I have my good friend, Christina Sternberg to thank for turning me on to a lot of these supplements. She was my Doula for my first pregnancy with Beau and it was amazingly helpful. I find she's still my go-to for a lot of these types of natural remedies.
Now to clarify, this is not about induction or forcing your body into labor. These are simply supplements that support your body as it naturally gets ready for labor and delivery. I consumed all of these supplements with my first pregnancy and was so happy with how my labor, delivery and postpartum recovery went. I was able to manage the pain without medication. I will stop right here and just say, I am not putting myself up on any pedestal. DJ, my husband, and I had done a lot of reading during my pregnancy and came to the conclusion that we wanted to try for a natural birth. That was all it was. Moving on. We labored at home for a very long time until getting to the hospital where I was checked at 9cm dilated. I spent another hour or so in transition and then pushed for 45 minutes to deliver Beau on his due date. My postpartum recovery was not bad at all. I had moderate to light bleeding for only one week. I had a very positive outlook on the whole experience and do believe it was because I first and foremost educated myself and had great support from my family and Doula. But secondly, I believe that these supplements did help support and prepare my body so that is why I find it important enough to share with you now.
1. Prenatal Vitamin
This is a given. Any doctor or midwife will suggest you take a daily prenatal vitamin to make sure you are filling in any of the nutritional gaps in your diet. Some of the really important vitamins and minerals that are found in these supplements are folic acid, iron, iodine and calcium.
Things to look for in a prenatal vitamin include:
- 400 mcg of folic acid
- 400 IU of vitamin D
- 200 - 300 mg of calcium
- 70 mg of vitamin C
- 3 mg of thiamine
- 2 mg of riboflavin
- 20 mg of niacin
- 6 mcg of vitamin B12
- 10 mg of vitamin E
- 15 mg of zinc
- 17 mg of iron
- 150 mcg of iodine
The other important thing I look for when selecting my vitamins is the serving size. If I have to take more than one a day, forget it. Tip: If you are like me and absolutely hate taking pills, I have found that taking them after breakfast with an 8oz glass of orange juice gets them down a lot easier than with water. It masks that vitamin taste and feels thicker to push them down. Always make sure you take them with a full stomach. I get so nauseous if I haven't eaten enough.
2. Prenatal DHA
When selecting your prenatal multivitamin you can usually find DHA included but in case you don't (like me), make sure you add this to the pile. DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, walnuts and some products which are fortified with DHA like eggs or milk make for an essential nutrient for preggo mamas. DHA helps build your baby's brain, nervous system and eyes. The prenatal DHA vitamin I have taken is only one per day containing 200 mg with no fish oil (I have found those to make me burp gross fishy taste).
Alfalfa is the powerhouse of herbs offering a variety of minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, chlorine, sodium, potassium, silicon, and so on. It can also be a good source of Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Vitamin K which help with blood clotting. I have been taking my alfalfa tablets (4 total a day) during my last trimester to decrease postpartum bleeding in both quantity and duration. I truly believe this is what allowed me to have so little bleeding after my first pregnancy.
Bonus, it is also shown to increase breast milk supply. I had no problems getting my milk in and sustaining a good supply throughout my 14 months of breastfeeding. Now, I haven't experienced many of these symptoms but I have also read that alfalfa tablets can be used for morning sickness, heartburn, constipation, anemia and swelling. Perhaps I haven't had these symptoms because I take this supplement!? Try it.
Who knew that sweet candy-like fruit would have so many benefits for the preggo body? A study from Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who consumed six date fruits per day for 4 weeks prior to their estimated due date significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation, cervical dilation was higher upon admission, and the duration of labor was shorter. Um, heck yes to all of those. Plus, dates are rich sources of proteins, fiber and other vitamins. Oh and don't forget about those good ol natural sugars that make them so sweet! I like to buy mine at Costco with the pit in but you can find them pitted at most grocery or health food stores.
5. Evening Primrose Oil
This may be the most controversial of all the supplements I take but I did my research and decided to take these pills at 38 weeks pregnant with my son. Being just under 37 weeks pregnant now I haven't even opened the bottle yet. Basically, beginning at 38 weeks you can begin taking evening primose oil orally or inserted vaginally to act as a prostaglandin that softens and ripens the cervix. This is not something that will induce labor but as your cervix softens it will progress your labor and may make your delivery quicker and easier. As I will say for all of these supplements talk to your doctor or midwife to see what their thoughts are on taking this herbal supplement and what they find is the appropriate amount.
6. Pregnancy Tea or Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
I have been an on-again, off-again tea drinker but I finally found a delicious Pregnancy Tea that I love from a local shop called Desert Sage Herbs. It has a blend of red raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, spearmint leaf, alfalfa, rosehip and milky oats. I use my tea infuser and put it over ice with a little agave nectar and drop of lemon essential oil, delish! I drink this twice a day and it is said to help tone the uterus and prepare the womb for childbirth while potentially making your labor shorter in duration. Again, you have the added bonus of assisting with breast milk supply. If it tastes good and is helping get this little girl out more smoothly, why not!?
7. Papaya Enzyme
This is just a little added bonus I thought I'd throw in there because I did not know about this one with my first pregnancy and I am SO glad I know about it now. Heartburn. Oh my goodness, heartburn. I had never experienced what heartburn even was before having my son and let me tell you it hits me hard during pregnancy. I popped Tums daily with my first pregnancy with usually very little relief. Then, once again my beautiful friend Christina told me about papaya enzyme chewable tablets. These babies work! Since I am usually hit the hardest in the evenings, I just chew three tablets after dinner and am good to go. FYI, mine taste like peppermint pills... not the fruit papaya.
In conclusion, talk to your doctor about any and all of these and see what he or she thinks. These are the supplements that have seemed to work well for me and so I hope you find this information helpful for your pregnancy.