Still Got Pregnancy Brain and You’re Not Prego?

© Sherry Rothwell

I remember fondly the days before I had children, when I didn’t need a day timer!

I could scroll through the Rolodex of my mind and see an image of my whole week, plus the dates and times that I had plans, and with whom.

Yet, after gestating and birthing my two children, if I did happen to think to write my appointments down, it would be for nothing because I would forget to check my day timer too!

So what causes pregnancy brain?

Ironically after searching the internet in regards to pregnancy brain, I was not able to find any research linking deficiency of EFA’s (essential fatty acids) in co-relation to “Pregnancy Brain”!

If you do a little research of your own, you might find other possible contributing factors:

-like not getting adequate vitamins and minerals

-the amnesia effects of oxytocin or deficency of electrolytes due to dehydration

-decreased circulation (does the placenta gets priority over the brain)

-even elevated progesterone (contributing to fatigue)

While it is logical to attribute the aforementioned possible causes to “pregnancy brain”, among other reasons such as a mother has a lot to keep in mind (and that pregnancy is an altered state of conscious), we cannot ignore EFA’s as being a part of the bigger picture.

Given the widespread fatty acid deficiency in the Standard American Diet (SAD), along with the fact that the brain is built on fat, we must consider EFA’s in the prevention and treatment of “pregnancy brain”.

I propose that (other contributing factors aside): EFA deficient women experience pregnancy brain because of further declining levels of EFA’s (the result of giving up what little reserves they do have to baby) and finally declining into “eternally postpartum brain” due the decline of EFA levels during nursing!

According to Michael A. Schimdt, PhD (NASA researcher), “The fetal brain develops rapidly throughout pregnancy and its demand for long chain fatty acids like arachidonic acid (AA) and DHA can only be met by the mother. To achieve adequate levels for brain development, the baby essentially robs the mother of these fatty acids by taking them from the placental blood.”

Because the trend is to reduce or avoid fat altogether, and because the majority of the population consumes adulterated vegetable fats and homogenized animal fats, we are all most likely deficient in beneficial natural fats (as found in cold water fish, seeds, nuts and compassionately raised animals foods such as butter and full fat non homogenized milk etc).

Given that 60% of the brain is composed of fat, we cannot ignore the implications of declining EFA status in women of childbearing years.

Even those who are not deficient per say may very likely not have optimal EFA levels.

How does such increased demand during pregnancy and nursing impact the woman who is already deficient before becoming pregnant?

Increasing symptoms of EFA deficiency include dry hair, skin and nails, hormone imbalance, depression, mood swings, impatience, memory decline etc.

If a woman was already experiencing these symptoms preconception, can you imagine how her EFA levels would be impacted by gestating and nursing a baby or even many babies?

Baby gets those fats before you do!

Baby’s brain, vision and nerve integrity are built with EFA’s!

“Large scale hydrogenation of vegetable oils reduces omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and replaces them with trans fatty acids that interfere with omega-3 and omega-6 metabolism, inducing significant partial deficiencies of essential fatty acids.” Dr. Ralph Holman

What are you building your brain with?

Unnatural, processed and refined fats and oils (the ones that our bodies haven’t yet evolved to recognize and utilize)?

or

Essential and natural fats as nature intended (ones that we have evolved to be able to assimilate and utilize)?

Processed oils are typically stripped of essential nutrients, bleached and finally deodorized for the purpose of shelf stability, and to mask rancidity.

It sounds less like nutrition, and more like work for the liver, doesn’t it?

Could you be blocking your own brain fats?

Trans fatty acids impair our ability to synthesize the critical neural fatty acid, DHA.

If your kitchen contains vegetable shortening, margarine (whether it be non-hydrogenated or even Earth Balance), canola oil and other refined, bleached and deodorized oils or if you “eat out” a lot, then you may be primarily building your brain and your myelin sheaths (insulate nerve fibers) with artificial fats.

Don’t forget that the oils in all processed foods are in some way artificial or refined, so stick to food that is real if you want to think clearly! Hmm….sludgy, mushy myelin sheaths and cell membranes or integral, smooth optimally functioning ones?

What can a mother do to get her brain back?

