Did you know that February and March are the perfect time to plant in Arizona? Many people are often surprised to learn of the many, many fruits, vegetables, and flowers that grow nearly year round in our desert soil.
What, may you ask, does gardening have to do with having babies? Gardening has so many benefits to offer pregnant women, women trying to become pregnant, and growing families.
The first benefit is the simple gift of drawing us outdoors, to place our hands in the earth, feel the sun on our skin, and be aware of the sounds of birds and bees. In our highly urbanized, technical world, we need to carve out opportunities to quiet our mind and the pace of our lives. A garden demands you come outside and tend it, lest all your past efforts wilt in the dry earth. Exposure to green space has been correlated with lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression and higher levels of emotional well-being in multiple studies, all things which are associated with higher fertility rates, better pregnancy outcomes, and happier young children.
Growing fruit and vegetables also encourages us to eat more fruit and vegetables. While we should all be working to incorporate more produce into our diets, this is especially true for women who are trying to become pregnant or who are pregnant. Vegetables should make up about half of the food on our plate. Fruits and vegetables are an essential source of the many vitamins and micronutrients you need to build a healthy baby and they are much more easily absorbed from food sources than supplements. Vegetables are high in fiber, which makes you feel full without the negative effects of foods that are high in sugar and fats. When vegetables are eaten with other carbohydrates, they slow down the body’s digestion of those other carbohydrates, keeping your blood sugar more even or regulated, which not only makes you feel better, it reduces the risk of gestational diabetes and excess weight gain and decreases inflammation. Vegetables also feed healthy gut bacteria and reduce constipation.
Mothers who eat diets that are low in sugar and high in produce have been shown to be less likely to deliver preterm, have children with allergies or asthma, or experience infertility.
So, whether you have an acre of land or a little patio, get outside and get your hands in the dirt. It is good for you and your baby.
A great resource about diet for pregnant mothers is: Real Food for Pregnancy: The science and wisdom of optimal prenatal nutrition, by Lily Nichols.
If you would like to learn to garden in the desert, How to Grow your own Food, by Angela Judd, is a great resource, as is her website: https://growinginthegarden.com
Dr. Michelle Aristizabal is a board-certified General Obstetrician and Gynecologist in Montclair, NJ. She is the author of Natural Labor and Birth: An evidenced-based review of the natural birth plan and runs a busy, private practice, with a special focus on supporting women who desire low-intervention, un-medicated births.