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by Julie Le Gal Brodeur





ON THIS PAGE: Pregnancy, Stages of pregnancy, The father’s role in pregnancy, Lifestyle habits and stress, Single mothers, Planning ahead for working mothers, Diet and nutrition in pregnancy, Things to avoid in pregnancy, Exposure to abuse and violence, Exercise and body treatments, Energy maintenance, Making a home


The effects of the mother's thoughts and emotions on the unborn child - How can you best support the baby's growth and development during the pregnancy? Do your thoughts and feelings affect the baby? Pregnancy is a time of preparation, a time of many changes both inside and outside. Whether circumstances around the pregnancy are joyful or difficult, personally, socially or physically, it's a good time to make a fresh start, and to see this as the beginning of a new relationship to yourself and to the world. If it is possible, it can be of immense value both for you and the baby if you begin to cultivate reverence for what is happening and for who is to come. It often happens quite naturally that a feeling of profound awe wells up when we are confronted with the miracle of life. Or, it comes when you go for nature walks and think of the growing baby as you see beautiful things, as you look at beautiful artwork of mother and child, sing lullabies as you muse on the baby, or think of the child as you make something for them.


In traditions of ancient India, China, Arabia and other cultures around the world, pregnant women were surrounded with beautiful things and fine clothing. They were taught the arts of music, singing and painting, and fed exquisite foods blessed by the holy men. They were surrounded by beauty, music and were to think of goodness. This was believed to bring the unborn child talent and beauty. In Russia and ancient Asian countries, concerts were organized for pregnant women and their unborn children. In ancient China and India, women drew birds and plants during pregnancy and sang beautiful, gentle songs to their unborn babies. In some countries, it was not permitted to argue with a pregnant woman, and if it was inevitable, she was to have the last word! In other countries, the pregnant woman's behaviour was believed to affect the unborn baby, so they were to refrain from any cruelty or bad thoughts, and were to be protected from any trauma or shock.


It has long been known, and studies show, that the mother's emotional state and surroundings have a profound effect on the unborn child's health and development, as do the mother's thoughts towards the father, the pregnancy and the child. Any stress or strong emotion in the mother creates a reaction in the growing baby,[1] while a soothing activity such as singing to the baby has the effect of calming the mother, and so the baby, and increasing the blood flow in her body as well as the flow to the baby.


In our hectic world, it is all the more important that expectant mothers find ways to reduce stress and encourage a healthy and quiet inner life for themselves to counter the pressures of modern life. So, there may be wisdom in following the ancient traditions of the mother surrounding herself and filling her thoughts with goodness, calm and beauty. The more loving, gentle and calm you and those around you can be, the more you and you and the father cherish one another, the better for you and the baby.


[1] Samuels, Mike, MD, and Nancy Samuels. The Well Baby Book. Summit Books, New York 1991


See Lifestyle, habits and stress




The negative effects of media



Samuels MD - Mother's emotions on unborn baby.htm


Dunbar Mother's thoughts on infant.pdf


Stress & Pregnancy, Fetal Affects, on


Winnicott - the mother's contribution to society.htm


Lozowick,Lee  - good beginnings.htm




Stages of pregnancy - What happens with the mother’s body, then with the baby’s body in the short span of nine months, or 40 weeks, is a wonderful journey to follow. If you are interested, there are many websites that offer a month-by-month or even week-by-week description of the changes happening in the mother’s body and the development phase the baby is in. Especially for a first pregnancy, following the baby’s progression can be helpful in making the baby’s arrival seem more real. It can also be helpful to read about things that the mother might go through at particular stages, to help recognize things like mood swings or fatigue as being related to the pregnancy and being common.


