Throughout pregnancy, appetite levels can fluctuate greatly – anywhere from rejection of even the thought of food, to the voracious demands of a rapidly growing baby. This makes the issues of dietary balance and self-discipline in eating very important areas.
I am aware that there is much popular advice which recommends, rather than 3 big meals a day, that pregnant women should eat 5 - 6 light meals during the day. I consider such feeding habits a recipe (!) for disaster. Such advice is usually given as a way to lessen nausea and so-called morning sickness. However, although this approach can work to some degree by “lessening the load on the stomach”, it is not really going to help solve the cause of nausea (which is what is really needed for the mother), nor does it address strengthening the stomach function for properly efficient digestion (which is what is really needed for the baby). Worst of all, it can initiate (or reinforce a previous) habitual snacking mentality – with its attendant problems
If, prior to pregnancy, you had the habit of snacking during a busy day and then eating one big meal at night, continuing such a lifestyle when the additional hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy start messing about with your appetite will definitely lead you into trouble. Snacking runs the very real risk of indigestion, constipation, excessive weight gain, nutritional deficiencies, unstable energy levels and poor sleep, all of which will adversely affect your baby. Snacking will also exacerbate any previous tendencies towards high blood sugar levels (diabetes) – something which must be especially well-managed during pregnancy. More about the relationship of diabetes to pregnancy is discussed earlier in the section called “Illness During Pregnancy”, page 201.
Some may argue that snacking is not so bad if one is eating “quality” foods or “healthy” foods. But my opinion, and that of the yogic approach to eating, is that the stomach should have times of normal, full-meal work, as well as times in between of emptiness, or rest from digestive work. In truth, it is actually impossible to “snack well”. If by “quality food” one means having on hand lots of “healthy foods” like dried fruit; raw fruit; mixed nuts; reheated soups, grains and pulses; or frequent wholemeal salad sandwiches; a mixture of such ingredients up to 6 times a day would be too heavy on the digestion. What is really required is a range of light, tasty, well-cooked meals taken at times appropriate to one’s energy levels and lifestyle activities – that is a decent breakfast, a main midday lunch and a light evening
dinner. This whole area is further addressed in Chapter 8 – “Food and Diet”.
Some amount of extra body fat during preg-nancy is perfectly natural and needed to provide energy stores for labour and breastfeeding. However, too much weight can cause poor circulation, extra strain on the body, reduced fitness and varicose veins, many of which can contribute to labour and birthing difficulties and may even lead to the end result of a caesarean. In many women, a reliance on snacking to get them through times of nausea can contribute greatly to these conditions.
In addition to advice in a previous section on using the stomach wash (Kunjal Kriya) to avoid morning sickness, a light, easily digestible diet of fresh vegetables and grains, with the main meal eaten in the middle of the day is advised. Eating the largest and heaviest meal at the end of the day, not long before bed will surely accentuate the nausea the following morning.
In prevention and management of nausea, you should avoid eating, being around, or having to make for others, all kinds of greasy or heavy foods. Reduce acidic fruits such as oranges and tomatoes. Leave alone any foods that are less than absolutely fresh. Stale foods of any kind seem to have a more repulsive smell than fresh foods of the same kind. If cooking for the family, be kind to yourself, and choose simple meals that won’t have you standing in the kitchen for hours.
During the 2nd trimester nausea should settle down. This makes it easier to focus on food and eating well. In the last few months of pregnancy, the baby is laying down body fat. It is normal at this time for the greatest weight gain to occur in both mother and baby. There is usually a thickening of the buttocks and thighs, as well as increased breast size in preparation for breastfeeding. Don't resist these changes by cutting back on food intake. If a well balanced diet has already been established, then weight gain at this time will be well within the norm, and for most women the extra kilos will drop away in the early months, especially if you breastfeed.
Posture While Eating
In the last few months some women begin to experience indigestion and heartburn. Although this can be exacerbated by certain foods, it is often caused by the pressure of the baby on the digestive system. This can easily be rectified by a change of posture whilst eating.