Preconception & Pregnancy Nutrition with The Prenatal Nutritionist
EPISODE: 41 | DATE: May 6, 2021
“My goal is to give you all the facts and information in a completely unbiased way. It’s to say, “here is the evidence and here is the data.” And if we don’t have the data, I’ll tell you we don’t. Ultimately, you’re going to make the best decision for your pregnancy, and that might look different than the decision your neighbor made. And that’s ok.”
- Ryann Kipping is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in preconception and pregnancy nutrition. She has been doing this work for 5 years.
Why did you get into prenatal nutrition?
- While working at a women’s clinic in San Diego, Ryann found herself frustrated with the nutrition information she was giving to pregnant women because she found it was so outdated and inadequate.
- She believed there was better science backed nutrition data for women to have better pregnancies but she wasn’t able to provide that information at the clinic.
- She began her own practice on the side until ultimately moving into full time practice on her own at Theprenatalnutritionist.com
- Ryann’s goal is to be a trusted resource for mamas-to-be and pregnant women to get the most up to date, science-backed nutrition information.
- According to Ryann, a lot of what comes up in Google searches is outdated.
- Ryann reaches an audience of about 128 000 people through her Instagram account where she posts daily about nutrition facts and ideas.
What are some foods that pregnant women can safely eat?
- Despite what some websites may tell you, it’s perfectly safe to consume eggplants, grapefruits, cucumber and pineapple while pregnant.
- With regards to soft cheese, according to Ryann, as long as it is 100% pasteurized, you’re safe to eat it while pregnant. Our food system in the USA has come a long way and it’s very safe.
- Surprisingly, one of the most common foods associated with food borne illness according to the CDC is leafy greens! So while they are encouraged to be eaten during preconception and pregnancy, caution is needed before consuming them. Make sure they are properly washed and properly handled.
What about sushi?
- When it comes to eating sushi while pregnant, Ryann feels comfortable advising her clients to consume sushi that has been cooked, provided you stay away from high mercury fish. She also advises eating veggie rolls.
- That said, she does say that if you feel comfortable eating something like a raw salmon roll, and you get it from a restaurant you trust or a trusted source, it’s probably ago. In fact, in Japan, doctors advise women to eat raw fish while pregnant because of how bioavailable the nutrients are in the raw fish.
- All of that said, your mental health is what’s most important. So if you are someone who is prone to anxiety and stress, and you know you’ll feel too nervous about eating raw fish or sushi – or any other food – refrain from eating it. Your mental health is more important than anything.
- Ryann’s goal is to give women the facts and information on nutrition in an unbiased way, and to show the evidence and that data. That said, if there is no data on something, she will be transparent about that.
Is it ok to drink caffeine while pregnant?
- Ryann refers to a recent meta analysis about caffeine and pregnancy that had many of her clients worried. Based on the conclusions from the study, Ryann feels like she would still keep her recommendation that it is safe to consume 200-300mg of caffeine per day while pregnant.
- This conclusion matches the one from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and The World Health Organization (WHO), who haven’t changed their recommendations even in light of the meta analysis.
- Ryann believes that is because the study could not prove causation.
- The concern with too much caffeine during pregnancy is low birth weight, pregnancy loss, and small for gestational age. Most studies show these kinds of outcomes if a pregnant person is consuming 6-10 cups of coffee per day.
Is it ok to drink alcohol while pregnant?
- With alcohol, however, there is clear evidence and causation that alcohol can have a negative impact on pregnancy, including fetal alcohol syndrome.
- That said, Ryann believes that every person is different and encourages pregnant women to discuss this with their care providers.
How important is the male’s contribution (aka sperm quality) to a healthy pregnancy?
- With regards to preconception, more and more data is coming out about how important the 9-12 months leading up to conception are with regards to nutrition for both partners.
- The man’s sperm quality is just as important as the woman’s egg quality, and nutrition matters.
- There is some interesting research coming out relating the health of the baby and pregnancy to the health of a man’s sperm.
- Ryann believes that during preconception, it’s a great time for both partners to up their game on the nutrition front.
- There are new supplements coming onto the market for men to consume just as women take prenatal vitamins.
What is a good preconception diet for both men and women to follow before trying to conceive?
- In general, during preconception, both men and women should be eating a lot of:
- High quality fat like avocado and fatty fish
- Leafy greens
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Both partners should be getting adequate amounts of omega 3s, proteins and other vitamins from their food.
- Selenium is particularly important for male preconception, which can be readily found in foods like Brazil nuts.
