Anyone that knows me knows that I'm a little bit of a research freak. When it comes to health I have taken a very in-depth role over the last couple years in trying to learn the what's and why's for the food, supplements, and skin care products that I use because those are the things that are ingested and absorbed into my body.
When I became pregnant, this became even more important to me and I threw myself into learning everything I could about pregnancy, birth, and newborns. Some people only like to know information on a "need to know basis" (and I totally respect that), but I'm the kind of person that feels LESS stressed when I have MORE information, so you could say I've been busy!
I decided to write this blog post for all of you to share what I've learned and found essential and helpful for pregnancy and childbirth preparation and hopefully save you some time and searching or point you in a good direction for your own research and resources! So without further ado, here are my top recommendations for pregnancy.
Also, some of the links below are to Amazon and making a purchase using my affiliate links supports BarbellsAndBaking (at no additional cost to you) and helps me to be able to keep this blog up and running, so thank you for your support!
How to Conceive Naturally: And Have a Healthy Pregnancy after 30 - by Christa Orecchio, Willow Buckley - don't worry about the "after 30" part if that doesn't apply to you. This book is a must read for anyone that is trying to get pregnant or currently pregnant. It guides you through the the different stages (pre-conception, all trimesters, and postpartum) with a huge amount of research, insight, and recommendations for having a healthy and holistic pregnancy. It also offers holistic prevention and solutions for pregnancy related issues such as constipation, hemorrhoids, headaches, gestational diabetes, nausea, sleepless nights, etc.
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding - by Ina May - these books are so enlightening and empowering on having a natural childbirth and a smooth transition into breastfeeding (along with all of the stages that are involved with that). Ina May is one of the most well known midwives in the nation and has over 30 years of experience with natural childbirth and babies. Her knowledge is astounding.
HypnoBirthing, Fourth Edition: The breakthrough natural approach to safer, easier, more comfortable birthing - by Marie Mongan - Ina May's book on childbirth is fantastic to help you understand the benefits and basics of having a natural childbirth, but this book gives you gives you even more tools on how to exactly do that. Matt and I also took hypnobirthing classes along with reading this book and I can't recommend it enough! After reading Ina May's book, I decided that my goal was to have a natural childbirth, but I still dreaded that process and more of just looked forward to meeting our new little one. After reading the hypnobirthing book and taking the class, I actually became excited about the birthing process itself and how this could be such a beautiful event that brings our child into the world and how bonding of an experience it could be with my partner and love of my life. I know, sounds a little crazy... but read the book. You won't regret it.
The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child - by Dr. Robert W. Sears - This book is essential to read while pregnant so that you can make educated decisions upon the birth of your child. What I love about it is that Dr. Sears doesn't tell you what to do, but provides the rationale, reasoning, and research for BOTH sides of the vaccine debate. To sum it up, it is "a fair, impartial, fact-based resource from the most trusted name in pediatrics. Dr. Bob devotes each chapter in the book to a disease/vaccine pair and offers a comprehensive discussion of what the disease is, how common or rare it is, how serious or harmless it is, the ingredients of the vaccine, and any possible side effects from the vaccine". From there, you make the decision on which vaccinations to accept, decline, or simply just space out and put on a delayed timeline. Definitely a valuable resource to have as you give birth and your child grows. For the record, Dr. Sears is pro-vaccine, he just argues it's important to space them out and also use certain brands over other that have less aluminum, etc.
The Vaccine-Friendly Plan - by Dr. Paul Thomas & Jennifer Margulis - This book's title is a little deceiving, because it's not just limited to vaccines! Dr. Paul is also pro-vaccine, and definitely argues the importance of spacing them out and also using certain brands over other that have less aluminum, etc. He also goes into the history of how the vaccine recommendations have changed over the years and WHY those things like aluminum (and the amount that the vaccines have) are not healthy. Beyond vaccines though, he has chapters on Toxins to eliminate from your home, how to have a healthy pregnancy, and all of the information on health and treating common sickness/ailments from birth-teenager! This is definitely going to be my little handbook for the next 18 years of our little guy's life! I HIGHLY suggest investing in it!
