Pregnancy and Nutrition in Hard Times, E.C. in Alabama

As a mother of a toddler with one on the way, and a former medical student and “birth junkie,” I’m very interested in the plight of the pregnant woman and newborn child in Third World nations (i.e. women with no access to higher-level medical attention) and in TEOTWAWKI scenarios.  Pregnancy is a vulnerable time in a woman’s life, and her nutrition is paramount. Of course, quitting any noxious habits, like smoking, drinking, and drugs of addiction, is crucial. Beyond that, good nutrition is the best prenatal care mother and child can get. The modern pharmaceutical industry would have you believe that prenatal vitamins negate the need for good nutrition in pregnancy, but this is not true, especially when you consider that mother and child need to be in the best possible nutritional status for a non-medical childbirth and for breastfeeding in a TEOTWAWKI scenario. Both for your own family and for a supply for charity, it’s good to consider pregnancy nutrition when planning food storage. Nutrition is the most important aspect of a healthy pregnancy and is the easiest to plan for ahead of time.

The pregnant woman needs plenty of high-quality proteins, essential fatty acids, folic acid, calcium- and iron-rich foods, and vegetables and fruits both for vitamins and for fiber (to prevent constipation). She also needs adequate salt and pure water for hydration – no high-blood-pressure diet here!

FOLIC ACID: Early in pregnancy, the baby needs about 800mcg of folic acid a day (about twice the pre-pregnancy requirement). Prenatal vitamins have their place, but if these are not available (or not well-tolerated, in the case of severe constipation or morning sickness), there are plenty of natural food sources. If she can tolerate blackeyed peas or crowder peas, a cup of these a day plus some fortified cereal and/or orange juice can provide adequate folic acid as well as protein, iron, vitamin C and fiber – it isn’t a varied diet, but this doesn’t matter as much in the first trimester. She needs to eat well, even if she has morning sickness. Morning sickness will be less severe if she can drink plenty of water, perhaps with some drink mix or tea in it, eat some bland carbohydrates first thing in the morning, and eat plenty of lean protein and fresh vegetables. Constipation can contribute to morning sickness and should be avoided by eating fiber and drinking water. Milk thistle may also help to decrease nausea, as well as candied ginger or ginger root tea (easily stored items). Hard, sour candy in small amounts may help also.

CALCIUM AND IRON: The pregnant prepper, beginning in the second trimester, should consider eating and/or drinking several servings of dairy – powdered milk, freeze-dried or canned cheeses, and powdered sour cream or buttermilk are good storage food sources. Other calcium-rich foods for storage include salmon and sardines (with the bones, which are easily mashed into the fish before consumption), freeze-dried broccoli, dried figs and apricots.  Fresh kale is another source that is easy to grow quickly. For iron, of course, red meats, poultry and fish are good sources of heme iron, which is easily taken up in the body and made into hemoglobin. Aside from meats, good sources include broccoli, blackstrap molasses, beans, and lentils. Iron is more easily absorbed when foods high in vitamin C are eaten at the same time – think citrus fruits or broccoli, tomatoes, melon, berries, or potatoes (surprisingly good for you, despite what the Atkins diet would have you believe). Wild sources of vitamin C are dandelion greens and berries, including mulberries (though they should be cooked first due to toxins). Another good source of vitamin C is sprouted beans or seeds. Soaked, sprouted beans and grains can be eaten like a salad topping or ground up to make a kind of meal which can be baked into “Elijah bread.”

PROTEIN: Protein is very important, not only for the nutritional needs of the baby but for maintaining the expanded blood volume of the mother. The Brewer diet for the prevention of preeclampsia recommends over 70 grams of protein a day (more important in the second and third trimesters). This should not be hard for the pregnant prepper to accomplish, as relatively inexpensive beans and peas are an excellent source of protein. However, they are an incomplete source of amino acids and must be supplemented with grain products such as wheat, rice, or corn. Fresh or freeze-dried meats, fish, eggs, milk, and dairy products are excellent sources of complete proteins. Eggs contain a number of other important nutrients and are inexpensive – or you may buy a couple of chickens and have them fresh for literally the grass and bugs in your yard, plus a scant amount of feed. Nuts and pumpkin seeds are a good choice as well.

FATTY ACIDS: Essential fatty acids (including omega-3’s) necessary for the baby and mother are easily acquired from vegetable oils, which of course are stored and rotated yearly. Olive, canola, and corn oils are all good sources. Other good sources of fatty acids are fish and flax seeds (which need to be ground to release their inner nutrients). [Unsaturated fats like these are also good for the nursing mother, as they prevent plugged milk ducts and mastitis.]

CRAVINGS: Cravings often indicate a nutritional need that isn’t being met. When this is a craving for cultured dairy, pickles, kimchi, or sauerkraut, indulge if possible – these foods contain probiotic bacteria that are good for the immune system. When it is a craving for something non-edible, however, like dirt, clay, baking soda or ice, this is called “pica” and means that the woman is anemic. Do not eat or encourage a pregnant woman to eat inedible items but instead provide and encourage more iron-rich foods and sources of vitamin C.  See if the diet includes any iron-binding foods, like beet greens, chard, coffee, or sweet potatoes, and either avoid those foods or eat them several hours apart from iron-rich meals. Fruit, dairy and vegetable cravings are normal and may indicate a nutritional need which the food itself will provide; try to accommodate such cravings. (Popular examples include watermelon and ice cream.)

FOODS TO AVOID: Meats to avoid: liver products (extremely high in vitamin A, which is dangerous to the baby), raw shellfish, undercooked meats, and fish that are known to contain high mercury levels – mackerel, kingfish, and albacore tuna (light tuna is fine).  It’s not likely that you’ll be running out to the deli post-SHTF, but deli meats and soft cheeses like Brie are also potentially dangerous to the baby (Listeriosis) and should be cooked to steaming hot before eating. Unlikely but good to keep in mind in case you do have these items on hand. Peanuts should also be eaten sparingly because of the potential for toxins. Moderate consumption of soda, which can leach calcium from the bones, and sugar or honey, which can encourage yeast infections and gestational diabetes. When eating sugar, try to incorporate it into a nutrient-rich meal, such as a milk-based fruit smoothie.

Finally, let’s consider why even a confirmed bachelor needs to know these things about pregnancy and nutrition.  Knowledge is power in pregnancy, as well as in our survival preparations, and you may find yourself a powerful source of information (and maybe a charitable donor of food) for a pregnant woman. Our Lord says that what we do unto the least of these we’ve done to Him, and an unborn child is certainly the least of these.