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How Diet Affects Fertility, Pregnancy, and Newborns

Did you know that your diet can keep you from getting pregnant? Or that you can prevent morning sickness and stretch marks through nutrition? Did you know that infertility is a modern problem? Traditional cultures rarely, if ever, experienced infertility. In their wisdom, they held the most nutrient-dense foods in sacred places of honor, reserving them for women and men who would soon be attempting to conceive. Sadly, this is lost to most of us in the developed world.

Instead of relying on sacred foods, we spend thousands of dollars on expensive fertility treatments. We expect to be sick when we’re pregnant, expect to have swollen ankles and vericose veins. We expect our children to have ear infections, need braces, and get corrective lenses.

Did you know that all of these maladies can be prevented with nutrition? That what you eat when you’re pregnant can actually widen your baby’s cheekbones so that they have room for all their teeth (no braces!), well-placed eyes (no near or far-sightedness!), and a spacious sinus cavity (no ear infections!)?

I’m absolutely thrilled to announce a new online course that I’ll be teaching this Fall. It’s called Beautiful Babies: Nutrition for Fertility, Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, & Baby’s First Foods.

In the course, you’ll learn:

  • Why soy can prevent pregnancy
  • How eating a low-fat diet makes you 85% more likely to be infertile
  • How to successfully breastfeed your baby, and why it’s so important
  • About gentle, natural birth alternatives
  • What to do if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you (and it’s not commercial formula!)
  • Why babies shouldn’t eat cereal (they can’t digest it!)
  • How you can avoid ADD, autism, and allergies.
  • How you can have a pain free birth without pain meds or an epidural.
  • How you can prevent post-partum depression.

It’s a virtual smorgasbord of information about how a deeply nutritious diet can affect your birth experience!

Across 12 weeks of lessons, we’ll cover all this and more (so much more!). Each week’s lesson will feature 2-4 video tutorials, downloadable articles and essays from the world’s leading experts in the field, printable birth stories from women who will help you feel empowered, and a digital workbook which will help present all the covered information in a manageable form and leave you plenty of room to take notes.

And, if you register before October 31st, you’ll save $50 off the regular enrollment price!

Click here to find out more about the course.

Check out the introduction video below.

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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49 Responses to How Diet Affects Fertility, Pregnancy, and Newborns
  1. Bill
    October 5, 2011 | 1:56 pm

    I wish I could get lesson 10 today. We have a three month old and my wife is already talking about rice cereal. Help.

    • KristenM
      October 7, 2011 | 2:00 pm

      Bill, try checking out the articles on the Weston A Price Foundation website. Those are a good introduction to the topic. Hope that helps!

  2. Amy Ulrickson Law via Facebook
    October 5, 2011 | 1:59 pm

    It was an issue in the bible, and I think it has always popped up. We have cows, and it is an issue with them, mostly based on the cows genetics, weight and diet. However, I agree with you that it is much more common amoung people now. I had big problems with infertility and I really believe a lot of it was diet based.

  3. Margy Russell Spillers via Facebook
    October 5, 2011 | 2:05 pm

    I don’t think many people realize this.

  4. Madeline Sophia Kraskin via Facebook
    October 5, 2011 | 2:18 pm

    Imo, the human race as a whole doesn’t need more fertility.

  5. Christina Hanson Bolton via Facebook
    October 5, 2011 | 2:23 pm

    Amy- can you elaborate on the biblical issue? Very interested.

  6. Brittnee Turner Horting via Facebook
    October 5, 2011 | 2:25 pm

    Madeline…are you saying we should all stop having children or something…

  7. Food Renegade via Facebook
    October 5, 2011 | 2:27 pm

    @Christina — I think she’s just referring to examples of infertile women in the Bible (like Rachel and Hannah). It has always popped up, but it was a VERY RARE thing and not nearly as widespread a problem as it is today.

  8. Michelle Tamar Dana Lepez via Facebook
    October 5, 2011 | 2:39 pm

    Fantastic initiative!! Reminds me of the book ‘Deep nutrtion’. Can the materials be used to teach with too?

  9. Alia
    October 5, 2011 | 2:40 pm

    I find this extremely interesting, although I believe some of us have had such compromised nutrition since birth or puberty that a normal birth is quite difficult. I have two gorgeous healthy boys who came into this world by c-section. I had midwifes for both, ate well for many years before conceiving, spaced them 3 years apart, but in the end they would not fit through my pelvis, even with trying various positions and allowing labour to progress naturally. They were very big (my mother and my husbands mother both had 9-10 lbs babies, it did not seem to hamper their birthing), so I could possible try and produce a smaller baby. Although my boys were big, they were solid, strong, not very flabby at all, so it would seem they were meant to be so big. I personally think having a generally weak constitution when young combined with become a vegetarian at 12 (just at puberty) really did a number on my pelvis. We would love one more, and I will try for a natural birth, but also know that another c-section is a strong possibility. I will have baby probiotics in hand if that is the case.

    • Karen L
      October 8, 2011 | 1:49 pm

      Alia – you are right: YOU can “build” strong, healthy children but it cannot undo the damage YOU have suffered (from before YOUR conception)…

      Keep growing strong babies and teach them well…

      XO

  10. Mary Light via Facebook
    October 5, 2011 | 2:47 pm

    I have never done a consultation for fertility issues that the nutrition wasn’t poor- including that of the male partner. This regardless of socio-economic status.

    • Karen L
      October 8, 2011 | 1:50 pm

      right on, Mary! In the Weston A Price book (“Nutrition & Physical Degeneration”), he says that in many cultures, both the male AND the female were given a special diet 6 months before they married…

  11. Kathryn Richards via Facebook
    October 5, 2011 | 3:12 pm

    My son and daughter-in-law have struggled with infertility issues. By changing what they eat and some other things, they’re getting closer and closer. She’s gotten pregnant twice now, but lost the baby at about 7 weeks. I’m thinking she needs some more healing, but they’re sticking with it. So proud of them.

  12. Stephanie Renee via Facebook
    October 5, 2011 | 7:35 pm

    I have three boys and got pregnant very easy with each of them. My last pregnancy was my healthiest…raw milk, juiced, organics, grass-fed, etc. My son was born with very sick and now needs a transplant. My pregnancy was very healthy and normal too. Not sure what went wrong…

    • Nikki Denning
      October 7, 2011 | 12:02 pm

      Hi Stephanie,
      Your story is very interesting because of how healthy you seemed, yet had serious issues with your youngest son. I would like to mention that according to Dr. Joel Wallach, of Dead Dr fame, that if it’s not in the soil, it’s not in the plant. Organic has more nutrition than GMO.
      His research is based on $20 NIH research studies involving animals. He discovered downs syndrome & neuro tube defects are a result of zinc/folic acid and cystic fibrosis is caused by selenium defiency. Please check out wallachonline.com and if you have gluten intolerence, celiac or any gut inflammation, this can cause mal-nutrition! Even Dr. OZ doesn’t know this!!!!!!! You don’t know what you don’t know..this didnt stop Dr. OZ from writing a book about having a baby, omitting any of this important info..to me this seems negligent since he is suppose to be an authority.
      My husband is a CCRN, but very sick, on five meds. Once he started using Doc Wallachs(genius) mighty 90(vitamins) he lost 100 lbs, and is off all meds & is extremely healthy. We are almost 100% organic and eat very little of any kind of meat. Questions? Pls email [email protected] or [email protected]
      **Everyone needs to go to the Health Freedom Expo in San Diego & Chicago in 2012-check website for more info-There are dozens of holistic, alternative MD’s & ND’s there is so much to learn. Also see Dr.Peter Glidden’s website, for against the grain video 15 min-that explains why almost everyone suffers from gluten intolerence!**
      Best Regards, Nikki

      • Karen L
        October 8, 2011 | 1:52 pm

        thanks for this info. it is interesting you eat very little animal substance yet are feeling great. I hope your wellness continues.

        I, on the other hand, believe strongly that we need the nutrients that comes from animal protein and fat.

        • Christine
          January 8, 2013 | 12:56 am

          Karen L, have you watched the documentary Forks Over Knives? There are several doctors that have found correlations between high consumption of animal byproducts to a slew of diseases including cancer, diabetes and others. Comparing a diet consisting of 20% animal byproducts vs. 5%, the 20%-ers were the ones with serious health problems, though in tests on rats they found that switching to the lower percentage could reverse the damage. I don’t know the details so I’m not sure whether they studied the effect of organic meat and dairy (which I’d bet makes a difference considering all the junk that goes into non-organic/non-grass fed items on the shelves. You can hardly call it food.).

          Based on their findings, I do the same as Nikki, going mostly vegan (The only concerns with a vegan diet are getting enough protein which is actually not a problem if you eat a variety of foods and know which combinations work and vitamin B12 which is found mostly in red meat – hence the weekly meat. Also, I don’t know whether Nikki does vegan or vegetarian!) except once a week. I think that meat, eggs and dairy are important too, but it’s also typically eaten (in the US anyway) in much larger proportions to the other foods that we need. Yes we’ve always eaten these foods, but I don’t think it is with the same frequency as we tend to do today since it’s all readily and CONSTANTLY available, just waiting for us to pull it off the shelf.

  13. Maeghan Fredriksson via Facebook
    October 5, 2011 | 8:02 pm

    I had female problems/ fertility issues until i read nourishing traditions and changed my diet. (I was almost vegan for about a year before that)… and now I’m 29 weeks pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy

    • Karen L
      October 8, 2011 | 1:53 pm

      yea!

  14. Pam Maltzman
    October 5, 2011 | 10:23 pm

    I’m too old for babies now, and I was never really enthusiastic about having them in the first place, but if I were going to have them, I’d certainly be following your advice.

    I think that this low-fat propaganda has created a lot of problems for people wanting to have children but having trouble with this most natural of functions.

    My mom was a smoker and probably didn’t get quite enough of the good stuff. She (and I) have had a somewhat narrowed lower jaw with crowded teeth. I have a sacral dimple and possibly some back problems related to that (she had had surgery when I was a toddler).

    I used to know a young married woman who bragged about going vegan and drinking a lot of fruit juices, etc. She was low-fat all the way and had polycystic ovary disease. Oy vey.

    It’s a shame that so much of the modernized world has lost touch with feeding itself the right things.

    • Karen L
      October 8, 2011 | 1:54 pm

      Hi Pam! :Karen waving:

  15. Ty-Megan Gross via Facebook
    October 6, 2011 | 5:43 am

    @stephanie renee i’m in the same boat as you. I was doing all the right things with my latest pregnancy and felt great (much better than with my first daughter) and my daughter was born with a serious birth defect that nearly took her life. I agree that diet does affect fertility and pregnancy, but with all that can go wrong in pregnancy, I think whenver we have healthy children it is by the grace of God. There are still many factors involved that are beyond our control.

    • Karen L
      October 8, 2011 | 1:56 pm

      @ Ty-Megan – I, too, believe that all things are in God’s hands. But I also believe that he has given us the tools here on earth to produce healthy children.

      I agree with what someone else has posted, that we can choose the ‘right’ (best) foods but if the nutrients aren’t in the soil, they’re not going to be in our foods.

      It is more than just eating the “right” foods; it is about making sure your body is getting the nutrients that it needs…

      Blessings to all potential and pregnant mommies…

  16. Food Renegade via Facebook
    October 6, 2011 | 7:14 am

    @stephanie and ty-Megan, Yes, there are many kinds of sick and ill that can’t be prevented. My first thought when I hear your stories is: Thank God their diets were so good. Who knows how bad off they or their child would have been without it? They may not have even come full term.

  17. Ty-Megan Gross via Facebook
    October 6, 2011 | 7:41 am

    I would agree. While in the nicu, the nurses repeatedly commented on how healthy she was despite her health issues! I just want to make sure we don’t take it to the extreme of special needs child=mom did something wrong. I know you’re not saying that, but I think in the real food/natural living worlds, that thinking can seep into our thought process. I know before my daughter was born, I definately had those thoughts that diet can fix/prevent everything!

  18. Crystal - Prenatal Coach
    October 6, 2011 | 12:02 pm

    Oh I LOVE this!! So curious if Hypnobabies will be mentioned as you listed “How you can have a pain free birth without pain meds or an epidural.” It’s possible (although not guaranteed) with this program because I’ve seen it :-)

    Looking forward to learning more!

    • KristenM
      October 6, 2011 | 12:22 pm

      I mention hypnobirthing in the class schedule. I’m interviewing a hypnobirthing instructor for one of the video segments. I used hypnobirthing for all three of my births. The first was totally pain free. In the last two, my babies were positioned awkwardly so I had back labor. There was definitely pain, although it was all mild and easily managed with a little hypnobirthing concentration.

  19. Bethany
    October 6, 2011 | 1:36 pm

    Would this course help someone who is already very familiar with traditional foods and who has been off grain for 2 years and on GAPS for 1 year? I eat lots of healthy fats and take a large dose of fclo/butter oil mix every day. Bone broths, pastured eggs, meats, organ meats, cooked veggies with lots of butter and sea salt, little to no fruits and honey is what I eat for the most part. I do some milk kefir and take a good probiotic. Would I gain any new info from this course? I cannot get pregnant on my own.

    • KristenM
      October 7, 2011 | 11:15 am

      Bethany, this is an excellent question! I’ll try to put the answer up on my FAQ page soon because I’m sure lots of others will want to know the answer.

