Bone Broth for Pregnancy and Postpartum
Ask any pregnant woman and she’ll tell you that conventional guidelines and word-of-mouth advice around prenatal and postpartum nutrition are confusing, contradictory, and often focused on what not to eat. And then there are the supplements. They’re great for filling in nutritional gaps, but they aren’t a substitute for a healthy diet.
It’s safe to say, and many experts agree, that nutrient-dense, whole foods are where it’s at. This is true for any phase of life, and they’re even more important when your body is doing the miraculous, exhausting task of building a baby from scratch.
Bone broth is one of the most nutrient-dense, nourishing foods you can consume for everyday life. So, how about when everyday life involves growing a brand-new human?
If you consider the benefits of quality bone broth in the context of pregnancy and postpartum, as we’ll dig into here, you’ll find that bone broth is one of the ultimate foods for supporting the entire pregnancy and post-birth journey.
Morning Sickness Soother
For the estimated 70% of women rocked with morning sickness during the first trimester, bone broth is an ideal way to keep up nutrient intake when eating and keeping food down is a struggle. It’s nutrient-dense, easy to digest, settles your stomach quickly and rehydrates you better than any sugary sports drink can. Even if starches are all you can handle, potatoes and grains like rice and quinoa can be cooked with bone broth (instead of water). Broth can even be used in smoothies, like we do with the Brodo smoothies sold in our New York City shops.
Grow, Baby, Grow
Growing and repairing tissue requires protein. Pregnancy is a time defined by incredible tissue growth and development, so to support new fetal tissue, on top of mama’s own body’s requirements, protein needs during pregnancy increase. This is also true for breastfeeding mothers in order to meet the dietary needs of a growing baby.
Bone broth is an excellent source of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. The major amino acids in bone broth, including glycine, proline, glutamine and arginine, play a role in a variety of functions, such as supporting the immune system, building a healthy gut, promoting cell growth, and improving sleep quality (music to every pregnant woman’s ears).
Glycine is of particular importance because it’s conditionally essential during pregnancy. Normally, the body can produce enough glycine on its own, but the demand for it increases so much while pregnant that it becomes necessary (essential!) to get glycine from your diet. Bone broth is rich in glycine and supports the crucial role it has in growing a baby, including building connective tissue, expanding the mother’s uterus and skin, and developing the placenta.
Stretching and Strengthening
Collagen gets a lot of attention these days, so you’re probably familiar with it as a supplement for healthy skin, hair, and nails. As the “glue” holding everything in the body together, collagen is a crucial protein that gives skin and connective tissue their strength, elasticity, and resiliency.
It’s found in the tendons, ligaments and other odd bits of the beef and poultry we use. When those are cooked, the collagen breaks down into gelatin, which is easier for the body to digest. Collagen production in the body slows with age, so dietary collagen, like the gelatin found in our bone broths, is a great way to get collagen-building tools directly to your cells.
For pregnant women, the daily habit of sipping gelatin-rich bone broth can boost the elasticity of the ever-stretching belly and expanding uterus, strengthen the pelvic floor and maintain good joint support. For babies, collagen contributes to the formation of healthy, strong connective tissue and the development of the skeleton and internal organs.
Support for Sore Joints
Labor and delivery are no cake walk. But every pregnant woman can testify that pregnancy, especially the third trimester, comes with its own set of aches and pains. Weight gain and changes in weight distribution and posture can really do a number on joints, leading to stiffness and aches in hips, knees, and even hands and elbows. Soreness in the pubic joint, at the bottom of the pelvic bone, is common too, thanks to a hormone called relaxin that softens ligaments and joints in preparation for birth.
Bone broths can be valuable joint care supplements during pregnancy because they contain nutrients including chondroitin and glucosamine, which are known to fire up the growth and repair of cartilage – the shock absorber that cushions joints. It’s a win-win for mom and baby since the same nutrients also assist in the formation of baby’s joints.
Only broths made with cartilage-rich bones like chicken feet and beef knuckles, like the Chicken, Beef and Hearth broths at Brodo, will have joint health benefits, since it’s the boiled down cartilage that releases chondroitin and glucosamine.
Minerals, especially calcium, are vital for babies to develop strong, healthy bones. Baby gets these minerals from mom’s food supply, and if her stores are low, they will be pulled directly from the mother’s own bones, weakening them in the process. So, consuming mineral-rich foods during pregnancy and while nursing not only builds baby’s bones, it prevents mom’s mineral stores from being depleted.
Milk is probably the first food that comes to mind when you think about bone-building foods, but bone broths are a good dairy-free source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other trace minerals needed for bone growth and repair. Broths don’t have as much calcium as milk, but the minerals in broth are more bioavailable, meaning they’re easier for your body to absorb and use.
Optimize Gut Health
The importance of a healthy gut microbiome (aka, the community of microorganisms in the intestines) has been a hot topic for a few years now, so it’s well-known that beneficial bacteria and flora help to improve digestion and boost the immune system. But, like many aspects of health, the gut takes on a whole new level of importance during pregnancy and postpartum.
Many of the nutrients available to baby for development come from the nutrients mom absorbs from the food she eats. If her gut health is out of whack, then nutrient absorption is compromised, and less of the good stuff will make its way to baby to aid in development. On the flip side, maintaining good gut health gives baby access to the full range of nutrients the mother absorbs from her food.
Prebiotics, probiotics and collagen-rich foods like bone broth all support a healthy gut microbiome. Collagen is a major component of the cells that line the gut, and it helps to repair any damage to the gut lining that may have occurred from a diet of highly processed, sugary foods, antibiotic use and/or chronic stress. A sealed gut lining is essential for optimal nutrient absorption and transfer to the baby, not to mention fighting inflammation and boosting the immune system. Bone broth’s immunity support warrants a separate post, which we’ll get to soon.
We’ve already talked about how bone broth is an amazing source of dietary collagen (gelatin), so sipping it on the regular can boost expectant mamas’ gut health, and in turn support the development of a flourishing gut microbiome and healthy immune system for her baby.
Postpartum Recovery Aid
Pregnancy and childbirth are among the most strenuous events the human body can go through. There are studies putting these experiences in the same category as those of extreme athletes when it comes to endurance and injuries (no surprise to every woman who has given birth!).
To recover and heal from the demands of childbirth, mamas need rest, and they need collagen. Collagen can help to heal wounds, rebuild the tissue of the uterus, abdominal muscles and pelvic floor, and revitalize stretched out skin. Drinking quality bone broth every day postpartum infuses the body with the collagen it needs to heal faster.
Nutrient needs are higher postpartum than they are during pregnancy, especially for mothers who breastfeed. In addition to supporting tissue healing, bone broth can help replete the loss of bone density from pregnancy, replenish nutrients lost during the birthing process and offer continued joint support.
It’s part of our mission at Brodo to get nutrient-rich bone broth in the hands of those who can benefit most from it. For several years, Brodo had a partnership with NYU Langone Medical Center where we provided nourishing broth daily to new and expectant mothers in the maternity ward. It was incredibly gratifying to hear stories of how warm mugs of Brodo broth made new moms feel rejuvenated.
If you’re pregnant, trying to conceive or are in the midst of childbirth recovery, we raise our mugs of broth as a toast to you!
To make your own bone broth, check out the recipes in the Learn section of this site and in the Brodo cookbook. For those who want Brodo broth delivered, place your order on order.brodo.com if you’re in New York City, and for nationwide shipping, order here.