Updated on: June 1, 2023
We all know good nutrition is important. But does nutrition need to change while pregnant and preparing for a VBAC? As you may have guessed, YES! Focussing on your nutrition is even more important during pregnancy. Eating well and having a well-balanced diet has been shown to play a positive role in birthing experiences and outcomes.
It’s easy when we become pregnant to give in to cravings and eat poorly (or too much). With all of the exciting things happening, it’s pretty common to forget about good nutrition when our body is craving something else. We’re sure you heard the term, “I’m eating for two.”
You are doing just that. You are creating another human inside of you, so kicking up your calories and focusing on good nutrition a little is needed, but it’s also important to focus on what you’re eating.
On average, a pregnant woman should eat 300-400 extra calories during pregnancy. This may change if pregnant with a singleton vs. multiples. It is important to discuss your personal nutrition needs with your healthcare provider. Don’t fear that lovely scale you step on at each visit. Remember, you’re growing a human inside of you, and gaining weight is normal and healthy.
1. Nutrition During Pregnancy
When I was pregnant, I had the hardest time knowing what to eat. I had taken health classes during school, but I still knew very little about nutrition as a whole, especially during pregnancy. During my first pregnancy, I gained a lot of weight primarily due to eating out a lot. Nutrition was not a high focus. At the end of that pregnancy, my blood pressure was great, but my swelling was out of control. I have since learned that my sodium intake at the time was very high. I lacked healthy carbs and protein and wasn’t getting enough collagen.
During my second pregnancy, I did a lot more research on what I should eat. WOW! What a difference it made in how I felt.
The basic principles of healthy eating remain the same during pregnancy as day to day — get plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats:
- Protein – Chicken, Fish (be sure to ask your provider what fish is best – we love Salmon), Egg Whites, Beans and Peas, Nuts, Seeds, and Soy products
- Vegetables – Dark Leafy Green Spinach, Kale, Green Beans, Broccoli
- Fruits – Citrus fruits, Grapefruit, Oranges, Blueberries, Strawberries
- Grains – Whole grain bread and cereals, Ezekiel bread, Oatmeal, English Muffins
- Dairy – Yogurt, Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Milk
Additional tips & tricks:
- Avoid processed foods
- Folate, Choline, and other great nutritious vitamins and minerals can be found in broccoli, brussels sprouts, peas, chickpeas, and leafy greens like cabbage, kale, and spinach. These, along with good protein, is especially important during early pregnancy.
- Of all the prenatal nutrients, iron is one of the most important. Iron helps your body produce red blood cells (helps develop your placenta and carry oxygen throughout the body). Found in dark, leafy greens, kale, beans, peas, and lentils.
- Challenge yourself to eat vegetables and fruits made out of all the colors of the rainbow.
Remember, good nutrition helps you handle the extra demands on your body as your pregnancy progresses. If you have any questions about nutrition, you should absolutely talk to your OB GYN or midwife.
2. Prenatal vitamins
Ideally, you start taking prenatal vitamins before you find out you’re pregnant or as soon as that test is positive (yay! Congrats!).
Prenatal vitamins help nourish and support your body while you are growing that cute little human inside. Prenatal vitamins can reduce certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (neural tube defects (NTDs) in the early stages of pregnancy.
Prenatal vitamins are; unfortunately, not all made the same. My favorites are from a brand called Needed (I first discovered them through our Facebook Community).
I love their complete plan and got 20% off for our mamas with code VBAC20.
Most prenatal vitamins are designed to meet the bare minimum needs and don’t always optimally nourish you. I love that the Needed founders teamed up with a group of perinatal nutrition and health experts to redesign the prenatal vitamin from the ground up–based on the latest clinical research and in-practice experience of testing thousands of mamas’ nutrient levels to know what women actually need.
It’s always worth talking to your midwife or OBGYN if you have any specific questions or concerns.
Hydration is essential to good health and healthy pregnancy. Water is one of the easiest ways to hydrate our bodies. Water makes up about 50% to 70% of your body weight. Your body (and your baby) depends on water to survive.