      GAPS is super helpful at returning balance to your inner ecosystem and restoring you to a healthy gut. By being on GAPS, you’re probably a step ahead of most because you can KNOW that your body is digesting ALL the nutrient-rich foods you’re giving it. (After all, it is possible to eat a nutrient-rich diet and still be nutrient starved just because of poor digestion.)

      That said, the GAPS diet is not identical to a traditional fertility diet. There is overlap, and most fertility foods are “GAPS legal.” But there are some foods prized above and beyond others for heightening fertility, and you’ll learn about those.

      Also, there is so much more to this course than just teaching you a diet! That could be done in just a couple of lessons. Please read the Course Schedule, which talks about what you’ll learn in each lesson, to see if the rest of the course is up your alley!

  20. Sharon Poe
    October 7, 2011 | 11:28 am

    I totally believe this. We were having issues getting pregnant. Both of us though were set on NOT doing fertility treatments. I went to see a friend who helped me change my diet and showed me the right vitamins to take. About three months later we were pregnant. It was all about putting the right things into my body. Through her help I discovered this website.

    • KristenM
      October 7, 2011 | 12:54 pm

      What a great story, Sharon! Would you be interested in sharing it with my students in the class? I’m collecting birth stories and fertility struggle stories for my students in order to be an encouraging voice to them (in the virtual cacophony of negativity out there about all this). You can email it to me at kristenATfoodrenegadeDOTcom. Thanks!

      • Sharon Poe
        October 7, 2011 | 4:04 pm

        Sure will!

      • Karen L
        October 8, 2011 | 1:59 pm

        Kirsten – our local WAPF leader is also a fertility specialist in our area. Would you be interested in her input? I can’t guarantee she would be available (or have time) but I can always ask…

        • KristenM
          October 10, 2011 | 10:43 am

          Sure Karen. Any stories she’s able to share would be great.

  21. Brittany
    October 7, 2011 | 11:47 am

    Now, I’m curious about diet preventing morning sickness. I ate a “healthy SAD” diet (low fat) with my first two pregnancies and had almost no morning sickness. Between #2 and # 3, we switched to eating a traditional diet for a couple of years. But with #3 I had terrible morning sickness (throwing up every morning and feeling crummy all day). Now I’m pregnant with #4 and still have more nausea than I ever had with my first two, although it isn’t as bad as my third.

    I also remember that Nina Planck said in Real Food for Mother and Baby that there’s no rhyme or reason to morning sickness, and that it’s found in mothers worldwide. So I’m not trying to discredit you or argue, but I’m truly curious as to your thoughts and sources on how it can be prevented through diet. Believe me, as crummy as I feel right now, I’d do just about anything to avoid morning sickness. :)

    • KristenM
      October 7, 2011 | 1:13 pm

      Hi Brittany,

      The older you are, the greater your risk for morning sickness. This is because magnesium deficiency plays such a big role in feelings of nausea and vomiting. Magnesium retention (how much magnesium you’re able to actually digest from your foods) is in direct balance with your calcium and phosphorous stores (which tend to drop the older you get, sadly). This doesn’t mean that young women don’t get morning sickness (they do), just that as you age your likelihood to get it while pregnant increases.

      Anyhow, studies have shown that higher blood levels of VitD (in addition to the right balance of calcium and phosphorous) help increase magnesium retention. They’ve also shown that magnesium retention is higher when women get their VitD from the sun, rather than cod liver oil. So, perhaps your morning sickness is less for #4 than it was for #3 because you’re coming out of the summer, sunshiny months? Or maybe you’ve just been more successful at getting your blood levels of VitD up?

      In any case, try to eat more magnesium rich foods (at least 500mg magnesium per day), without neglecting getting enough calcium, phosphorous, or Vitamin D either. Get more sun! Then, the standard advice applies: eat smaller meals more frequently, especially when you first wake up.

      • KristenM
        October 7, 2011 | 1:23 pm

        P.S. It is not a coincidence that raw milk from grass-fed cows is a good source of all 4 of these nutrients (in the exact proportion your body needs them in)! Maybe this is one more reason why the Weston A Price Foundation recommends drinking a quart of raw milk per day when pregnant.

        • Brittany
          October 10, 2011 | 8:35 am

          Thanks for taking time to explain. :) That’s fascinating about milk having all the needed nutrients, because I’ve been craving it like crazy. I guess that gives me a good excuse to indulge!

          And I probably did spend more time in the sunshine this time than with my third pregnancy because of it being summer and having older kids who like to be outside all of the time.

