Written by Dr. Nikita Sander, Yoga Mamas Naturopathic Doctor
During pregnancy, we know there is a seemingly never-ending list of changes that your body will experience. Some of those changes are occurring within the immune system, which will undergo many modifications from the moment conception occurs and throughout postpartum. While these modifications are important for the health of the pregnancy and fetal development, sometimes these changes can also leave mamas more susceptible to common illnesses such as the flu, colds, urinary tract infections and food poisoning. In most cases, your baby is protected from harm if illness occurs, however certain illnesses can become harmful for you and baby1.
Ready or not, we have officially entered the Fall season, which also means that we are that much closer to Cold and Flu season. With this in mind (not to mention the current Covid-19 pandemic), it’s important to know what you can do to help naturally boost your immune system during pregnancy, aside from the no-brainer of maintaining good hand hygiene.
De-Stress and Take Care
Stress overtime can also weaken your immune system, increase inflammation in the body and increase overall susceptibility to becoming sick. The experience of pregnancy itself can be stressful for many.
Stress management and self-care should not be an option. Find a few things you enjoy doing and do them often, whether it’s mediation, prenatal yoga or pilates, prenatal massages, reading, speaking with friends, etc. Try prioritizing self-care by inputting it into your schedule first and then planning the remainder of your schedule around your self-care activities.
You Can Never Go Wrong With Sleep
A good night’s rest on a consistent basis is one of our body’s best-known weapons for protecting us against illness. Sleep is our body’s opportunity to rest, restore and repair. Quality sleep helps to reduce inflammation and the effects of stress on the body, restore hormonal balance, reset our energy stores and of course boost our immune defenses against harmful infections. Our Dream Sessions were created specifically for new and expecting mamas providing them a quiet space for rest and sleep.
Sleep deprivation during pregnancy has also been associated with further risk of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and even mood and hormonal disturbances.
Many mamas will experience sleep disturbances at some point during their pregnancy perhaps due to discomfort, pain, change in hormones or even those annoying trips to the bathroom. A few ways to enhance deep sleep include investing in a quality pregnancy sleep pillow, building a bedtime routine that also involves avoiding screen use at least 30-60 minutes before bed, diffusing lavender essential oils or trying out a magnesium supplement before bed. And of course, don’t forget to empty that bladder before getting cozy.
Keep It Moving
We’ve all heard the laundry list of benefits of regularly engaging in exercise. Did you know that exercise could also boost immune function? Exercise during pregnancy is no exception to this!
The current recommendation for exercise during pregnancy is for at least 150min of moderately vigorous exercise weekly, which translates to at least 5 times a week for 30min. This should be a mixture of aerobic, strength training and stretching exercises (hint: prenatal yoga). Exercise during pregnancy is even recommended for those who did not exercise regularly prior to pregnancy! If you're looking to work out at home, Yoga Mamas On Demand is a beautiful online portal filled with pre-recorded prenatal fitness videos ranging from 5 minutes to 60 minutes.
Be sure to consult your midwife, OBGYN, pelvic floor therapists or other care providers for the green light to engage in physical activity if you have any pregnancy complications.
Food Is Medicine…Literally!
Consuming a balanced diet that consists of at least 7-8 servings of fresh vegetables and fruits, sources of healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates is a proven way to fuel a healthy immune system while also supporting the health and development of baby.
Try creating meals that boast a variety of different colours like greens, yellows, oranges, reds and so forth in order to get a variety of different nutrients and antioxidants. Foods rich in vitamin A, C, D, E, zinc, folate, selenium and iron can give your immune system the boost it needs to continue to keep you healthy all season long.
Vitamin A is rich in foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, squash and dark leafy greens. Vitamin C can be easily found in foods like oranges, kiwi, bell peppers, broccoli, leafy greens, etc. Zinc, Vitamin E and selenium are rich in foods such as nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds and Brazil nuts respectively. While we know vitamin D can be absorbed from exposure to sunlight, some food sources can also include eggs, fish and dairy. Looking for recipe inspiration? Check out our Prenatal Immune Boosting Smoothie Recipe.
Let’s not forget about classic staples such as lemon, garlic, ginger and turmeric, which all have immune boosting properties as well! Get creative and try incorporating these staples into your next dinner. Questions regarding prenatal nutrition? Book an online Holistic Nutritionist Appointment.
Immune Boosting Supplements
While supplements do not replace a balanced diet, there are a handful that can be included during pregnancy that support immune health while also supporting baby’s growth and development. At the very least, all mamas should be on a quality prenatal, which will provide an extra source of key, immune-friendly nutrients like vitamins C, D, E, folate, iron, zinc and selenium.
In addition, here are 2 favourites that can be used throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding: