There’s a common misconception that a pregnancy is either “natural” or “not natural.” But the state of being pregnant—no matter what your route of conception or your choices during pregnancy—is inherently natural. As for what you include, exclude, or experiment with along the way, you can certainly choose a more natural-leaning pregnancy. The important thing to know is that there’s a spectrum. Having a reasonable set of choices around nutrition and lifestyle fortifies both you and baby. And just because you may choose to use complementary approaches, such as Chinese medicine, you don’t necessarily have to abandon more traditional Western support.
Natural means “from nature,” right? Well, that definition includes your nature—what’s right for you during your unique pregnancy. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s the best choice, or the best choice for you. For instance, just as you might seek local, organic food choices, you should also be cognizant of not taking Chinese herbs that have been grown with pesticides. Even traditional remedies need to adapt to our modern age.
Less is always more
In the context of pregnancy, natural includes minimizing exposure to substances that are known to harm babies (including foods that breed Listeria like deli meats and unpasteurized dairy, or fish high in mercury) and substituting a mocktail for a margarita. Babies are unreliably sensitive to certain exposures, so in pregnancy, less is always more.
Overall, I advocate being informed about the hierarchy of choices available to approach your symptoms and choose your routes from there. Morning sickness (a misnomer for a common affliction that can strike at any time) is a good working example of this approach. You can often manage a mild to medium case of nausea and vomiting by preemptively eating protein and staying hydrated. You might also choose to involve other classic remedies such as acupuncture and ginger tea. These approaches will help 90 percent of women get through morning sickness. But if you’re in the other category of intense nausea and vomiting that persists past the first trimester, you may need more— advanced interventions like intravenous fluid for electrolyte replacement, vitamin B1 supplementation, conventional anti-nausea medication, and even psychological support to develop strategies for dealing with the discomfort (Let’s face it, an inability to comfortably function in your daily life is bound to make any woman feel unstable.)
Pregnancy is not a disease, and you are typically seeking options to optimize your otherwise healthy baby, not necessarily treat them. Babies are resilient, and the decisions you muddle through now will surely just be practice for all of the many decisions and indecisions to come as a parent. So, approach them with gusto knowing that instinct, combined with a moderate amount of knowledge, is a reliable recipe for guiding your pregnancy choices.
It’s never about being perfect. It’s about being well-versed and making assessments from that place. You’re not cultivating a baby that will be isolated in utero forever. There will eventually be unavoidable pollutants—take air for example. So, it would be an exercise in futility to try to procure a purely “natural” pregnancy, but you can introduce choices in pregnancy that prepare your baby to thrive in his or her actual life.