Throw out all refined oils (even expeller or cold pressed canola oil which is genetically modified and not meant to be for human consumption) and replace it with cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Get rid of the margarine and other refined “spreadable when cold” artificial butters and replace them with the real thing (yes quality butter is nutritious) plus unrefined coconut oil, ghee and avocado. Add flax and hemp to the fridge to make your own salad dressings and oh, I almost forgot, make your own mayo from the quality fats such as olive or coconut oil! Add nuts and seeds to the freezer, plus eat cold water fresh fish up to 3 times per week and voila and you will have a kitchen full of healthy fats to choose from.

Supplemental Sources of Good Fat

If you already have deficiency symptoms, or for whatever reason cannot get adequate fats from your diet, then use fish oil (preformed DHA and EPA) or flax oil for Omega-3 fatty acids, evening primrose or borage oil for Omega-6 fatty acids or hemp oil for Omega 3, 6 and 9.

Adequately determine which fatty acid profile best suits your individual needs before supplementing by doing your own thorough research or investing in the services of a holistic nutritionist or naturopathic doctor.

References:

Brain Building Nutrition- Michael A. Schmidt

http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/conola.html

Go to my website www.WholeFoodsFamily.com to get your FREE 4 Part Video e-course “First Steps to Becoming a Whole Foods Family!” Learn how to upgrade the QUALITY of the foods you already eat and love, so that you can IMPROVE your diet WITHOUT changing it!

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Vit.K- Are Babies born Deficient? or Do Modern Life and Current Birthing Practices Create the very Problem that Vit.K supplementation is supposed to Solve?

So the question has been asked at Birth Without Fear: Vit.K…yes? no? why?
http://www.facebook.com/#!/birthwithoutfear

Well, I was about to give my two sense, when I remembered that I wrote about this at length in response to a post at Homebirth: A Midwife Mutiny written by Lisa Barrett (which is a fantastic blog by the way and I recommend that you read her whole article and thread on this topic!)
http://www.homebirth.net.au/2008/03/vitamin-k.html

Lisa writes,

“This brings us to the action of the third stage in all of this. If the placenta isn’t detached from the baby until after it has birthed then there is an equalisation of the blood passing to and from the placenta: this creates just the right amount of transfer of all the cells required. There is a higher haematocrit which essentially makes the blood thicker and stickier. Isn’t this the natural way to prevent bleeding in the newborn until vit K can be made by the gut flora and what is in breast milk can be absorbed by the baby. This is a good reason not to interfere with the third stage. Even cutting the cord when it doesn’t seem to be pulsing isn’t a guarantee that the natural process has taken place, and I believe that the potential for complications due to that can cause bleeding issues for the mother if cut before placenta is out.”

While I don`t profess to know the ultimate truth here or have the final answer on this subject, I sure do have a lot of questions.

First of all, I think that Lisa`s point is a poignant one and probably  the most important consideration here.

As well, would it not be possible that while we are also “creating” this “deficiency” of adequate Vit.K (by cutting the cord too soon and not enabling baby to have “thicker and stickier blood”), but we might also want to ask, “how much Vit. K is stored in that 1/3 or more missing blood supply“ when the cord is cut before it stops pulsating (as is done in hospitals and even with some homebirth midwives….gasp!)?

Could synthetic Vit.K whether injected or given orally be essentially like a “drug” only treating the symptom of mismanaged birth? If that is the case, then the root cause of vitamin K deficiency at birth, is not being addressed-that of interrupting normal third stage physiology.

It is now culturally acceptable in most places to use synthetic vitamins, but are we really just taking part in a huge experiment with our bodies and with our babies? Just today an article was published that showed that women supplementing with Calcium were at greater risk of heart attacks and that they aren`t effectively increasing their bone density either! 
http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/100804/health/health_disease_heart_calcium

Have we forgotten that vitamins and minerals work synergistically, and are (provided in nature with many co-nutrients), many of which haven’t even been discovered? How arrogant can we be to assume that we have this whole vitamin thing figured out?….I mean, really, we didn`t even know that vitamins exsisted until 1911 and now we are injecting them into our babies’ bloodstream? Is it not the way of vitamins and minerals to enter the body via food and first through the digestive tract before they hit the portal vein to enter the blood stream? Eating Vit.K in it’s natural form is one thing and then synthesizing it (from who knows what kind of raw materials) and then injecting it via the skin is another.  

