges due to many reasons and for their mother's who experience difficulties."

My own breastfeeding journey

Breanna is who I credit for helping me on my induced lactation journey for Luca. I can personally attest to her incredible dedication, compassion, and knowledge, and it has been amazing to continue working with her. 


If you are breastfeeding and need support, don't hesitate to seek support from a lactation consultant. Contact The Mama Mantra to get more information about consultations, online support and classes, inducing/relactation services, and LGBTQIA services


You can also find Breanna on Instagram @theboobieninja


With support, we can navigate and overcome breastfeeding challenges and feel empowered!


Did you experience any breastfeeding challenges? What helped you? Please share in the comments!



DisclaimerThese should not be a replacement for seeking medical care (and having your care provider “ok” the supplements you desire taking) or a replacement for assistance from a knowledgeable IBCLC to determine the best course of treatment based on personal history and to ensure there isn’t another primary reason that plugged ducts are happening (like tongue ties, infrequent feeding, incomplete milk removal, etc.), as those things should be ruled out/fixed first prior to utilizing any specific course of treatment.




When I coached my clients I got these questions a lot: "Do I really need to take supplements?" or "I eat a healthy diet, why do I need to supplement?" I don't blame them because before I became a nutritionist, I was thinking the same thing!


While eating nutrient-dense foods is always the best way to get your daily nutrients, this is most often not enough. Especially considering how being a mother impacts your nutrient stores and ability to replenish them. It is extremely difficult for the average mother to be able to plan, cook, and eat perfectly balanced, nutrient-rich meals every single day. Having that expectation is simply unrealistic, and places an unnecessary burden on ourselves and mothers in general. After extensive research on the nutritional status of mothers before, during, and after pregnancy, it is clear that mothers need more than just "healthy food." That is why I created my line of supplements, probiotics, and superfoods so that mothers can get help replenishing their depleted nutrient stores and can feel better and not have the nagging worry that they are not "getting enough" to provide for their babies and themselves.


When people ask me why they should take a supplement, I usually respond with these reasons:


1. Mothers go through incredible physical, emotional, and mental transformations during pregnancy that leaves them nutritionally depleted. 


In fact, over 80% of mothers are considered to be nutrient depleted as a result of pregnancy, birth, and lactation. It's no surprise that as a woman grows an ENTIRE little human (sometimes more than one!) inside of her body, she needs many more nutrients compared to the pre-pregnancy period. It takes a LOT of energy to not only grow a baby, but also to birth a baby and create breast milk to nourish your baby and to reverse all the changes of pregnancy back to a non-pregnant state. While many pregnant and postpartum women try their best to eat nutritious foods, unfortunately, the vast majority of people are unable to meet the nutritional demands of pregnancy and lactation without supplemental support. Take iron, for example. In the U.S., over 24% of women experience anemia during pregnancy, often due to the fact that many women have insufficient stores even before their pregnancy begins (WHO, 2010, Turner, 2003). An iron-deficient diet, an increase of 50% in iron needs, poor iron absorption in the gut, and blood loss from menstruation before pregnancy are some common reasons why women can't keep up with the increase in demand for iron during pregnancy (Abbaspour, 2014). 


Another example is folate, an essential nutrient required for cell division during pregnancy and the synthesis and secretion of breast milk during postpartum, which leads to a decline in its concentration from mid-pregnancy until 3-6 months after birth. In fact, 20% of women in developed countries have been reported to have low serum folate levels 6 months after delivery (King, 2003).


Like iron and folate, many of the nutrients required for pregnancy and lactation are mobilized from maternal stores. So when you start from an already depleted state, it becomes nearly impossible to increase your nutrient intake without taking supplements, especially as the nutritional demands increase throughout your pregnancy and continue to remain high during lactation. 



The changes that occur to your body during and after birth can also contribute to your nutrient depletion. Your entire digestive system shifts and as a result, your microbiome is affected and the digestive process (and therefore the absorption of nutrients in your gut) can be slow and inefficient. While many people view the postpartum period to sometimes be as short as 6 weeks after delivery, the truth is, nutrient depletion can last for much longer. A study by Janet King concluded that it takes approximately 18 months to replete nutrient stores after pregnancy and therefore that mothers with closely-spaced pregnancies are at increased risk of adverse maternal and baby outcomes (King, 2003). 


Pregnancy and postpartum is a truly unique time that places extra stress on your body, so you want to make sure that you are getting the most important nutrients to support your pregnancy and birth, including folate, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, choline, B-vitamins, iron, and collagen. Taking a multivitamin in addition to single nutrient supplements is often the best way to meet the elevated nutritional requirements during this time.