See Birthing Naturally in Links





The father's role in pregnancy - In a nutshell, be supportive, informed and involved. The parental relationship and the father's attitude and feelings toward the mother, the pregnancy, and the unborn child have a significant impact on the baby via the mother.[2] It helps to create a bond with the unborn child and between parents, and it is strengthening for both the father and mother when fathers are involved in:


      following the pregnancy

      the changes in the mother's body

      supporting the mother through the changes

      not taking things too personally if there are mood swings

      following the development of the baby

      being part of pre-natal (antenatal) birthing decisions

      helping to choose items, colours, or equipment for the baby

      talking about the birth

      planning the first weeks, the first year

      planning working arrangements

      discussing child rearing issues


If you don't already do it, sharing in household tasks is a good preparation for the first weeks after the birth and life with a child. Also, physical fitness and well being affects psychological well being. So, exercising, quitting smoking, drinking less, and eating well, helps the father be physically and mentally healthy, and is a great way to be supportive and ready for a change in lifestyle.


It may be helpful to note that many pregnant women experience intense emotions, and that it can be supportive to recognize these moments, respect them, and not take things too personally.

[2] Samuels, Mike, MD, and Nancy Samuels. The Well Baby Book. Summit Books, New York 1991


See Fathers and birth helpers



Samuels MD - Mother's emotions on unborn baby.htm (& relationship to father)


Winnicott - the mother's contribution to society.htm


Lozowick,Lee  - good beginnings.htm




Lifestyle, habits and stress - What lifestyle habits are helpful to the growing baby? Though as the mother it is crucial to wean yourself from smoking, recreational drugs and alcohol,[3] the time of pregnancy may also be a good time for the father to stop or cut down. It can also be a good time to find fun and healthy ways to spend hours of leisure together, and to curb excessive TV watching, video games and computer time.  Your thoughts and feelings, what you see, what you listen to, what you watch on TV, read, and discuss, all affect the baby and the baby's development in some way, positively and negatively.[4] Any stress that you perceive, whether emotional or outer stress (such as violence or too much work) has a negative effect on the growing baby's neurological development.[5]


Pregnancy can be a stressful time, often bringing up financial worries, insecurity about work, fear about the future and can bring big changes such as moving to a new home. Work can become taxing during pregnancy, simply because you have less energy, which can become a source of stress as you work harder to keep up. And the hormonal changes during pregnancy can bring up strong emotions, and fears or can put one 'out of sorts' for seemingly little things. Being aware of all these stress factors can help you find ways to address them and put your mind to rest, or find someone who can help you find a stress easing solution. It's also important to rest during pregnancy, especially in the last weeks, when lack of sleep can affect labour[6].


As much as possible, expose yourself to beautiful, joyful thoughts and surroundings. It is of great value to find things to do such as going for walks, spending time in nature, making things with your hands, singing or playing an instrument, reading good books, going to galleries, meeting friends for conversation, things that encourage the calm and quiet that are healthy for the mother and baby. Also, quality time together strengthens the bond between the parents, helps create good habits for a healthy home life, and is good preparation for an intense time to come.


[3] Alcohol and Pregnancy. Public Health Agency of Canada, September 2008, researched July 2009


[4] Cornell University. How Babies Are Ushered Into Life Determines How Healthily They Will Live As Adults, Book By Cornell Pregnancy Researcher Says. ScienceDaily, January 19,1999, researched June 2009  <>


[5] Odent, Michel and Pascal Odent. Pre-labour intrauterine life, Maternal Emotional States and Prenatal Care 2006,  June 2009 <>


 [6] Lee, Kathryn, RN, PhD, FAAN and Caryl L. Gay, PhD. Inadequate sleep in late pregnancy may influence labor and delivery. University of California UCSF School of Nursing December 15, 2004, researched June 2009 <>


See The negative effects of media



Samuels MD - Mother's emotions on unborn baby.htm


Sarkar, et al. -Stress in pregnancy may affect the fetus.pdf




Single mothers - It seems that if you are alone in the endeavour of having a baby and raising a child, it will be important to find or create a support system for yourself and the baby. Family, friends, other parents, and parenting groups, are good places to look for childcare support and emotional support. When parenting questions and decisions arise, it can also be helpful to have the listening ear of someone who knows you, and in emergencies, it's always good to have someone you trust and can count on.