BabyCenter - My Pregnancy & Baby Today Daily Calendar & Tracker - This one was by far my favorite. It's free and has a ton of practical and helpful features. Each day it shares useful articles and information about the development of your baby. It has some cool tools such as "Is It Safe" where you can look up foods and activities that they recommend/have warnings about during pregnancy and a "Birth Preferences" tool creates a birth preference list for you to share with your hospital (or just want to get ideas for what birth preferences you want to start considering). What I loved the most about it though was that it has "Kick Tracker" and "Contraction Timer" features. SO helpful as you get into your third trimester! It's keeps a log of both so that you can track any changes and also show them to your doctor if there are any concerns.
Shell - Baby's First Heartbeat Listener - I didn't learn about this until my third trimester (although it probably wouldn't have found the heartbeat much earlier than that anyways), but I love it! I wouldn't recommend using it on a frequent basis as I prefer to keep technology away from the tummy as much as possible, but it's SUCH a huge relief and also special to hear my baby's heartbeat every once in a while and know that my baby is doing just fine. It does have you put it in airplane mode before using it which is nice and just so you know, you have to remove your iPhone from a case in order for it to work too.
Baby Nursing - Breastfeeding Tracker - This app is free and LEGIT. I used it constantly during the first 6 months. Not only can you easily track breastfeed times/sides, but you can also track sleeping, naps, measurements (and it shows you in percentages their growth), tummy time, EVERYTHING!
*As a reminder, you should always do your own research and consult with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements. These are supplements based off of my research and experience that I found to be most helpful/beneficial to me. Always talk to your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet or lifestyle.
Thorne Prenatal Vitamins - I searched high and low for the right prenatal vitamin and this one won! This prenatal is from a quality company, is balanced in terms of nutrients and vitamins, and has folate instead of synthetic folic acid (important for everyone, but essential if you have the MTHFR mutation). Just make sure that you eat them with food so that they stay down. I've also heard great things about Garden of Life Raw Prenatal and if you have terrible morning sickness and can't keep ANYTHING down, then SmartyPants PreNatal Complete Gummy Vitamins are a good option too.
Vital Proteins Collagen - I put a scoop of this into my decaf coffee every morning for my entire pregnancy. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is essential in the creation and regeneration of skin, nails, hair, bones, cartilage, tendons, and joints. I also found it as a great way to increase my protein intake (especially in the 1st trimester when my body would throw up protein in basically any other form) and I've heard amazing benefits of using this postpartum to help your body recover and heal/aiding in hormone balance and gut health. PLUS, I didn't get one single stretch mark my entire pregnancy and completely attribute that to taking this supplement daily! Just so you know, it is of utmost importance that a collagen supplement comes from pasture-raised grass-fed cows - and that's why I love Vital Proteins. They are an amazing company that prioritizes quality ingredients.
Vital Proteins Beauty Greens - This goodness has marine collagen (from non-geo, wild caught red snapper), a variety of raw organic greens and probiotics that together have huge health and beauty benefits. It is especially great for preventing onset signs of aging because it improves skin’s moisture, smoothness, and overall revitalizes skin tone. AND my favorite part - one scoop of it equivalent to three daily servings of greens! This was extremely helpful for days where I felt like I wasn't getting enough nutrients in (check out my Berry Banana Smoothie for my favorite recipe that I use this supplement in)
Vital Proteins Liver Capsules - Liver is one of nature's most potent nutrient-dense superfood's and it is important to find a way to supplement it for the massive health and skin benefits (it's extremely high in Vitamin A, B12, Folate, Riboflavin, Zinc, Copper, and Choline). Not only is it hard to source good liver, but then you have to learn to how to cook it (and enjoy it) so I take it in pill form. Taking it as a pill is so much more convenient, and you also don't have to deal with taste. Again, Vital Proteins is the only brand that I trust as it is sourced form grass fed, pasture-raised cows.
Traditional Medicinals Organic Pregnancy Tea - The main ingredient in this tea is Raspberry leaf, which is said to help your immune system and strengthen your uterine muscles in preparation for childbirth (along with help with breastmilk supply after childbirth). It also has a couple other herbs that are great for pregnancy. It is important to note that some doctors don't recommend taking this tea during the first and second trimester, so ask your doctor before beginning supplementation with it. I began drinking it nightly at about 32 weeks. At about 36 weeks I switched over to Traditional Medicinals Organic Raspberry Leaf Tea which is JUST pure raspberry leaves at a MUCH higher concentration. Not sure if it's the tea or just my body, but I got Braxton Hicks contractions constantly every.single.day, so my uterus is definitely getting toned and strong to push this baby out and I was only in active labor for a couple hours! I didn't use it for this, but have also heard great things about drinking this in high concentration during labor to keep the uterus contracting strongly. As a final benefit, it tastes great and helped me get more water in my system on a daily basis (your doctor will ask you to drink insane amounts of water during pregnancy and especially during the last trimester to keep your amniotic fluid at a good level).
