Pregnancy and Lactation

Pregnancy / Lactation


Pregnancy and Nutrition


Good nutrition for a female's entire life is the best possible preparation for pregnancy. This is especially true the year or so immediately preceding conception. In a matter of speaking, a baby is nearly to one year of age at birth. Many women only begin to eat right and take necessary vitamin supplements once they know they are pregnant. This is weeks or even months too late. The first few weeks of pregnancy are especially crucial to the embryo (Hillemann).

Poverty, chemical abuse, adolescence and advanced age traditionally make up four common problem pregnancy areas. Marginal nutritional deficiency diseases, medication, American-style deliveries and subsequent bottle-feeding make up four other problem areas.

Nutrition needs rise during pregnancy, of course. Even the RDA's are higher. This may be obvious to you, but many women eat poor diets in general. They then tend to eat MORE of that same poor diet in an attempt to "eat for two" and "to get all the nutrition they need from a balanced diet." This is a genuine tragedy, for which the medical and nutrition professions cannot easily be excused.  At the very least, the following needs increase during pregnancy and lactation:
a. protein
b. calcium
c. iron
d. all vitamins
e. that is a lot of increases, isn't it

American diets are largely protein-dominated, and calcium is discussed elsewhere on this website. So let's consider some increased maternal needs for nutrients, starting with VITAMIN A. Vitamin A can be safely increased by using beta-carotene (eg. carrot juice). Preformed (fish oil) vitamin A toxicity under 25,000 IU is possible, but vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy is a far greater risk. For a really bone-chilling summary of the consequences of vitamin deficiency during pregnancy, read Hillemann.

Let's Talk Polar Bears, Shall We?
Since three-quarters of a pound of polar bear liver contains 7 or 8 MILLION units of preformed vitamin A, this food is rightly forbidden by traditional Eskimo religion. If it is of any satisfaction to you, polar bears themselves are at risk for vitamin A overdose since they routinely eat entire seals at a sitting. Seals, as we all know, are a very good source of vitamin A, yielding 30 to 100 MILLION units each.

Believe it or not, 6,000,000 units of "A" have been taken by humans at once... in fact, five times in a row... without fatality (Bicknell and Prescott, page 82). Naturally, this is idiotic, and especially so during pregnancy.

Very large prenatal doses of vitamin A can produce birth defects. Deficiency of vitamin A also can, and is much more likely. Hypervitaminotic A rats bear normal young with very high liver stores of the vitamin. Human fetuses and newborn infants generally have LOW stores of vitamin A (Bicknell and Prescott, pp. 19 and 59).  Pauling (How to Live Longer and Feel Better, p. 253) recommends not exceeding 50,000 IU daily in normal health.  The AMA approved 25,000 IU doses in 1946 (Adelle Davis, Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit, 1970, p. 61), but in the PDR you will find cautions beginning at 6,000 IU during pregnancy (p. 1736-1737, 1980). Somewhat larger doses are probably very safe during pregnancy, bearing in mind that a 3-ounce serving of liver contains over 50,000 IU of vitamin A, and there is no pregnancy warning on supermarket packages of liver. However: using totally non-toxic carotene supplements, or vegetable juices, provides a vastly larger margin for error.

Now for VITAMIN C and pregnancy.
Because it is water-soluble, "C" is naturally safer than vitamin A at all times, including pregnancy. F. R. Klenner, M.D. gave large doses to over 300 pregnant women and reported virtually no complications in any of the pregnancies or deliveries (Irwin Stone, The Healing Factor, Chapter 28). Indeed, the hospital nurses around Reidsville, N.C. noted that the infants who were healthiest and happiest were the "Vitamin C babies." Abram Hoffer, MD, has similarly reported that he has observed a complete absence of birth defects in babies born to his vitamin-C taking mothers-to-be.

Specifically, Klenner gave:
  (1) 4,000 mg each day during the first trimester (first three months of pregnancy)
  (2) 6,000 mg each day during the second trimester
  (3) 8,000 to 10,000 mg each day during the third trimester
Some women got 15,000 mg daily during the third trimester.

Results? There were NO miscarriages in this entire group of 300 women.

Klenner gave "booster" injections of vitamin C to 80% of the women upon admission to the hospital for childbirth.

The results? Wonderful, indeed:

First, labor was shorter and less painful.  (My children's mother, with her 2:45 and 1:45 labor times, can confirm this.)

Second, stretch marks were seldom to be seen. (I looked, and can vouch for this.)

Third, there were NO postpartum hemorrhages at all. And, there were no toxic manifestations and no cardiac distress (Stone, p. 191).

Among Klenner's patients were the Fultz quadruplets, which at the time were the only quads in the southeastern U.S. to have survived. These were each given 50 mg of "C" daily at birth. This is an important point: if the Mom is taking vitamin C, it also has to be continued for BOTH mother and baby afterwards as well. Failure to do this will result in the well-publicized "rebound effect." Therefore, don't stop a good thing. If "C" is important enough for the woman to take before giving birth, then it is important enough for the baby to get AFTER it has been born.