- Good quality fats like good oils, avocados and fatty fish are particularly important for the development of the fetus so it’s important to consume a lot of them. Additionally, a woman’s need for fat soluble vitamins increase during pregnancy, which means that the vitamins cannot be absorbed without the presence of fat. This is another reason to consume high quality fats during pregnancy.
- If you don’t like fish, you can talk to your care team about adding in an Omega 3 supplement.
What is the difference between folate and folic acid?
- When it comes to the difference between folate and folic acid, folate is the naturally occurring vitamin found in foods like avocados and leafy greens whereas folic acid is the synthetic version.
- You want to get your folate from food as often as you can, and look for a prenatal vitamin that contains folate, not folic acid.
- The reason folic acid was introduced was back in the late 70s or 80s when the medical community noticed an increase in neural tube defects in babies. These defects are directly related to low folate, so the food industry decided to fortify foods like rice, cereal and bread with folic acid.
- It worked and there was a decline in neural tube defects.
- That said, Ryann doesn’t advise pregnant women to get folate from refined carbs, but rather to get it from food sources like avocados and leafy greens and other wonderful foods that contain naturally occurring folate.
How early should a woman start taking a prenatal vitamin before trying to conceive?
- Ryann’s recommendation is to start early. Most sources will say to start about 3 months before conception, but there is no concrete data for that. Ryann recommends as early as possible, even 12 months out.
- The reason for that is two fold:
- It may take a while to get on a proper nutrition routine that is sustainable
- It may also take a while for a woman’s nutrition stores to build up to appropriate levels
Should you keep taking your prenatal vitamin after giving birth?
- Yes. And Ryann recommends for as long as you’re breastfeeding – even if you’re breastfeeding through 2 years.
- And even if you’re not breastfeeding, you need to replenish the vitamins you lost during labor.
Should you take an iron supplement after giving birth?
- It depends on the person and how much blood was lost.
- Testing is important. Have your levels tested and work with your care provider to determine if you need to supplement with iron.
- That said, do focus on consuming iron-rich foods.
Tell us the truth: are there any foods that can really induce labor?
- Yes and no. There is some science to support some foods but not a lot.
- There is actually some science behind dates and their ability to soften the cervix. The study states 6 dates per day.
- There is also some science to support red raspberry leaf tea and castor oil.
- But especially with something like castor oil, you’d want to do this with supervision from your OB or midwife.
Are there foods that support milk production?
- There is even less evidence to support any foods that can increase milk production.
- The only food that has a little bit of science behind it for breast milk production is fenugreek.
- Some women swear by oats or brewer’s yeast, but what’s really most important is to be getting proper nutrition, getting the right latch, drinking enough water (hydration), and eating enough calories. You don’t even have to have a perfect diet. Just make sure to be eating enough calories. You burn an extra 500 calories per day while breastfeeding.
- Try working with a lactation consultant if you’re having trouble with breastfeeding. Start there and start basic first.
Do you recommend any particular foods postpartum to help with mood regulation and energy?
- Yes! Make sure you’re getting enough zinc.
- Many pregnant women are lacking in zinc and when you give birth you lose even more of it.
- There is a lot of science to support zinc to help with postpartum depression as well.
- Shellfish is a good source of zinc.
- Omega 3s are also hugely important, so eating fatty fish is important.
- There is also a lot of research to support low levels of vitamin D playing a role in postpartum depression, so it’s important to make sure your levels are sufficient.
- And of course, keep taking your prenatal vitamins to replenish vitamins that have been depleted.
Is there anything women can do to combat nausea associated with pregnancy?
- Yes – increasing vitamin B6 can be helpful, so I’ll often recommend that my clients increase foods high in this vitamin. Foods like bananas, chicken, pistachios, nuts and seeds, and spinach.
- You could also change your prenatal vitamin to one that has more B6 in it.
- Additionally, you can change your prenatal vitamin to see if there is one that makes you less nauseous, because sometimes that’s the culprit.
- There is also some evidence to support ginger in helping with nausea, so you can drink ginger tea or grate fresh ginger in salads or soups.
Ryann and her team have put together one of the most comprehensive prenatal nutrition libraries available online at https://www.theprenatalnutritionlibrary.com/
Ryann is a clinically trained Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Lactation Educator, and Author of The Feel-Good Pregnancy Cookbook. She is the founder of The Prenatal Nutritionist, a virtual nutrition private practice, which focuses on preparing women for pregnancy and sorting fact from fiction during pregnancy. She helps women feel confident in their ability to properly nourish a growing baby through a real food approach. Ryann is also the founder of The Prenatal Nutrition Library, an online community and app for evidence-based nutrition information before and during pregnancy, and creates content daily for her popular Instagram account @prenatalnutritionist.