And then there is the question of the modern diet and it’s deficiencies.

How does the mother’s Vit.K status affect the newborn’s status at birth? Is baby’s Vit. K status limited, because mother has less than optimal levels herself?

Does the average pregnant woman really eat a lot of greens, just because she is told they are good for her?

As well, many of us have imbalanced and inadequate beneficial intestinal micro flora… we can make our own Vit.K, but are we doing this optimally when we have more “bad” bacteria in our guts, than good bacteria?

And we pass on either our balanced or imbalanced microflora to baby….does this impact the speed at which baby starts producing adequate Vit.K?

So my long drawn out point is, why not attend to our digestive health and microflora, learn how to add greens to our diet in way that tastes good and drink infusions of Alfalfa or other vitamin K rich nutritive herbs (at the very least during the last month of our pregnancies) along with choosing a place of birth and care provider who we can trust to leave our baby’s cord intact at least for the first hour after birth.

In my mind at least, this is a logical, preventative and proactive approach.

As well, according to the research that I have been doing in regards to delayed cord cutting, it seems possible that immediate cord cutting itself may contribute the to heamorrhage that Vit.k is supposed to protect our baby’s from. So instead of worrying about using Vit.K or not, we should be looking at other contributing factors as to why a baby might bleed, such as trauma at birth, as well practices such as immediate cord cutting, should we not?

Here is another useful reference:

Judith Mercer writes:
“Infants in the delayed cord clamping group were found to have fewer incidences of any level of intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) defined by the reports of cranial ultrasounds routinely ordered during the first 28 days in the NICU. The incidence of IVH was equally divided between the stratified groups (ICC 7/7, DCC 2/2) although the majority occurred in infants less than 30 weeks gestation. One infant in the DCC group was a protocol violation, meaning that the cord was clamped prior to 30 seconds in violation of the study protocol. In addition, infants in the DCC group were less likely to have blood culture-proven (confirmed) sepsis during the NICU stay.
http://www.scienceandsensibility.org/?tag=umbilical-cord-clamping

Expanding our thinking to have a systems view of the question itself, allows us to have a much broader perspective. When we look at all the possible factors involved, we just might find that the whole problem does not really even exist in the natural course of things, except that we make it so.

Leaving Well Alone- A Natural Approach to the Third Stage of Labour by Dr. Sarah Buckley

“The medical approach to pregnancy and birth has become so ingrained in our culture, that we have forgotten the way of birth of our ancestors: a way that has ensured our survival as a species for millennia. In the rush to supposedly protect mothers and babies from misfortune and death, modern western obstetrics has neglected to pay its dues to the Goddess, to Mother Nature, whose complex and elegant systems of birth are interfered with on every level by this new approach, even as we admit our inability to understand or control these elemental forces.”

http://www.sarahjbuckley.com/articles/leaving-well-alone.htm

Ayurvedic SELF MASSAGE for Mothers

“Between a mother’s need to NOT undertake an exercise program, and instead needing extra rest and minimal household responsibilities, and yet with need for support to move so many things around on all levels of our maternal body systems, this very specialized massage is highly valued for support after childbirth. This helps with everything from hormones to tissue rejuvenation to facilitating function of all body channels. It helps with ample as well as more comfortable lactation, with emotional balance,immune strength, and much more.”

http://www.sacredwindow.com/node/38

Tonic Ayurvedic Care for Mother and Baby

Enjoy these important “Secrets” for the first 1½ – 3 Months after childbirth. Share this at baby showers and blessing ways!

Overview
After the delivery of a baby, the digestive power is often diminished; a new mother’s digestive system is very delicate. Yet her needs are great. Choice of foods and how well a mother digests her food has a great deal to do with the quality of her milk, avoiding depression and colic, and the quality of mom’s rejuvenation, strength, comfort, and resulting spontaneous and natural expression of mothering. The following suggestions are time tested, from the ancient system of natural health care called Ayurveda, and found common to many cultures around the world.

http://www.sacredwindow.com/Foods2FavorFoods2Avoid

Natural Birthing Class Online