Let me just put this out there - podcasts are AMAZING. Prior to getting pregnant I would listen to them occasionally, but during pregnancy I started listening to them regularly (whenever I was driving or walking the dogs - even for 15 minutes), and I've loved all of the information that I've learned when I would usually just be listening to music (efficiency = a happy Jenna). Here are the top 3 podcasts that I have gleaned SO much knowledge and information from and highly recommend. They are a great resource for everything from prenatal care and considerations, pregnancy, postpartum, and pediatric care along with natural childbirth and more.
The Modern Mamas Podcast - by Laura Bruner and Jess Gaertner
Well-Adjusted Mama - by Dr. Laura Brayton
This is a big one guys. We all know the importance of reading the labels and ingredients on everything we are putting IN our bodies. Over the last year I've also learned that our skin is the largest organ of our bodies and absorbs a large part of what is put on it into the blood stream and therefore started becoming aware of how important it was to start evaluating what I was putting ON my body!
This becomes even more important when you are pregnant and your baby is directly connected to you. For example, did you know that numerous studies have shown that triclosan and triclocarban, the main ingredient in antibacterial soap and gels (along with 2,000 other everyday consumer products such as toothpastes, soaps, detergents, toys, etc.) are absorbed through the skin and can be found in your urine, and even scarier, in the umbilical cord of your baby? These ingredients (thought to be harmless and used in so many everyday products) have been linked to developmental and and endocrine (hormonal) issues. How many of us are exposed to this on a daily basis through soaps or gels?
In 2005, the Environmental Working Group published a combination of two studies that found 287 toxic chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies born in the U.S. Of these 287 chemicals, 217 were neurotoxins, and 208 are known to damage growth development or cause birth defects. Whether or not you are pregnant, it is undeniable that toxins are being absorbed into our bodies, and do have a profound effect on our health. You can find more information on those studies here too.
Over the past two decades, the European Union has banned more than 1,300 chemicals in the product formulas of personal care products and restricted the levels of over 250 more in such products. The United States has only partially banned 11 to date and has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938.
What this means is that we must be advocates for our own health. After a year of trying DIY and countless different products, I finally found a company who cares about ingredients as much as I do and that creates the products that I need and that work - Beautycounter. Check out my "Safer Skincare" blog post on why I choose them along with my favorite everyday products. These are the ones that I love and trust and that I used specifically while pregnant:
Beautycounter Charcoal Bar - I use the charcoal bar every night as my cleanser and love how soft it makes my skin without drying it out along with the fact that I get way less breakouts (even with all these crazy pregnancy hormones)! It's been a lifesaver postpartum as well to help rejuvenate my skin.
Beautycounter Lotion and Beautycounter Body Butter - I used the body lotion throughout pregnancy to keep my entire body but especially that stretching belly moisturized! During the winter I would bust out the body butter to get a little extra skin hydration and nourishment.
Beautcounter Sunscreen - Conventional sunscreens use sun blockers like oxybenzone, a chemical that isn't very stable when exposed to UV radiation and can trigger skin reactions and be a hormone disruptor. There have been a lot of studies that have shown that it can increase the risk of cancer. Conventional sunscreens also have nanoparticles of zinc oxide, titanium oxide, and high concentrations of aluminum which can cause cell damage and are easily absorbed through the pores and into the blood stream. The reason that I found Beautycounter was actually because of their sunscreen. I had been searching high and low for a non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen and theirs was the only brand that had ingredients that I trust and that I've found that also applies as well as regular sunscreen (Badger sunscreen was another brand that I tried but it applied HORRIBLY and I looked like a ghost whenever I used it). Plus it has an EWG rating of 1 - the highest! Just so you are aware, Neutrogena, which labels their sunscreens as "dermatologist #1 recommended brand" (and that I used to use) is actually one of the worst brands (check out their rating on EWG).
Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant - if you haven't switched over to a safe, all-natural deodorant (free from aluminum, fragrances, triclosan, and paragons which more and more studies are finding detrimental to our bodies and linked to cancer), then now is the time. Think about the fact that deodorant is applied to your armpits which is a very sensitive/porous part of your body and absorbs toxins very quickly. I've tried SO many different natural brands and have found this one to work the best for me. I usually get the Vanilla Grapefruit, but the other scents are supposed to be great too.