Increase your water intake during pregnancy. You should be drinking anywhere between 64-96 oz (2-3 liters) of water a day.
Helpful tips & tricks:
- A cute water bottle (or 2 or 3!) can make a huge difference. If you have multiple water bottles, feel them up in the morning, so you can visually see how many bottles you need to drink that day!
- Keep your water bottle visible and with you at all times. This will serve as an ongoing reminder to drink your water.
- Another easy reminder is to drink water every time you go to the bathroom.
- Make sure you drink extra on hot days or whenever you exercise.
Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of water — the most waterlogged fruits and vegetables are watermelon, oranges, apples, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, and tomatoes. Eating these will help with fluid retention and swelling, too!
4. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
In addition to good nutrients, there are herbs you can take to prepare for your VBAC, such as red raspberry leaf.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea (bags we like here or if you prefer, loose tea can be found here) comes from the leaves of the red raspberry plant. This herbal tea has been used for centuries to support respiratory, digestive, and uterine health, particularly during pregnancy and childbearing years.
Drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea (RRLT for short) is not used to induce labor (although it’s often misconstrued as a labor inducer). There still needs to be more studies on RRLT, but from what we do know now, RRLT has been shown to tone the uterine wall and help it be more efficient when contractions do start, shortening the duration of labor and helping the birth outcomes.
It is generally recommended to drink one cup of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea per trimester per day: one cup in the first trimester, 2 cups in the second trimester, and three in the third trimester. Of course, always check with your provider first!
Studies show that eating dates can shorten the duration of labor, reduce chances of induction and raise bishop scores. Dates are very nutritious. They contain a high percentage of carbohydrates, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Typically, it is suggested to eat 6 dates each day starting at 36 weeks of pregnancy.
Fitness and Exercise for VBAC
In addition to good nutrition, there are other things you can do to help enhance your chances of a smooth pregnancy and VBAC. One that goes hand in hand with healthy eating is… You know it’s coming… Exercise!
ACOG suggests that a pregnant woman gets at least 30 minutes or more of some type of physical activity each day. It is best to discuss this with your provider to see to what extent of fitness is best for you and your baby. They will typically consider the level of fitness you were doing before becoming pregnant. If you are like many mommas, you may be asking yourself what types of things you can do other than walking.
Some ways to stay active during pregnancy can include:
- Yoga (prenatal yoga is best, but if you are attending a regular yoga class, make sure your instructor knows you’re expecting)
- Walking. Spinning babies (we’re big fans here!) suggest walking 3 miles daily.
- Pilates – Similar to Yoga it is such a great way to strengthen and stretch the body
- Weight lifting – Listen to your body and check with your provider.
- Swimming – Swimming laps is so great because it is non-weight bearing and improves circulation
- Fitness on the exercise ball (read more on how to use the birthing ball during pregnancy and while in labor here)
- For more information on plus-size pregnancy, check out our blog post on Plus Size Birth here.
Love our Podcast? Here are some not to be missed episodes talking about prenatal nutrition:
- Episode 25: Molly’s VBAC + Pregnancy Nutrition (Find it on Apple Podcast here and Spotify here)
- Episode 89: Renay’s VBAC + Pregnancy Nutrition (Find it on Apple Podcast here and Spotify here)
Looking for more guidance before your VBAC? Register today for The Ultimate VBAC Prep Course for Parents, and feel confident and empowered when your new baby comes into the world.
Can you drink Red Clover Tea during pregnancy? Is there an ideal time to begin drinking it?
Generally speaking, red clover is great to take at the end of pregnancy. Always consult with your provider though, your specific circumstances might prevent its safety for you.
Since Red Raspberry Leaf tea won’t induce labor but just strengthen the uterus, is it okay to drink throughout pregnancy then? Or better to wait until towards the end of pregnancy? I’m 31 weeks currently
Hi! It is generally recommended to drink one cup per trimester per day, one cup in the first trimester, 2 cups in the second trimester, and three in the third trimester. Of course, always check with your provider first!