2. Many health issues are linked to nutrient deficiencies.

When we don't have the necessary vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that our body needs, the biochemical processes in our bodies are unable to work efficiently, which applies chronic stress on our bodies. For example, we all know that omega-3s are key in baby's brain development, but it does a lot more than that. Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA have been linked to auto-immune conditions, postpartum depression, anxiety, and pregnancy complications like preterm labor and hypertension. Low folate during pregnancy has been linked to higher risks of neural tube-related birth defects. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis, pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, and data from the CDC Nutrition Report shows that almost 90 million people do not meet the standard required levels of vitamin D (Serrallach, 2018, Nichols, 2018, CDC). Vitamin B12 deficiency, which has been reported in 3.4 million women in the U.S., can lead to anemia, depression, nerve damage, dementia, and increased risks for neural tube birth defects, preterm delivery, and miscarriage (Nichols, 2018, CDC).


For mothers, many of these health risks can have serious consequences for their health and the health of their babies. Conditions like postpartum depression, which is diagnosed in 10-15% of mothers, can be especially crippling (NIMH). While there are many factors that result in mental health struggles, for many mothers, there's often a nutritional component that compounds the issue. Aside from Omega 3's, deficiencies in vitamin D, calcium, iron, selenium, and zinc have also been linked to negative impacts on mood (Leung, 2009).


Addressing nutrient deficiencies through supplementation can be the first step towards feeling better, both physically and mentally.

It makes sense, doesn't it? The more nutrients we can fuel our body with, the more enzymatic processes go smoothly, and the more energy we can get and have.  


3. The nutrient content of the soil in the U.S. has declined greatly over the last few decades. 



Due to modern farming practices, which greatly impacts the soil's natural processes, the soil in the U.S. has lost almost half of its original mineral and vitamin content over the last few decades. A 2004 study which looked at over 40 crops from 1950-1999 found that nutrients including protein, calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin C and riboflavin have all declined significantly, some by up to 38% (Davis, 2004). The decline in nutrient-dense soil has a negative impact on the nutrient content of food, which decreases the amount of bioavailable nutrients for us to absorb into our bodies.

That means that compared to a decade ago, the same vegetables are providing us with less nutrients, so we need to get the extra nutrients elsewhere to make up for it. 


4. The longer you supplement, the better your long term health is. 


One study comparing supplementation of mothers for 2 months vs. 5-7 months after birth between consecutive pregnancies concluded that the group that supplemented for longer had a higher mean hemoblogin status at the onset of their second pregnancies. Their babies also had higher birth weights and lengths and a lower risk of low birth weight compared to the 0-2 month supplementation group, demonstrating that longer supplementation periods between pregnancies can improve the outcome of subsequent pregnancies even among reasonably well-nourished women. We also have to keep in mind that as we age, our bodies naturally decline in nutrient stores. This is especially true for collagen, which declines to about 50% by the time we are 40. While many consider collagen to be helpful for skin health, it is also an important nutrient for your pelvic floor, gut, joints and scar healing.


5. Your babies benefit from your supplementation


You're not the only one who benefits from the nutrients your body absorbs from supplementation, especially if you breastfeed your baby. In a 2012 study on probiotic supplementation, women who were given probiotics during the last 4 weeks of pregnancy and throughout lactation produced breastmilk with double the levels of immunoprotective

compounds. The rate of eczema in their infants during the first 2 years of life was also

decreased for that group of women (15%) compared to 47% for those who did not receive the probiotic supplement (Pelucchi, 2012). Other studies have shown that probiotic supplementation can protect against infant colic, spitting up and overall digestive discomfort. (Nichols, Lily. 2018).


The effects of Omega 3 supplementation in breastfeeding mothers' babies has been studied in depth. Getting enough DHA during pregnancy and lactation can improve behavior, attention, focus, and learning in children. Other benefits that have been found by having adequate DHA during pregnancy is a reduced risk of allergies in infants and a positive influence on immune development.


It's clear that to support the high nutritional demands of pregnancy, birth, and lactation, and recovering postpartum, mothers need the help of supplements.


But knowing what kind of supplements to take can be incredibly overwhelming, especially in a market that is saturated with choices. 


Here are a few things to remember:

  • Getting your levels tested by your primary care doctor is crucial to knowing exactly which nutrients you are deficient in. Having hard data on how deficient you are can help you make decisions on what to supplement with.

  • What matters is the quality and form of the supplements, in addition to the dose. It is a waste to take supplements if they provide nutrients that are unable to be absorbed by our bodies. That is why looking at the specific forms of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients is important and why all of our supplements were created using bioactive forms (like folate, D3, chelated iron) that are most easily absorbed by the body. Many of our supplements also include ingredients that enhance absorption, like our Organic Ashwagandha with black pepper, and our Vitamin D3 with K2. Sourcing from pasture-raised and organic animals also ensures that the nutrient content is as high as possible. 