Beautycounter Baby Bundle Collection - This one is great to order before the baby arrives so that you have it on hand from the start. It has an all over wash (skin and hair, both tear free), a soothing oil and a daily protective calm. This is also a great baby shower gift for any pregnant mamas that you know. I am super picky about what I put on my skin, and even more so for my little one due to the shocking amount of non-regulation of skin care products in our country (did you hear about the recent lawsuit against Johnson and Johnson?). As I've said above, Beautycounter products use minimal ingredients that are safe for our little one's sensitive skin. The wash is gentle but cleansing and I use the oil after baths to keep my babe's skin soft and moisturized (I also take this opportunity to give some loving touch baby massage). Lastly, the baby balm (coconut oil based) has been AMAZING for when I see any redness on his bum. If your baby has more sever diaper rash, Beautycounter does have a great actual diaper rash cream.
I encourage you to take a closer look at what is in your other skin care and makeup products too. You can do this by starting to read the labels and by looking up your your your current products on EWG's Skin Deep Database. It is my go-to resource for researching product safety and I love that every single Beautycounter product is rated between 0-2 on it. What we put on our skin today DOES affect our bodies (and your baby's if you are pregnant) in the long run.
Other Tools and Products That Were Lifesavers
Lifefactory 22-Ounce BPA-Free Glass Water Bottle with Flip Cap & Silicone Sleeve - I highly recommend switching to all glass products, starting with this! We have made the switch in our house for all water bottles and storage containers (our baby bottles are also glass). You can do some research on why glass is so much better than plastic, there are tons of studies on it. I absolutely love this water bottle and it's super easy to keep track of how much water I'm drinking during the day (it is usually recommended to drink 100 oz. each day while pregnant, so I set the goal of drinking at least 4 refills of this water bottle a day).
Body Pillow - Forget the fancy pregnant pillows... I ordered one and promptly returned it because it was uncomfortable and hard to flip side to side in (plus I needed my nice memory foam pillow for my head in order to sleep well and not have neck pain). I found a body pillow like this one to be the best option (Target also carries them). My husband calls it the great wall of china since it separates us, but he gets that it's a necessity haha. Although once I'm done being pregnant I'm suspicious that he might "accidentally" lose it...
Sleep Mask - Sleeping grows increasingly more difficult as you get more pregnant. If you don't have one already, do yourself a favor and get this. It is really comfortable, blocks out all light, stays in place, and is contoured so that it doesn't actually touch your eyes. It has definitely helped me sleep deeper at night and is also helpful for those quick naps during the day that I desperately needed during the third trimester.
Expecting You: A Keepsake Pregnancy Journal - I searched all over for the perfect pregnancy journal that had good prompts and was beautiful (read NOT cheesy) and finally ordered this one. I LOVE it!
Baby Journal - Speaking of journals, these are THE CUTEST baby journals out there. They has such cute prompts and pockets for remembering and documenting all of the precious moments of your baby's first year. The link above is to the boy version. Here is the girl version. Definitely a must!
Birthing Ball/Work Chair - This was so helpful. I initially ordered it as my birthing ball (it is a FANTASTIC tool for labor), but also started using it as my work chair at my desk in my third trimester and noticed such a huge improvement in my posture (which in turn helps keep the baby in an optimal birthing position).
Hypnobirthing Birthing Classes - I did a lot of research and feel that out of all the classes that you can take, hypnobirthing is the most helpful/applicable (I also recommend the hypnobirthing book above in the books section). We used the Cap Wellness Center in Encinitas, CA (highly recommend them along with all of their other services - prenatal chiropractic, massage, etc.), but if you don't live in the area, using this search tool to find Certified Hypnobirthing classes near you.
Facebook Group - "Parenthood! with Liz Wolfe NTP" - this group is an AMAZING resource and community for all things pregnancy and babies! It's such an amazing support for all mamas who want to learn or have questions about everything from prenatal/pregnancy care to recommendations for products (you can ask other mama's what their favorite stroller or baby sling was), to asking for advice postpartum/with a baby.
There it is. My list of what I've found to be most helpful throughout pregnancy. I sincerely hope that it is helpful to you as well and please let me know if you have any questions! Also, please feel free to share this post with any other pregnant mamas you know!