Cacao For Pregnancy
The Benefits Of Taking Cacao During Pregnancy
There is a lot of information about Cacao in the Ceremonial Cacao pages but this page explores how you can use Cacao during your pregnancy to create oxytocin, for nutritional benefit and to assist you during birth. I will include as much information here as possible so that you can start to understand the pros and cons for using Cacao during pregnancy and beyond. I encourage you to really feel into what is right for you, especially if you are new to Cacao and as always, if in doubt, consult your health practitioner and / or a nutritional advisor such as a naturopath.
First trimester 0 - 10g occasionally
Maximum dose during 2nd to 4th trimester 10-12g 1 to 3 times a week
From 37 weeks to birth you can increase to around 15g to 20g 3 times a week as you prepare for the birth
During birth consider a higher dose of maybe 20 to 30g
Only use plant milk or water to make (not dairy)
Boil initially for a minute then simmer until Cacao melted
Do not drink other drinks with caffeine in
The First Trimester
My feeling is to avoid Cacao during this trimester, particularly if you are new to it. If you do decide to drink it then keep your dose low (10g) and only take up to 3 days a week, leaving breaks in between to allow the Cacao to leave the body and to prevent any inhibitory effects on the growing baby. Also boil the Cacao briefly (which normally we would say avoid) and then simmer, this is to eliminate the oxalates which can compete for calcium absorption.
Caffeine & Sugar; Current guidelines are to avoid caffeine in pregnancy and also refined sugars as much as possible. Cacao would be a good substitute if this advice is not achievable for you, as raw cacao is lower in caffeine than coffee and has a much more gentle effect, with no spikes in energy levels, as it takes 5-6 hours to be metabolised in the body, therefore providing a slower and steady energy release. Cacao also helps to curb sugar cravings and reduce stress and anxiety when having those emotional wobble moments.
Cacao has a high fat content which may make pregnancy nausea worse. Honouring what the body is telling you is an excellent way to not consume what your body is guiding you not to eat or drink. However if you can stomach a drink of good quality cacao then the nutritional benefits are vast and may actually ward off feelings of sickness.
Constipation is a common side effect of the first trimester and the magnesium, B vitamins and fibre in Cacao can help with this issue
The Second Trimester
Cacao is a superfood (See Health benefits of Cacao)
Packed with antioxidants, zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and flavonoids, which are all beneficial nutrients for supporting the mothers adrenal and immune system during pregnancy. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and nervous system tonic and there are studies that show that cacao can reduce pre-eclampsia in pregnancy.
Whilst mum will benefit greatly from Cacao there are conflicting reports about the effects of Cacao on baby. Some reports say methylxanthines may be growth inhibitors for babies whilst others say it improves neonatal respiratory outcomes in pre-term babies, with another study showing that methylxanthines reduced the need for oxygen therapy, ventilator support and improved neurodevelopmental outcomes in infancy . Both Coffee and Cacao are methylxanthines and it is this that is causing the controversy.
For this reason it is best to be cautious and do not exceed the doses I have recommended even though I have erred on the side of caution in my guidelines. We can only look to the ancient cultures for guidance and what we do know for certain is they have been using Cacao in childbirth for millennia.
The Third Trimester
This is the trimester when mum to be can be uncomfortable and finding it hard to get comfy and sleep. It is also often a stressful time as the pregnancy nears it's end and worries about the birth increase. Cacao is perfect for reducing stress and anxiety and improving calmness. A calm and stress free mum is good for both her and the baby, as they both prepare for the journey ahead.
The Birth Process
It is in the birth process that Ceremonial Cacao can really come into it's own. There is a beautiful opportunity to work with Mama Cacao to help you through the most sacred part of your journey to motherhood.
Many cultures have and do use Cacao to aid delivery, to promote breast milk and as medicine to aid recovery from the birth process. As an anti depressant it would also be helpful to ease separation anxiety or post natal depression.
Cacao will nourish the Mother, open her heart and allow the Oxytocin to flow freely as she goes through the birthing process. It will also help sustain energy levels during birth. If she has been working with this amazing plant medicine before birth, she will be familiar with the calming and soothing effect and could also take a larger dose than she has been having during pregnancy. It would also be hugely beneficial for her partner and other birthing partners, to calm nerves, sustain energy, especially during long labour and to help integrate the energy of Cacao into the birthing room.
If you haven't been taking Cacao throughout pregnancy, I would recommend starting to integrate it from 37 weeks, so that you are familiar with how it works with your body and energy.
The 4th Trimester
Breastfeeding mums often avoid caffeine to avoid making babies irritable. Cacao is much lower in caffeine and so could be a better solution although you will only know how it affects your baby by trying the odd drink. If you have already been drinking cacao during pregnancy you should be alright to continue whilst feeding.
Cacao increases oxytocin which is the hormone needed to produce milk and is thought by some cultures to be a galactagogue, so it is worth experimenting with Cacao to see if your baby can tolerate it.
Theobromine is a gentle stimulant of the cardiovascular system, Phenylethylamine (PEA) increases dopamine which increases our attentiveness and lifts our mood, and Anandamide giving us pain relief as well as being an anxiety reducer and happiness booster. What else could a new mum ask for as she bonds with her new baby.
The journey with Cacao is individual and it will be for you to create your relationship with her. Always start with lower doses and feel your way by letting your body be your guide.
Cacao For Children
Up to one year old - Zero cacao (or chocolate)
12-24 months - an occasional small taste
24 months onwards - 10g up to 3 times a week
older children - 10-15g
These are guidelines, if in doubt always consult your health advisor
Cacao contains large amounts of calcium, and magnesium both great for growing children. It prevents tooth decay and is much healthier than the sugary chocolate alternatives found in our shops today.