  • In addition to single nutrient supplements, look for a multivitamin that contains vitamin A, all the B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, Alpha Lipoic Acid, choline, inositol, boron, calcium, chromium, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, potassium, selenium, and zinc.







Not sure where to start?


Take our free Wellness Quiz to get a personalized nutrition report based on your answers about your pregnancies, diet, lifestyle, symptoms and other areas of concern. In your results, you will find out what supplements you could benefit from taking. 


For high-quality products that use the most bioavailable forms of nutrients, explore our online shop. You can find a wide range of products, from prenatal and postnatal multivitamins, potent probiotics for women, to a delicious golden milk mix with collagen (Golden Collagen)!




Did you take supplements during your pregnancy and postpartum? What was recommended to you to take? Tell me in the comments!


References

De Benoist B, McLean E, Egli I, Cogswell M, editors. Geneva: WHO Press, World Health Organization; 2008. WHO/CDC. Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data. Worldwide prevalence of anaemia 1993-2005: WHO global database on anaemia; p. 40.


Turner RE, Langkamp-Henken B, Littell RC, Lukowski MJ, Suarez MF. Comparing nutrient intake from food to the estimated average requirements shows middle- to upper-income pregnant women lack iron and possibly magnesium. J Am Diet Assoc 2003;103:461–6 


Abbaspour N, Hurrell R, Kelishadi R. Review on iron and its importance for human health. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19(2):164–174.


King JC. The Risk of Maternal Nutritional Depletion and Poor Outcomes Increases in Early or Closely Spaced Pregnancies. The Journal of Nutrition. 2003;133.


Serrallach, O. (2018). The Postnatal Depletion Cure: A Complete Guide to Rebuilding Your Health and Reclaiming Your Energy for Mothers of Newborns, Toddlers, and Young Children. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.


Nichols, L. Real food for pregnancy: the science and wisdom of optimal prenatal nutrition. United States: Real food for Pregnancy; 2018.


Second Nutrition Report (2012) [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2012. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nutritionreport/report_2012.html


Postpartum Depression Facts [Internet]. National Institute of Mental Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/index.shtml


Leung BM, Kaplan BJ. Perinatal Depression: Prevalence, Risks, and the Nutrition Link—A Review of the Literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009;109:1566–75.


Davis DR, Epp MD, Riordan HD. Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004;23:669–82.


Pelucchi C, Chatenoud L, Turati F, Galeone C, Moja L, Bach J-F, Vecchia CL. Probiotics Supplementation During Pregnancy or Infancy for the Prevention of Atopic Dermatitis. Epidemiology. 2012;23:402–14.

Updated: May 17


Becoming a mother is a big decision, and with it comes big responsibilities like thinking about how to get ready for pregnancy, birth, and parenting. In order to best prepare your body for the huge changes that are involved with growing a baby, it is important to make sure you are healthy and providing the proper nutrients to give yourself and your baby the best chance for an optimal pregnancy and birth. Your health and nutrition can have an impact on your body’s ability to have a successful pregnancy by boosting your fertility and lowering risks for birth defects. 


What Nutrients Do I Need?

When you are trying to conceive, there are several key nutrients your body needs. Many of these nutrients affect early fetal development, even before you may realize that you are pregnant, so it is best to ensure that you are getting adequate intake of these nutrients from the preconception period.


1. Folate

Folate is a B vitamin that plays a key role during pregnancy for both mother and baby and has been linked most notably to its ability to reduce risks of neural tube (brain and spinal cord) defects. It is especially important because the baby’s neural tube starts forming in the first months of pregnancy, before you may even realize you are pregnant. You may have heard “folic acid” and “folate” used interchangeably, but there’s a clear distinction between these 2 forms of B vitamin. Folate, or L-methylfolate, is the activated bioavailable form, while folic acid is a synthetic form.


Previous research has found that folic acid supplementation helps to decrease the risk of neural tube defects in the fetus, but there are recent findings that a large number of people have genetic mutations that do not allow for the proper conversion of folic acid to its active form (De-Regil, 2010). It’s estimated that 40 to 60% of the population has this mutation, and therefore, it is best to take the bioavailable folate form that is easier for your body to metabolize (Greenberg, 2011). A study comparing prenatal supplements with different forms of the B vitamin also found that pregnant women taking supplements containing folate rather than those containing folic acid had higher hemoglobin levels (Bentley, 2011).