For the birth, and especially after the birth, plan to have someone with you that you trust, and that can help with the first weeks of household care and meals, so you can rest and recuperate. Sometimes it can be difficult to ask for help, but most people are glad to lend a hand when it matters. If you can afford it, it may be a good idea to hire a doula to be with you at the birth and help out the first weeks.


See Doulas




Planning ahead for working mothers - What is the ideal care for a baby, how can they can best be supported and by whom? It seems that no one would be more invested in the baby's well-being and development than her own parents, and that the genuine interest and warmth of a mother or father toward their own child are very difficult to replace. Being nurtured by one of her parents is of immense value to a baby, but it is a circumstance that seems to be rare in our day. Knowing when to return to work and deciding who will care for the baby are complex issues, involving ideals, finances, social circumstances, culture and religion.


If it is possible for you, it may be a good idea to put off deciding when or if you will be returning to work until after the baby is born. Some parents feel very differently about working after their baby has arrived.[7] Keeping your options open will allow you to make a decision when you're clearer about what feels right. Also, studies have linked taking early maternity leave with less risk of c-section and better chances of breastfeeding, so if it is possible, take maternity leave ahead of time to rest and prepare for the arrival of the baby. [8]


Since finances are very frequently part of the question of whether to work or stay at home, it may be valuable to evaluate the detailed costs involved with working (child care, transportation, work clothes, prepared meals, etc.) and see how much more your income will bring in, compared to staying at home with your baby. Another consideration is that you may be able to work part-time or find ways to earn extra money from your home.

[7] La Leche League International. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Plume, The Penguin Group (USA) Inc. New York 2004


[8] Yang, Sara. Studies link maternity leave with fewer C-sections and increased breastfeeding. The Natural Child Project, 5 January 2009,  researched June 2009 <>


See Valuing parenting, staying at home vs. day care




Diet and nutrition in pregnancy - There is a lot of sources of information available about diet during pregnancy. But here are some thoughts and suggestions. Very simply, eat well. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, organic meat and organic dairy that's been re-cultured such as yogurt and kefir, and the least processed foods possible. (Even better than organic, if you can find it, are biodynamic vegetables, dairy and meat.[9]) A good rule of thumb is 'if it isn't food don't eat it'  - things such as food colouring, nitrates, preservatives... Try to stay away from junk food, soft drinks and sweets, not only because of additives and preservatives, and inviting unnecessary weight gain, but too much sugar can lead to the baby to growing faster on empty calories.[10] Drink lots of water. To mention a few things, make sure that in your diet you have:


 - folic acid found in green vegetables, lentils, nuts, liver (Though supplements are not always the preferred way of getting nutrients, folic acid has been shown to help prevent neural tube defects in daily amounts above 0.4 mg a day or more[11],[12] amounts not usually    available in a regular diet.)

- omega 3 Essential Fatty Acid[13], [14] found in fish and flax oils (These support the baby's   neurological development, and can lessen the chances of post partum depression.)

- calcium found in milk, cheese, egg yolks and leafy vegetables

- iron found in meats, eggs, grains, leafy vegetables, nuts and dried fruit

- B vitamins found in meat, beans, milk and cheese

- vitamin C found in citrus fruits, strawberries, melons, papayas, broccoli, tomatoes, chilli peppers, potatoes

- vitamin E found in vegetable oils, leafy vegetables, cereals, meat, eggs milk[15]

These also can be taken as a dietary supplement if they aren't sufficient in your diet  (There are multivitamins made especially or pregnant and lactating women).

