Holistic Mama Guide Part 1: Pregnancy & Prep

Holistic Mama Guide Part 1: Pregnancy and Prep | janny: organically.

Fortunately, many women are taking their pregnancy as opportunity to re-evaluate their toxin exposure to ensure the health of their baby. Others may take it a step (or five) further and review options for a holistic pregnancy and birth. While I would have categorized myself in the latter category, there were a few tricks and approaches I was unaware of and wished I’d known years ago!

In addition to these posts, I'd recommend purchasing the book So You're Going to Have a Baby which includes many of these topics and more with evidence based research as well.

A significant and growing body of research shows that pregnant women’s exposure to chemicals—particularly endocrine-disrupting compounds—can increase their children’s risk for breast and other cancers later in life. During fetal development, hormones orchestrate the development of the reproductive and endocrine systems. These systems include breast tissue structure, hormone metabolism and other important factors in breast development.

The declining age of puberty may be due to exposures to endocrine-disrupting compounds such as BPA and phthalates before puberty, when the reproductive system, including breast tissue, is extremely sensitive to low levels of estrogens. The younger girls are when they enter puberty, the greater their risk of breast cancer later in life.
— https://www.bcpp.org/resource/low-dose-effects-and-timing-of-exposures/

Obviously, I’m not a doctor, so take proper precautions, do additional research and discuss findings with a licensed medical provider willing to work with your wishes to ensure the your safety and that of your baby during pregnancy and delivery.


Diet is crucial during pregnancy. Women should be consuming nutrient dense foods and avoiding processed foods, refined sugar, trans fatty acids, caffeine, alcohol, “junk” food, white flour and fried foods.

Here are a few sources for recommended foods to eat during pregnancy:

Skincare and Beauty Products

As our largest organ, our skin defends the body against many dangers, but also absorbs tiny molecules that can pass right over into the placenta, including ingredients within skincare and beauty products. When those products contain endocrine disrupting, skin irritating, carcinogenic and/or other contraindicated ingredients, bits of those toxins are seeping into your blood stream (and that of your little one) and/or lungs over time.

Studies are showing "pregnant women’s exposure to chemicals—particularly endocrine-disrupting compounds—can increase their children’s risk for breast and other cancers later in life."

The goal is try to use the safest products and limit exposure to these ingredients where we have control. My Skincare and Beauty recommendations page has several nontoxic or far-less-toxic alternatives to popular products and brands.

Holistic Mama Guide Part 1: Pregnancy & Prep | janny: organically.

Essential Oil Use

Some products and remedies call for essential oil use. In Robert Tisserand’s Essential Oil Safety book, he states Essential oil constituents in general are likely to cross the placenta efficiently because of their favorable lipophilicity and low molecular weight. This does not indicate a hazard per se which, for any substance is determined by plasma concentration and toxicity.”

According to Tisserand, these essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy:

  • Wormwood

  • Rue

  • Oak Moss

  • Lavandula Stoechas

  • Camphor

  • Parsley Seed

  • Sage

  • Hyssop

  • Clary Sage

  • Marjoram

  • It is also wise to avoid internal or undiluted application of essential oils throughout pregnancy

Essential oils that appear to be safe include:

  • Cardamom

  • German and Roman Chamomile

  • Frankincense

  • Geranium

  • Ginger

  • Neroli

  • Patchouli

  • Petigrain

  • Rosewood

  • Rose

  • Sandalwood

  • Read more here

Midwives and Doulas

Here are descriptions of their roles and why you might want them during your pregnancy and birth:

  • Midwife

    • Midwives are the traditional care providers for mothers and infants. They are trained professionals with expertise and skills in supporting women to maintain healthy pregnancies and have optimal birth and recoveries during the postpartum period.

    • Midwives provide women with individualized care uniquely suited to their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs. Midwifery is a woman-centered empowering model of maternity care that is utilized in all countries of the world with the best maternal and infant outcomes such as The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Canada

    • I found midwives to be more in-tune with my body and gave undivided attention at each appointment without feeling rushed. Midwives are typically present during a large portion of the labor (as opposed to arriving when the baby is crowning) and allows you to push when ready (as opposed to waiting for the doctor to arrive)

    • Here are some great Midwife interview questions

  • Doula

    • A labor and delivery helpmate who has generally attended hundreds of births and acts as an advocate for you, your baby and your preferences. Doula’s help with natural labor techniques and can interpret medical jargon and help suggest alternatives, if possible. Since birth can be unpredictable, chances are, something you’re unfamiliar with will arise and they can help take worry and research off your plate.