When choosing a prenatal multivitamin to take, look for one that contains folate rather than folic acid like our Mother Nutrient prenatal supplement (containing 800 mcg folate) that helps you achieve well above the recommended daily allowance of 400 mcg. Food sources that are high in folate include dark leafy greens, liver, eggs, avocados, and nuts and seeds. 





2. Iron

Iron is an incredibly important nutrient for those who are trying to become pregnant. During pregnancy, your need for iron increases by about 50% to support the growth of the placenta, the baby, and the increased production of red blood cells and plasma volume (Erdman, 2012, Scholl, 2005).  In order to prepare for this sudden increase in need (CDC recommends 27mg RDA for pregnant women vs 18mg RDA for non-pregnant women), it is important to ensure your intake of iron is adequate in the preconception period, especially as it plays a key role in fetal development.


Iron deficiency is a common risk to women in their reproductive years due to blood loss from menstruation and the lack of iron-rich diets to compensate. In fact, one study found that 9 to 11% of women of childbearing age have iron deficiency in the U.S., and those who are minorities, low-income, and have multiple pregnancies are the most at risk (Looker, 1997). Iron deficiency during preconception and pregnancy has been linked to low birth weight, increased risk of premature birth, and neurodevelopmental delays for the baby, so checking your iron levels during the preconception period is important (Ronnenberg, 2004). 


While supplementation is possible, the best source of iron is in foods, especially animal products that contain the most absorbable heme iron such as organ meats (liver, heart), oysters, beef, clams, lamb, poultry, and sardines. Other sources include legumes and dark leafy greens. Consuming these iron-rich foods with vitamin C, or cooking in a cast-iron pan are additional ways to enhance iron absorption.


Consuming organ meats doesn’t sound appealing to everyone, which is why Mother Nutrient offers desiccated grass-fed beef liver capsules that deliver all the nutrition benefits of beef liver without the taste, as well as a chewable iron chelate that is non-constipating and offers a high 30mg dose.





3. DHA

Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, plays a fundamental role in the development of your baby’s brain, vision, and central nervous system during pregnancy. Considering that babies’ brains are predominantly made up of fat (about 60%), their brains’ development is highly dependant on our intake of essential fatty acids, cholesterol, choline, and omega-3 fatty acids like DHA (Nichols, 2018). As pregnancy progresses, your DHA stores are transferred to the baby, which can lead to DHA depletion (Kuipers, 2011). DHA deficiency has been linked to pregnancy complications like preterm labor, hypertension, as well as risks for other negative health outcomes for both mother and baby after birth (Olsen, 2002, Williams, 1995).


The current recommended intake for pregnant and lactating women is at least 200 mg of DHA per day, but for those trying to conceive, I would recommend achieving closer to 300 mg, in addition to 180 to 300mg of EPA per day (Koletzko, 2007).


The best source of DHA is cold-water fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout or herring (3 oz of cooked wild Atlantic salmon contains 1240mg of DHA), but you can also get DHA from grass-fed meat, eggs, seafood, and dairy fats like ghee and butter, but in less concentrated amounts.


Those who want to avoid taking a fish oil supplement can opt for algae oil instead. Mother Nutrient offers a high-quality Omega-3 DHA & EPA supplement that offers 288 mg DHA and 432 mg EPA and is sustainably-sourced from sardine, anchovy, and mackerel. 



4. Vitamin D


Considering most of the U.S. population is already deficient in vitamin D, exposure to sunlight alone is probably not enough to prevent vitamin D deficiency during preconception and pregnancy.

Vitamin D is important to prevent pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, and small-for-gestational-age births, and first-trimester miscarriage (Bodnar, 2007, Wei, 2013, Andersen, 2015).


Although the current recommended daily amount is set at 600 IU, studies indicate that these levels are too low and that mothers and their babies can benefit from higher intake amounts, as high as 4,000-6,400 IU (Hollis, 2011 & 2015). Recent studies found that those who had sufficient vitamin D levels during the preconception period were more likely to become pregnant and have fewer miscarriages compared to those who were deficient (Mumford, 2018). In order to prevent complications during pregnancy and beyond, I recommend all mothers trying to conceive to have their vitamin D levels checked. 


Mother Nutrient offers the perfect vitamin D3+K2 supplement with 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per capsule, which is the more potent and long lasting, bioactive form of vitamin D that our bodies naturally produce when exposed to sunlight. We also offer a liquid vitamin D3 that comes with a convenient 1mL dropper and includes MCT (coconut) oil for better absorption.






5. Choline


Many people are unfamiliar with this very important and essential nutrient. Choline is essential for the normal function of all cells, and is known to play an important role in fetal brain development, placental function, as well as reducing risks of neural tube defects (Erdman, 2012, Shaw, 2004).