- vitamin D generated with the skin’s exposure to sunlight. (In pregnancy, vitamin D is passed on to the baby through the mother, after birth, some of the required amount is passed on through the milk. During winter months, if you do not have much sun exposure you may consider taking a supplement.) [16]


Why organic? Organic fruit and vegetables are free of pesticides, which can be toxic in various degrees. [17] The developing foetus, and the young child are especially vulnerable to the neurological effects of pesticides, and studies have shown that eating organic food can greatly reduce exposure to pesticides. [18] Organic milk products have at certain times been found to have higher levels of Omega3 essential fatty oil, vitamin E, and beta-carotene.[19] If you are an avid meat-eater, it may be wise to invest in organic meats and eat it a little less often. Organic meats are from animals raised on organic feeds and are free of antibiotics, added growth hormones, and GMO feed. If organic food is difficult to find, or too expensive for you, look for local, fresh vegetables, and free-range (or pasture-fed) meat, eggs and dairy. If this all seems daunting, a good place to start is to just buy fresh vegetables and grains (rice, quinoa, barley, millet) and legumes (lentils, beans) that appeal and if you're not sure how to cook them, find a recipe for them in a cook book or online, and experiment.


Food cravings are a very real thing for some pregnant women. If the food being craved is less wholesome, it can be beneficial to see what element in the food is really being craved, and to find something healthier to eat. For example, maybe the craving for ice cream could be eased with natural yogurt and maple syrup or fruit.


Raspberry leaf tea is full of vitamins and minerals and is very beneficial for the health and strength of the uterus.[20] It can be a very helpful thing to drink regularly, starting at the beginning of the third trimester of the pregnancy, (four cups a day) in preparation for the labour.


[9] What is Biodynamic Agriculture? Biodynamic Farming  and Gardening Association , 2009, researched August 2009 <>


[10] Sugar and Pregnancy, Natural Pregnancy. A Much Better Way, LLC, 2008, researched July 2009 <>


[11] Wilson, R. Douglas, MD, FRCSC. The Use of Folic Acid for the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects and Other Congenital Anomalies. SOCC Clinical Practice Guidelines, No. 138, November 2003, researched August 2009 <>


[12] Folic Acid. Public Health Agency of Canada, September 2008, researched July 2009 <>


[13] Helland, IB et al.. Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children's IQ at 4 years of age. The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) 2009 Issue 3,, January 2003, researched August 2009 <>

[14] Université Laval. Omega-3 Intake During Last Months Of Pregnancy Boosts An Infant's Cognitive And Motor Development. ScienceDaily, April 11, 2008, June, 2009 <­/releases/2008/04/080409110029.htm>

[15] Samuels, Mike, MD, and Nancy Samuels. The Well Baby Book. Summit Books, New York 1991


[16] Mojab, Cynthia Good. Sunlight Deficiency: A Review of the Literature. Mothering Magazine, Issue 117, March/April 2003, researched  October 2009 <>

[17] What's on my food? Pesticide Action Network North America, 2009, researched June 2009 <>


[18] University of Washington. Panna News: Eating Organics Cuts Kids' Pesticide Loads. Pan North America, 31 January 2003, June 2009 <>

[19] DeWitt, Jerry. Organic Milk: Nutritional Benefits. Scientific Findings About Organic Agriculture, 2008, researched July 2009 <>


[20] Palmer, Jane. Raspberry Leaf., December 2000, researched July 2009 <>

See Nourishing Traditions and Foodwise in Nutrition references.


The following site has an informative slide show of the important foods to buy organic:





Things to avoid in pregnancy - More suggestions:


      avoid any alcohol [21]

      recreational drugs, and check prescription drugs with your doctor

      any smoked or undercooked meats

      cheeses made with unpasteurized milk

      soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert and blue cheese

      things sweetened with aspartame


Also, avoid things with caffeine such as:



      black tea

      caffeinated soft drinks



Caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic. It can reduce the absorption of certain minerals and vitamins, raises blood pressure and is passed on through the placenta to the baby, who cannot metabolize it. If coffee or chocolate is a must, buy better quality (organic) and be as moderate as possible.