Klenner had children take their age in vitamin C each day. That is, a gram of "C" per year of age, leveling off at the age of ten at 10 grams (when in good health).

Vitamin C and Breastfeeding
Varying amounts of vitamin C will be found in breast milk. If Mom takes a lot of "C" there will be "C" in the breast milk too. If Mom is healing up and stressed out, there will probably be less "C" available to the baby. And if Mom is sick or eating hospital food, there will almost certainly be a diminished "C" supply in her breast milk. The solution, again, is for BOTH mother and baby to supplement with vitamin C.

We did exactly this with our babies, and were impressed with the results. You can finely powder a tasty chewable "C" tablet and put it on your finger or the baby's tongue. This should be done at every feeding.  Infants do not need a lot of supplemental  "C"... but they DO need it frequently each day for maximum success. "Success" is easy to define: a healthy, happy baby that eats and sleeps well.

Very little vitamin C is found in formula, especially after it is packaged, opened, heated, poured, and oxidized during bottle feeding.

Some Special Problems in Pregnancy and Lactation
Morning Sickness
 1. Try a natural multivitamin, not an artificially colored one. Paint can be nauseating to eat.

 2. Take all supplements on a full stomach.

 3. AVOID FERROUS SULFATE IRON SUPPLEMENTS. Many doctors still prescribe this cookie-tossing form of iron, in too large an amount, and without enough supplemental "C" for absorption. Constipation is almost guaranteed with ferrous sulfate. Use ferrous fumerate, ferrous gluconate, or especially carbonyl iron instead.

 4. Try the homeopathic remedy Natrum Phos 6X for simple morning sickness, and possibly Kali Phos or Natrum Sulph.

 5. You could also try some fresh, tasty juice first thing to get off to a good start in the morning. 

 6. Severe and prolonged vomiting requires medical attention.

Constipation is quite common during gestation.  It is also quite easy to avoid (how-to information posted elsewhere on this website). When pregnant, do not take medication for this or any other condition if you can possibly avoid doing so.

Weight Gain or Loss
Weight gain is natural, necessary, and desirable during pregnancy. A woman does NOT have to "get fat," however! My wife gained 25 pounds to deliver a 10 pound, 2 oz baby girl. A slightly larger weight gain is normal and fine. Weight gain really should be no more than 35 pounds or so; under thirty is better. No fasting, no weight loss attempts during pregnancy or lactation!!

(see "Constipation") and avoid gulping unchewed cheese pizzas. Bear in mind that babies and amniotic fluid are heavy.  Supplemental vitamin C will often help here, because "C" strengthens connective and vascular tissues. Topical application of vitamin E will definitely help.

1. Eat frequent, small meals. In other words, "graze" rather than feast.

2. Chew your food especially well. This simple measure really works.

3. Combine your foods especially well. No need to obsess over this, but from your own experience, you can tell that some foods do not mix well in your stomach.

How to Avoid Most Birth Problems & Baby Problems
 1. A pair of really hip (no pun intended) obstetrical nurses taught me that pain is a function of tension, particularly during childbirth. Try meditation to reduce stress and tension. I also suggest you contact Todd Gastaldo, D.C. for postural information that can help to insure that MDs and CN Midwives don't complicate delivery by closing the birth canal by up to 30%. 

2. Avoid drugs of all kinds, alcohol, cigarettes, and all but the most essential medications.

 3. Make a point to read THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, by La Leche League International, Franklin Park, Illinois. This is a good, good book.

 4. Read MALEpractice, by Robert Mendelssohn, M.D., who says "The only women who cannot breastfeed are those who have had bilateral radical mastectomies...or those who go to pediatricians."

 5. Timing: age-wise, it is best to be pregnant when you are an adult woman (especially since adult men seem to have such trouble getting pregnant). Better not to be an old woman, nor a girl. Risks to mother and child are greatly increased among very young and very old mothers.  However, many of the risks are due to age-related nutritional deficits. A good diet, properly supplemented with folic acid (folate) and appropriate quantities of the other vitamins, will go a very long way to reduce birth defects.

 6. This is a tough order, but try to put your spouse FIRST so your baby will have two parents even after the novelty wears off. Fortunately, almost all authorities indicate that sex during pregnancy does not harm the baby. Common sense is needed, certainly, during the times immediately before and immediately after giving birth.  But make a point do not neglect each other.

 7. Avoid caffeine! It is America's most widely used and abused drug. Caffeine can enter fetal circulation (Williams, p 469). Even two cups of coffee contains up to 250 milligrams of caffeine, a pharmacologic dose. Five 12-oz cans of cola have the same total amount, plus a lot more sugar (or, even worse, aspartame).

 8. Concerned about high blood pressure? Then monitor you blood pressure, yourself, at home. It's easy and, because you avoid "white coat anxiety," it's actually more likely to be accurate than in a physician's office. You therefore reduce your chance of unneeded worry, unnecessary doctor interference, and resultant overprescription. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, consider taking a B-complex supplement before resorting to a drug. I know of a woman who was diagnosed with mild preeclampsia and chose to try a natural approach first. She took a B-complex tablet three to five times daily. She also cooked with the unfortunately-named "Chinese Black Fungus," a delicious mushroom found in many Oriental dishes.  She used about two teaspoons of the dry mushroom, reconstituted in a cup of hot water before cooking) daily. Her blood pressure was normal in a few weeks. There were no further problems with the pregnancy.