During pregnancy, large amounts of choline are transferred through the placenta to your baby, depleting your own stores, which is why your need for daily choline intake increases from 425 mg pre-pregnancy to 450 mg (Zeisel, 2006). Choline concentrations in the amniotic fluid reach several-fold higher amounts compared to maternal blood levels, and choline is also transferred through breast milk after birth, increasing your need to 550 mg during lactation (Ozarda, 2002). However, over 90% of the U.S. population and 95% of pregnant women fail to meet the recommended daily intakes, which suggests that women who are trying to conceive, and who are pregnant and lactating, are at an even higher risk for choline deficiency (Wallace, 2016, Brunst, 2014). Since most prenatal vitamins do not include choline, I believe that most women can benefit from increasing the intake of choline-rich foods in their diet from the preconception period.

The richest sources of choline are eggs and liver. 2 large eggs (with yolk) provide about 250 mg, which is over 50% of a woman’s daily needs. Other rich sources include grass-fed meat, poultry, seafood, cauliflower, nuts, and legumes (USDA). For those who don’t consume eggs or meat, it is most likely you will need to take a choline supplement like choline bitrate or lecithin. Luckily, Mother Nutrient offers a prenatal supplement that includes the key nutrients for a pregnant woman, including choline. 


6. Probiotics

Probiotics have many benefits for both mom and baby, so it's never too early to start taking them. Aside from encouraging the growth of good bacteria in your gut to improve gut function and relieve digestive issues that you may experience during pregnancy and postpartum, they can also lower risks of gestational diabetes and pregnancy complications like preterm birth and preeclampsia, and improve skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis (Nichols, 2018). A study that compared mothers who took a probiotic starting at 36 weeks pregnant and throughout lactation with mothers who took a placebo, found that those who took the probiotic, produced milk with double the amount of immune-boosting compounds compared to the control group. The babies from the probiotic group reported less cases of colic, spit-up and a 27% reduction in eczema.


You can get probiotics from fermented foods and drinks like sauerkraut, kimchee, miso, yogurt, tempeh, kefir, and kombucha. For additional support, you can also take a high potency multi-strain probiotic like our Women's Probiotic, which has a high 40 billion CFU.


A note on birth control

Many people don’t know about this, but birth control pills can negatively impact your gut flora. They create an imbalance in your gut called dysbiosis: as the good bacteria dies, it leaves room for bad bacteria to flourish, leading to all kinds of issues like yeast infections, a suppressed immune system, leaky gut, digestive problems, and more. Usually, the longer you take birth control, the more damage it can cause to your microbiome, so if you've taken birth control for more than 3 months, I typically recommend a healthy dose of probiotics to help nourish your gut and restore the bacterial balance.

Birth control also depletes your body of B-vitamins, which are crucial for energy production and for making a baby. If you took birth control, it's best to take a methylated B-Vitamin complex to ensure your levels are at an optimal level. I recommend this one.



Prepare and nourish your body

The preconception period is a great time to focus on your body’s overall wellness, including making small adjustments in your diet to nourish your body, taking prenatal supplements, achieving a healthy weight, as well as consulting with professionals to address pre-existing health concerns.


Taking these steps before you become pregnant will optimize your body for the best possible outcome and help reduce known risks from nutritional deficiencies. In fact, it’s recommended to start taking prenatals as early as 6 months prior to trying to conceive to ensure you have healthy and good quality eggs, reduce risks of complications, and prevent nutritional deficiencies. No one can eat a perfect diet everyday, so taking a prenatal ensures that you are giving yourself a nutritional boost and peace of mind.


At Mother Nutrient, we are here to support you in whatever stage of motherhood you are in, whether it’s preconception, pregnancy, or years after giving birth. We understand the challenges of getting all of your nutritional needs from diet alone, which is why we offer a variety of nutraceutical supplements, probiotics, and superfoods to help!


Our prenatal/postnatal with nursing support supplement contains all of the essential nutrients that can be hard to find in traditional multivitamins. Find them all in our shop, and also sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest nutritional advice, blog posts, and product deals!



If you know someone who can benefit from this information on preconception nutrition, share this post by clicking next to the title!


We also have a 3 minute free wellness quiz that will give you a personalized nutrition report, including targeted product recommendations, product and lifestyle recommendations that are specifically tailored for you! Head over to take the quiz now!



Are you trying to conceive? Have you made any nutritional changes during this period? Tell me in the comments!


References

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Content found on this website is not considered medical advice. Please consult with a physician before making any medical or lifestyle changes.

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