How Do Your Choices Influence Amniotic Fluid?
Emily Rydbom, CN, BCHN, CNP
Stress is inevitable. Living under the sun causes stress. But, just like breathing, stress is a part of life. However, what you DO about stress makes the difference between balance and a big pile of you-know-what. Although this post’s title may be deceiving, I am not writing to bombard you with tons of information, leaving you overwhelmed and totally disempowered. We all know how important the choices we make throughout pregnancy are, and the way it impacts amniotic fluid is part of that. So, what I want to do is let you know about the cause and effect of certain lifestyle decisions (such as food choices and stress management) and how those choices change the experience your baby has with the amniotic fluid that they are living in while growing inside of you. And as unappetizing as chatting about body fluids may be, amniotic fluid is chalked full of some amazing function and worth a chat!
What is Amniotic Fluid?
According to the Journal of Neonatal Studies, amniotic fluid is a clear, slightly yellowish liquid that surrounds the fetus during pregnancy. It is a protective fluid for the fetus contained in the amniotic sac. By week 12-14 the liquid is not only composed water with electrolytes, but also contains proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and phospholipids, and urea. When fetal kidneys begin to function at about week 16, fetal urine also contributes to the fluid. The fluid is absorbed through the fetal tissue and skin. After the 20th-25th week of pregnancy when the keratinization of an embryo skin occurs, the fluid is primarily absorbed by the fetal gut. Amniotic fluid protects the developing baby by cushioning against blows to the mother abdomen, allowing for easier fetal movement and promoting muscular/skeletal development. Amniotic fluid swallowed by the fetus helps in the formation of the gastrointestinal tract. It normally has a pH of 7.0 to 7.5.
Whoa. Overwhelmed? Me too. Let’s break it down.
Amniotic fluid is a messenger and a blanket. Kind of like you, Mom. You transfer love, protection, and warmth to your child. Amniotic fluid also transfers nutrients, the same way that your breastmilk does. These nutrients allow for proper growth and development and flavor influence. Did you know that the taste buds start to appear on your child’s tongue around week 8 of development? They won’t be able to start tasting the flavor of amniotic fluid until week 16, and by week 21 your child will be swallowing approximately several ounces of amniotic fluid a day. Hard to believe the first time your child experiences flavor is actually in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy and not 6 months in a high chair!
How Do My Food Choices Make a Difference?
In one ground-breaking study conducted by Julie Mennella (who studies taste in infants at the Monell Chemical Senses Center), found that mothers who drank carrot juice during the last trimester of pregnancy had babies who, once they started weaning, had less negative response when fed carrot juice at solid food introduction. Mennella started looking into the correlation between flavors and amniotic fluid and found that “there isn’t a single flavor of food that hasn’t shown up in utero.”
In yet an additional 2012 study, pregnant rats feeding on diets high fat, salt and sugar gave birth to babies who not only preferred those foods, but disliked the alternative choice of healthy food. We now know that pleasure receptors in our brains are more responsive following sugar intake versus using cocaine. That means sugar is more addictive than cocaine. The dopamine receptors in our brains respond to many influences, such as salt, sugar, and fat. These receptors can promote addiction.
Choosing colorful foods daily, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, spices and herbs, even herbal tea will help to promote a more willing eater once solid food introduction does occur. Focusing on these choices daily throughout your pregnancy and breastfeeding time period will also instill that willing attitude in you! Just remember, how delicious is Thai food? Indian food? Mexican food? Why? Because the magic lives in the flavors, not just salty or sweet—it’s the convergence of sweet, bitter, salty, umami, and sour flavors that satisfy. Remember that smelling and tasting are one in the same!
Why is pH Important For My Amniotic Fluid?
pH is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline the fluid (blood, water, and urine) in your body is. Generally speaking there are different parts of your GI tract that are better suited to be more acidic (stomach and larger intestine) or alkaline (small intestine) depending on their function; yet when you urinate, a neutral pH (7.0) is the goal. Neutral to slightly alkaline amniotic fluid is more conducive to an environment that allows for optimal nutrient absorption and digestive enzyme secretion. Choosing foods that tend toward alkalinity, such as fruits and veggies and most herbs and spices can help shift the body toward balance.
How Do I Stress Less?
Finally, let’s get back to a single truth. Stress. Changes. Everything. And being a Mom is stressful. The current of your health can change when you manage your stress; it is the sustainable way to deal with it. Did you know that the stress state you adopt while pregnant affects the flavor of your amniotic fluid? That's right. A stressed out mom makes more catecholamines (neurotransmitters—dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine), which in turn render amniotic fluid bitter—causing a baby to feel less willing to swallow as much fluid, shifting their nutrient absorption through you. A calm mama (or one that actively manages her stress) makes more oxytocin (a calming neurotransmitter), which renders amniotic fluid sweet. A sweet treat for one sweet baby. Can anyone say, "Ommmmmm?"
One of the easiest ways I can think to lower your stress levels is to get outside into a green space. Within minutes of entering a green space, stress levels drop. Actively move in a way that is energizing, such as a walk, yoga, or a light swim. Ask for and receive help if you need it. Take at least 5 minutes of your day to let in gratitude.
No matter what it looks like, Mama—and I mean if it looks like a complete and utter hot mess, there are still ways to make small choices that impact your world greater than you could ever imagine. We believe in you.
Posted on Oct 22, 2016