    • I wanted my husband’s involvement with the labor and birth to be a positive one. I didn’t want to be angry at him for anything, so I’d rather have a paid professional taking care of any needs that may arise. As you may know, I ended up having a c-section, but my doula’s presence was invaluable during the labor and decision process. She also stayed with me in the OR while my husband stayed with our daughter after birth.

    • Here's a great Doula hiring guide with interview questions

I recommend building your Birth Plan before selecting your OB, Midwife and/or Doula to ensure they are willing to work with your wishes, which will be covered in Part 2 of the Guide. 

Home birth

Many holistic-minded mamas have an at-home birth, provided they are not a high-risk pregnancy and/or a c-section is not required. People choose home births for more control over their environment and decisions, avoiding unnecessary medical intervention while trusting in birth as a natural, safe process and more.

At-home birth can come with its own risks too, so please research and discuss all these options thoroughly. This article gives a good overview of what to expect from a home birth.

Pediatrician and Chiropractor

The pediatrician should be chosen prior to birth since they generally arrive the day of or the day after birth to evaluate the baby. From a holistic perspective, parents generally want wellness-driven physicians over those who may be pharmaceutically-driven. An interview should take place during your pregnancy to evaluate the doctors. Always remember, even after you choose, the doctor works for you; you hire them and you can fire them.

Additionally, many women seek out a chiropractor certified for pediatric and prenatal care. Webster certified chiropractors are able to work with pregnant moms and those registered with ICPA are certified for pediatric care. 

Morning Sickness

One of the most convincing theories is magnesium deficiency is responsible for morning sickness. Magnesium has become more and more depleted over time from our current soil and water supply while also being removed by some water filters, such as reverse osmosis.

Pregnancy hormones exasperate this problem because they inhibit magnesium absorption. So the little magnesium pregnant women get may  have difficulty being used properly. Since magnesium balances out cortisol, a magnesium deficiency results in an imbalance of cortisol and low blood sugar which causes morning sickness symptoms. Discuss these approaches with your doctor:

  • Managing magnesium intake

  • Manage magnesium absorption with vitamins

    • While D3 supplements help, nothing is better than actual sunshine

    • Additional vitamins which support magnesium absorption are Vitamin B1, B6, B12 and Vitamin E but hopefully your prenatal vitamin will have most or all of these in non-synthetic form (see below)

Prenatal Vitamins

The prenatals I recommend include methyl-b vitamins (active forms), so it may help with healthy methylation in those of us who need it. Try to avoid as many synthetic vitamins as possible, such as folic acid, for example. Look instead for Folate or Methylfolate or 5MTHF.

The Glucose Test

In the United States, women are tested for gestational diabetes by consuming a high-sugar drink called Glucola. This drink contains ingredients not well studied and many of which are banned in other countries, such as food dyes, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), dextrose from GMO corn, citric acid and more. 

While screening for gestational diabetes may be very important, your doctor or midwife may very well allow you to consume an alternative to Glucola or opt for blood sugar monitoring/HA1C instead. 

There are plenty of alternatives, and below are just a few suggestions to start the conversation with your doctor/midwife. Obviously the grams could vary depending on the type/brand, etc. Depending on the type of test, you may need to ingest 50 or 100 grams of sugar. 

  • Cup of milk (12g)

  • Slice of bread (15g)

  • Banana (20g)

  • 6 oz grape juice (30g)

  • 16 oz orange juice (40g)

  • 8 oz apple juice (40g)

Conditions Associated with Heightened Miscarriage Risk

There can be hundreds of reasons contributing to miscarriage risk, however, I want to highlight of few of them. They can be but not limited to:

These are conditions that should be treated with the help of a specialist familiar with them. While some cannot be diagnosed with a blood test, an at-home kit can give you a wealth of information including MTHFR results. Read more about this here.

The Flu Shot

The TDaP Shot

  • Why it’s given: The CDC recommends diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccination (DTaP for those younger than 7 years of age, and Tdap or Td for those 7 years or older) across the lifespan. Pregnant women should receive a single dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks gestation. Tdap is recommended only in the immediate postpartum period before discharge from the hospital or birthing center for new mothers who have never received Tdap before or whose vaccination status is unknown.

  • Questioning the reasoning: The push for the Tdap/DTaP vaccine is primarily focused on protection from Pertussis, aka Whooping Cough. While this is a serious concern, the CDC's own Pertussis Surveillance report shows the highest number of Pertussis cases occur in those who receive the most doses. The unvaccinated account for 9% of the total cases.

  • The FDA admitted in 2019 that they had no records proving the safety of the Tdap shot in pregnant women after a Freedom of Information Act was filed.

Furthermore, there are no safety studies for pregnant women. A clinical trial to "measure the influence of an adult pertussis booster in pregnant women, on the titer and duration of maternal antibodies in their infant" has been in the works and was set to complete in 2014. As we draw near to 2017, that data has still yet to be released.

