Updated on: June 12, 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! Focusing 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. Many pregnancy-related ailments and complications can be addressed or prevented through proper nutrition and the right prenatal vitamins.
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, low-mercury fatty fish like salmon/sardines are great, Egg Whites, Beans and Peas, Nuts, Seeds, and Soy products. Needed’s Protein Collagen is also a great way to get in your needed protein.
- 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 eggs,broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas, chickpeas, and leafy greens like cabbage, kale, and spinach. These, along with good protein, is especially important during early pregnancy. Needed has an amazing Choline supplement. 95+% of mamas aren’t meeting their choline needs through food alone.
- 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. Plus, did you know it’s best to take your iron separate from your prenatal multi? Most prenatals include iron in a form that can actually contribute to GI issues like constipation. Needed also has an incredible iron supplement in a form that’s really gentle on the gut and can easily be dosed according to your needs.
- 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. It is also a great idea to speak with a prenatal dietitian, in addition to your OBGYN, or Midwife as they specialize in nutrition during pregnancy.
2. Prenatal vitamins
As a doula, I encourage my clients to achieve optimal nutrition through food. However, even with the most thoughtfully planned diet, it’s nearly impossible to meet daily requirements through food alone. 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. Nutrients like choline and folate in prenatal vitamins support healthy brain and spinal cord development in the early stages of pregnancy, sometimes even before you know you’re pregnant.
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). They are very supportive of our community and secured 20% off for our mamas with code VBAC20.
NOTE: It is also super important to note that you should continue taking your prenatal vitamin AFTER you have given birth, and while you’re nursing.
- Start taking your prenatal vitamins when you decide to start trying for a baby.
- Continue taking your prenatal vitamins after birth, for at least as long as you are nursing. Some of our VBAC mamas in the community report taking their prenatals well over a year after birth to ensure their bodies have the right nutrients to recover and rejuvenate after growing a human inside.
- If you are interested in a deep dive into the top vitamins and minerals you need during your pregnancy and postpartum and the optimal forms and dosages, I like this guide.
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.
- Electrolytes and trace minerals are also important. We tend to lose the most electrolytes during pregnancy and postpartum. Good options are adding a dietary supplement to your water, getting water that already has electrolytes in them or setting up a water filter.
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. Herbs like 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)
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.