  22. Lee
    October 7, 2011 | 12:46 pm

    Where is this woman’s credentials? What experience does she have? What is her professional background? I think everyone reading this should be very very careful, especially if your in fertility treatment. This plays on a mama-to-be’s weakest heart strings without any reference to scientific facts, medical proof or study, or at minimum significant case study. Any person can hang a shingle on the internet and call themselves an expert. Yes, some women have unexplained infertility, but some women have medical, biological factors. To make a broad claim to cure infertility by diet is to me unethical.

    • KristenM
      October 7, 2011 | 12:51 pm

      Good thing I don’t make a broad claim to cure infertility by diet! That would simply be ridiculous and irresponsible. Please read the FAQ page for the e-course.

  23. Molly LaForme
    October 8, 2011 | 8:56 am

    Hi. I have never commented before on any of the blogs I read…hope this works. I am going to have my 4th baby in only 5 weeks. I am having a c-section, something I might have been able to avoid for babies 1,2, and 3 had I been armed with the truths I know now. However, I am a commited real foodie, so thankfully feel good about the nutrition I am feeding my little ones. Since I am having a c-section, what are the best steps for me to take in order to populate my newborn with good gut bacteria? I breastfeed at least 18-22 months. What else though? Thanks.

  24. Karen L
    October 8, 2011 | 2:03 pm

    Kristen – I am so happy to see you put this information out there to all our new and potential pregnant women (and their mates)!

    I am so especially glad to see you reference that the mommy’s “diet” can contribute to good facial and bone structure for their unborn child.

    I am past the child-bearing years but I’ve got 2 daughters by birth, one acquired and a DIL. You can bet I’m trying to inform all of them…

    Carry on, Dear Lady!

  25. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama
    October 9, 2011 | 9:37 am

    I KNOW this to be true. When I ate SAD, baby was born a few days early with tons of allergies. I was transitioning in my second pregnancy and baby had some early sensitivities but we did GAPS before he started solids and he is okay now — though he was born 10 days early and just “average” size, and is now on the small side for his age (but strong and solid). He started solids at 8 months and grass-fed ground beef was his first real food. He loved plain yogurt and scrambled eggs too. (Still does!)

    With #3, I did GAPS 9 months prior to conception, then transitioned to NT/GAPS 6 months prior and continued with a low-grain traditional diet through my pregnancy. He was born on his due date, weighing a full 1.5 lbs. more than my other two babies, and is now 2 months. He’s growing rapidly, he’s incredibly strong, he’s meeting milestones far ahead of “normal.” He held his head up almost from birth, he was smiling at 3 weeks, bearing weight on his legs at 4 or 5, batting at toys around a month, staring at his hands and feet recently, and laughing too. Far earlier than my other babies! Everyone who sees him comments on how healthy he is.

    Magnesium does play a role, and more people are deficient than they realize. I have craved magnesium-rich foods for weeks, post-pregnancy, and I had more morning sickness in my third pregnancy — although all my other symptoms were less. I was less tired, less emotional, I had no spotting, no constipation, etc. I did have a sore back (despite seeing a chiro/massage therapist) but I think that’s somewhat par for the course. :) I would definitely recommend women load up on protein and magnesium-rich foods prior to pregnancy! You need SO much more than you think! (Both are known to help morning sickness, along with B vitamins.)

    Can you tell I have a strong interest in this subject? LOL

    • Brittany
      October 10, 2011 | 8:42 am

      I never thought about it, but other than morning sickness my other “pregnancy symptoms” have been much reduced in the last two pregnancies. I was just commenting to my husband yesterday how much more energy I feel like I have this time around. So more magnesium and less complaining might be what I need to work on. ;)

  26. Karen L
    October 10, 2011 | 4:28 pm

    leaving a comment so i can subscribe to this blog

    • Karen L
      October 10, 2011 | 4:28 pm

      Hmmm. Leaving a comment does not ask if you want to subscribe to the blog and I don’t see any other place to do so. How to I get notification of updates to this page?

  27. Abby C.
    November 8, 2011 | 2:32 pm

    Kristen, is this a course that will be offered say, once per year? My fiance and I are already eating Primally, we made the switch about 6 months ago and aren’t going back! We know for sure we want children in about 2-3 years, so we’re not really ready for a course like this but I definitely want this to be available when we’re ready to expand our family!!!

    • KristenM
      November 8, 2011 | 2:41 pm

      The e-course has ongoing enrollment, so you can enroll at any time. The $50 discount, however, only applies for this promotional period. After that, it will be $199. Also, you may consider taking the class now if you want kids 2-3 years from now. For optimum health for you and baby, you’ll want to eat a preconception/fertility diet for at least 6 months prior to conception. The average couple takes about 5 months to get pregnant. Then there’s 9 months of carrying the baby. So that’s what? 20 months? That’s almost 2 years out already!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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