  • Adacel Insert: Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with Adacel vaccine. It is also not known whether Adacel vaccine can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman or can affect reproduction capacity. Adacel vaccine should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed

  • BOOSTRIX Insert: “There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Because animal reproduction studies are not always predictive of human response, BOOSTRIX should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed.”

Concerns about the product:

Products for baby

A collection of favorite items from me and a few other holistic mamas!

Diapering: Cloth diapering is a safer approach to your baby's delicate body and system, however, several mamas will admit using cloth diapers at home and disposables when out of the house might be the best bet. But find what works for you!

Bath time: Once baby is ready for bathing (more on this in part 2), here are some favorite items:

Zoe Organics has got you covered for most all other topical ointments and aids. I've tried a lot a brands, but their products are pure and clean and cover it all. The first two are must haves and then the others are good to know about in case:

  • Dr Shannon's Skin Balm: Use as a daily moisturizer, boo-boo aid, diaper balm, eczema and scars. We go through a full size container every 4 months (with a 3.5 year old) and I always have the travel size on me

  • Breathe Balm: Always handy for coughs that arise after 3 months of age. Comes in stick form to easily rub on the chest, neck and soles of the feet

Bottles: While many women will choose to breast feed exclusively, there may be times when a bottle feed with pumped milk or supplementing with formula is necessary. Avoiding plastic bottles and nipples is highly recommended due to the leaching of toxic chemicals (such as BPA and BPS). 

Baby Carriers: Ergo 360 and Solly Baby Wrap

Swaddling: Aiden and Anais Organic Cotton Swaddles

Mattress and Sheets: Conventional mattress are treated with dangerous hormone disrupting flame retardants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) which do not have to be disclosed to the consumer. Spring mattresses are even linked to high Electromagnetic Frequency (EMF) exposure. Babies have extremely delicate systems, so sleeping on a mattress that off-gasses toxic chemicals like this can be incredibly detrimental to their health.

Wool is a great option as it is a natural flame retardant and resistant to mold and bacteria. Other options are organic, chemical free cotton and latex. Note, Latex is a common allergy or irritant and other non-chemically treated mattresses are water-resistant (such as wool) and if there is a big leak, can absorb liquid and potentially cause microbial growth over time. 

Car Seat:

Clothing: As with the mattresses, most clothes are chemically treated (especially pajamas) and should be washed several times before wearing to help remove as much as possible. Other options are buying used clothes, because they have already been through the machine many times, or purchasing clothing with materials not treated with chemicals, like bamboo or organic cotton with a certification from The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), The Organic Trade Association (OTA) or the USDA National Organic Program.  

A few clothing brands to be cautious of include: Hannah Anderson, since only half of the clothes are truly organic, you have to read carefully, Carter's, OshKosh B'Gosh, Giggle, Yala, and H&M are brands are sourcing from manufacturers whose organic claims cannot be verified, use genetically modified material and/or treat the clothing with toxic chemicals and dyes. 

Toys: As you know, most items will end up right the mouth, so the best bet is to not only avoid plastic (with BPA and/or BPS), but seek out items that do not use toxic-paint and are Lead, PVC, Pthalate, Formaldehyde, etc. - free. This is hard to do because most items don't coming with a warning for all of these ingredients. Search for "Non-Toxic" toys and read what the brand's philosophy is on the product. Here are a few shops/brands that offer great options:

Products for Mama

Birthing Ball and/or Peanut Ball for labor

Dear Kate Leak Resistant Panties: Toward the final days of pregnancy, you may experience some incontinence, but more over, postpartum bleeding is inevitable, and these come in handy the months following birth. You can read my full pregnancy and postpartum experience with them here. The best deals are the "Bunch of 5 and 7" discounts. My favorite is the Ada Hipster Full Lining, particularly for pregnancy and postpartum. Then, you can use them later as period panties! 

Dairy Fairy All-in-One Nursing and Hands-free Pumping Bra: The Arden is my favorite as it is wireless, has simultaneous nursing and pumping capability, detachable straps for crisscross support, adjustable cross-over panels to accommodate fluctuating breast size (and can be used as a 'last breast used' reminder) and 4 inches of hook for adjustability.  Save 15% with code: JannyOrganically

Fawn Design Diaper Bag: My favorite of all the bags I tried. It's beautiful, functional with tons of pockets, all designed with high quality faux leather. You can read my full review here.

Read on to Part 2 of this post about developing the Birth Plan. I recommend doing this during the beginning of pregnancy before you select a physician, midwife, doula and/or hospital. 

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This post is not advising you to any medical action but rather promotes the reader to educate themselves and to make decisions with a licensed medical professional.

*This post contains affiliate links.