Proper nutrition is important to prepare for childbirth, to have a healthy delivery, to help the body heal and recover from childbirth, and to replenish the nutrients depleted from pregnancy. Here are some nutritional ideas to assistant in the process of bringing a new life into the world and to take care in this time.
Many different cultures have traditional dishes to support and nourish during and after gestation and childbirth. A family friend shared with me the benefits of Miyeok-guk, a Korean seaweed soup. It is a traditional postpartum dish that is a part of many East Asian cultures, and even my mother drank it too after giving birth to me and my brother. Seaweed soup is rich in protein to aid in body recovery, fiber to prevent postpartum constipation, and calcium to prevent bone loss usually associated with pregnancy and childbirth.1 Seaweed soup is also high in iodine, which many individuals in pregnancy and postpartum are deficient in.2, 3, 4 Seaweed soup provides this important micronutrient, but because seaweed contains such high amounts of iodine, this soup must be taken in careful moderation.5, 6Learn more about pregnancy and postpartum traditional foods and the diverse cultural experiences here and here.
Dates are also a very useful food in childbirth. Studies have shown that eating dates before labor assist in cervical ripening, preparing the cervix for delivery,7 shortening the length of labor, aiding in uterine contractions,8 and reducing the need for augmentation of labour.9They’ve also been studied to decrease postpartum hemorrhage and blood loss.10 For in-depth detail about the studies done on this incredible fruit, learn more from Dr. Michael Greger, M.D. here and here.
In addition to taking care of one’s body after labor and delivery, it is also important to take care of one’s mental health. Maternal mental health not only impacts the birthing individual but their children and families as well. Fortunately, healthy nutrition can play an important role in improving maternal mental health, especially with postpartum depression. Studies have shown that common deficiencies of iron,11fatty acids12 and vitamin D13in pregnancy and postpartum often lead to adverse effects in mental health. Therefore, it is encouraged to eat foods rich in these nutrients, such as vegetables (especially dark leafy greens), whole grains, eggs, nuts, and fatty fish such as salmon.14For more information about nutrition for postpartum depression, here is a detailed resource by Crystal Karges RDN.
During and after the process of childbirth, healthy nutrition helps mothers care for their body and mind during this new and challenging time. For more nutritional questions and advice to meet specific needs, please further consult with a OBGYN, midwife, nutritionist specializing in pregnancy and postpartum care, or other local pregnancy resources:
Here are some local resources for pregnancy and postpartum nutrition:
Beyond the Bump
Momma Fit Santa Maria
Sound Body Nutrition
Katrina Yoder RDN, CDE, CLT
Ginger C. Cochran, MS, RDN, CEP, CDE
SLO County Comprehensive Perinatal Services
Here are some online resources for pregnancy and postpartum nutrition: Pregnant and Hungry’s Collection of Pregnancy-friendly Recipes
Dr Aviva Romm, MD, midwife, and herbalist
New Mom’s Guide to Nutrition After Childbirth
Top 5 Nutrients for Postpartum Recovery
Your Complete Guide To Postpartum Nutrition: Healing Foods & More
A Faster Postpartum Recovery
Dominique Tzuo, CCCN Intern 2021
UC Berkeley Public Health B.A.
1. “7 Soups to Replenish and Rejuvenate the Postpartum Body.” Healthline, 21 Sept. 2018,
2. Leung, Angela M., et al. “Sufficient Iodine Intake During Pregnancy: Just Do It.” Thyroid, vol. 23, no. 1, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Jan. 2013, p. 7. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, doi:10.1089/thy.2012.0491.
3. Pearce, Elizabeth N., M.D., M.Sc. “WHO | Iodine Supplementation during Pregnancy.” World Health Organization, June 2017, http://www.who.int/elena/titles/commentary/iodine_pregnancy/en/. Accessed 8 June 2021. 4. Skeaff, Sheila A. “Iodine Deficiency in Pregnancy: The Effect on Neurodevelopment in the Child.” Nutrients, vol. 3, no. 2, Feb. 2011, pp. 265–73. PubMed Central, doi:10.3390/nu3020265.
5. Kim, Hyunsam, et al. “Association High-Iodine-Containing Seaweed Soup Consumption after Birth and Subclinical Hypothyroidism in Korean Women: Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey IV (2013–2015).” International Journal of Thyroidology, vol. 12, no. 2, 2019, p. 105. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.11106/ijt.2019.12.2.105.
6. Kim, Sung-Woo, et al. “Association of Breastfeeding with Thyroid Function and Autoimmunity in Postmenopausal Women.” Endocrine, vol. 71, no. 1, Jan. 2021, pp. 130–38. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.1007/s12020-020-02385-3. 7. Kordi, Masoumeh, et al. “The Effect of Late Pregnancy Consumption of Date Fruit on Cervical Ripening in Nulliparous Women.” Journal of Midwifery & Reproductive Health, vol. 2, no. 3, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, July 2014, pp. 150–56. 8. Al-Kuran, O., et al. “The Effect of Late Pregnancy Consumption of Date Fruit on Labour and Delivery.” Journal of
Obstetrics and Gynaecology: The Journal of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, vol. 31, no. 1, 2011, pp. 29–31. PubMed, doi:10.3109/01443615.2010.522267.
9. Razali, Nuguelis, et al. “Date Fruit Consumption at Term: Effect on Length of Gestation, Labour and Delivery.” Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology: The Journal of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, vol. 37, no. 5, July 2017, pp. 595–600. PubMed, doi:10.1080/01443615.2017.1283304.
10. N, Khadem, et al. “Comparing the Efficacy of Dates and Oxytocin in the Management of Postpartum Hemorrhage.” Shiraz E Medical Journal, vol. 8, Apr. 2007, pp. 64–71.
11. Beard, John L., et al. “Maternal Iron Deficiency Anemia Affects Postpartum Emotions and Cognition.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 135, no. 2, Feb. 2005, pp. 267–72. PubMed, doi:10.1093/jn/135.2.267.
12. Ramakrishnan, Usha. “Fatty Acid Status and Maternal Mental Health.” Maternal & Child Nutrition, vol. 7 Suppl 2, Apr. 2011, pp. 99–111. PubMed, doi:10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00312.x.
13. Aghajafari, Fariba, et al. “Vitamin D Deficiency and Antenatal and Postpartum Depression: A Systematic Review.” Nutrients, vol. 10, no. 4, Apr. 2018. PubMed Central, doi:10.3390/nu10040478.
14. Karges, Crystal, RDN. “Postpartum Nutrition: How Diet Helps Maternal Mental Health and Healing.” 18 Sept 2018, https://www.crystalkarges.com/blog/how-nutrition-can-help-you-combat-postpartum depression. Accessed 8 June 2021.