9. Take vitamin E (at least 200 and perhaps 400 IU daily). This greatly reduces the chance of miscarriage. This is no myth: by the end of WW II, there were already dozens of medical studies confirming this. The cardiovascular benefits are excellent as well. Contrary to what many dieticians' textbooks say, getting foods containing other fat-soluble vitamins does NOT guarantee adequate vitamin E intake for pregnancy... or at any other time, for that matter. 

10. This is putting the horse after the cart, but conception is more likely if Dad takes supplemental vitamin C, zinc, lecithin and a little Korean ginseng extract (Panax ginseng) each day. Research at the University of Texas has shown that 1,000 mg of supplemental vitamin C daily can actually reverse supposed male infertility. (Medical Tribune, May 11, 1983) Significant improvement in sperm count, motility and viability was evidenced... after FOUR DAYS!  Remember, one in ten couples is infertile. Also remember that, since 9 out of 10 Americans are malnourished (eating significantly less than the US RDA of fruits and vegetables), then 9 out of 10 couples are malnourished.  One might marvel that the human race is as successful as it is!  Still, nutrition is something a couple really needs in order to reliably and healthfully conceive.

Some Final Thoughts on Breastfeeding
Did you know that breast milk actually changes composition to meet the needs of the developing baby? For example, preemies actually get a higher-protein, higher-fat milk than full-term infants (Williams, p. 476) There is apparently a very sensitive and complex relation between the physiology of the mother and baby after birth as well as before. Colostrum immunity is only part of this, but an important part. Nurse your baby from day one! Breast milk changes again during later nursing and during weaning, supplying still more protein and, yes, some iron.

 DO NOT SUPPLEMENT WITH FORMULA! The breast, or the udder for that matter, makes more milk when demanded of it. If you use formula "also," you will start to make still less milk. A spiral will develop, resulting in no more breast milk. I am forever grateful to my sister-in-law for telling my wife to just "put the kid on the breast and suffer with it for a day or two. There will be more milk, don't worry." She was right. I remember the baby virtually drowning in milk after that. It amazed me, truly, to see my children thrive on mere contact with their mother. And I'm talking chubby, robust babies, here! And all on nursing, month after month.

Of course, an even bigger thrill is to see your child born. Gentlemen, try to be there; you couldn't possible be any more squeamish than I am.

Hypochondriacs, avid readers, and students who will be doctors often worry a lot about their own health because they study so much that can go wrong. For you, I offer one last story:

I knew of a teenager who had a terrible home life, alcoholic parents, severe poverty, a bad diet that seemed to consist almost entirely of Coca-Cola and potato chips. She delivered the most beautiful baby I've ever seen.

Except my own, of course. Or yours.

References and Recommended Reading:
Bicknell, F. and Prescott, F. (1953) The Vitamins in Medicine, Third Edition. Milwaukee, WI: Lee Foundation. 

Billings, Evelyn and Westmore, Ann (1983) The Billings Method New York: Ballantine 

Hillemann, H. H.  (1956) "Maternal Malnutrition and Fetal Prenatal Development Malformation" (Address at Oregon State College, November 9)

Hillemann, H. H. (1958) "Maternal Malnutrition and Congenital Deformity" ( Grants Pass Oregon Address, March 17)

Hillemann, H. H. (1961) "The Spectrum of Congenital Defect, Experimental and Clinical" Journal of Applied Nutrition 14:1,2.

Hillemann. H.H.  "Developmental Malformation in Man and Other Animals" (A Bibliography) Lee Foundation, Milwaukee, WI, undated.

Mendelsohn, Robert (1979) Confessions of A Medical Heretic. New York: Warner Books.

Mendelsohn, Robert (1984) How to Raise a Healthy Child In Spite of Your Doctor. Chicago: Contemporary Books. 

Mendelsohn, Robert  (1982) Malepractice: How Doctors Manipulate Women. Chicago: Contemporary Books. 

Shute Wilfrid E. (1978) The Vitamin E Book. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing. 

Shute, Wilfrid E. (1979) Your Child and Vitamin E. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing. 

Smith, L., ed. (1988) Clinical Guide to the Use of Vitamin C: The Clinical Experiences of Frederick R. Klenner, M.D. Tacoma, WA: Life Sciences Press. 

Stone, I. (1972) The Healing Factor. New York: Grosset and Dunlap. 

La Leche League International (1963) The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (revised edition) Franklin Park, Illinois. ISBN 0-912500-00-X Hardcover; ISBN 0-912500-01-8 Softcover. Library of Congress 63-14460.

Williams, S. R. (1989) Nutrition and Diet Therapy, Sixth Edition, (Chapter 15: Nutrition During Lactation and Pregnancy) St. Louis: Mosby

Copyright C 2005 and prior years Andrew W. Saul.

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


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