Make sure any drugs, vitamins, teas, herbal teas, homeopathic, Traditional Chinese Medicine or other remedies you want to take are safe in pregnancy. Some herbs have powerful effects.

[21] Alcohol and Pregnancy. Public Health Agency of Canada, September 2008, researched July 2009  <>


See Beauty and cleaning products, Cleaning




Exposure to abuse and violence - The issue of violence seems to be more common than is often thought. Any violence or abuse experienced by a pregnant woman affects the unborn child. Whether it is physical violence, emotional or psychological abuse, verbal abuse, financial, social, sexual abuse, or being ridiculed for religious or spiritual beliefs, it is all a form of violence that affects the unborn child.[22] If you find yourself in this situation, ask for help, for yourself and for the health of the baby. Find a local help line, or someone that has resources to help you change your situation in whatever way necessary.

[22] Healthy Beginnings. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario 2005




Exercise and body treatments - If any time is a good time to do regular exercise, then it seems pregnancy is an even better time,[23] but it's good to be aware of changes in your body. If you do intense aerobic activities, you may want to ask your doctor or caregiver if it's appropriate and how long you can do it. While doing exercise, try to be aware of what may feel different and not push yourself too hard. Gentle exercise such as walking, yoga, or swimming, are ideal, especially later in the pregnancy. You may find that in the third trimester you start feeling practice contractions (Braxton Hicks) when you exercise. Doing pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises during pregnancy can be helpful in toning the pelvic floor to aid in the birth and recovery after the delivery, as well as helping with urinary incontinence. If you're going for massage, physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopath, acupuncture or any other body or energy treatment, it's good to let the practitioner know that you're pregnant.

[23] Davies, Gregory A. L., MD, FRCSC, et al.. Exercise in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. JOINT SOGC/CSEP CLINICAL PRACTICE GUIDELINE No. 129, June 2003, researched August 2009 <>




Energy maintenance - What can you do to keep your energy levels up? Some women are a lot more tired during pregnancy, so taking care of yourself and managing your energy is important. Getting lots of rest and sleep is important for your health and the baby's, and helps lessen the stress of everyday life. [24] Not that long ago, when people did work and chores, they had a song for everything. They hoed the garden, chopped trees, swept the floor, cleaned the house, to the rhythm of the song, in regular, rhythmical movements. Even if you don't have a song for everything, finding a rhythm in any task you're doing can be more fun and a lot less tiring.[25] Finding a rhythm in the structure of the day can be very helpful too, such as eating meals and waking and sleeping at regular times. This saves you energy for going through the day, especially if you are working a lot or if you already have a little one.


[24] Lee, Kathryn, RN, PhD, FAAN and Caryl L. Gay, PhD Inadequate sleep in late pregnancy may influence labor and delivery University of California UCSF School of Nursing, 15 December 2004, June 2009 <>


[25] Harwood, A.C.. The Way of the Child. Rudolf Steiner Press, London 1974


Samuels MD - Mother's emotions on unborn baby.htm


Harwood, A.C. - Rhythm.htm



Making a home - What can you do to prepare the space for the baby? It is ideal to welcome a newborn in a way that is gentle on the senses: rooms that are simple, clean and light, and though de-cluttering isn't always easy to do, it always feels good afterwards. You could ready your home for the baby and the new lifestyle to come by looking at each room and evaluating what clutter you can clear up, what objects or furniture you can give away, what can be put away, what can be cleaned, repaired or repainted. You could call it a form of anticipated nesting! This may also help you more easily accommodate the baby's changing mobility needs, and make baby-proofing much easier when the time comes.


See Welcoming the baby, nourishing the senses


Clothing and care for the baby


Baby proofing the home


About conscious parenting



Conscious Parenting Guide 2009 

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Copyright © Julie Le Gal Brodeur 2009         Updated October 7, 2010