If ever there is a time when good nutrition is most essential in a woman’s life, it is during pregnacy. During pregnancy nutritional demands increase, even doubling, for some nutrients. Even though nutritional demands increase, the common notion of “eating for two” does seem to be way off the mark, as the need for calories increases only by a small amount. Nutritional demand is more than just energy.
Healthy eating and good nutrition is also essential for women prior to conception, as it could be the difference, indirectly or otherwise, between getting pregnant or not. Good healthy eating habits may go a long way in ensuring conception, and a good safe and uneventful pregnancy. Being too underweight before concenception may make getting pregnant difficult. Therefore, maintaning a good healthy weight helps.
Infertility, according to WHO, affects up to 15% of reproductive-aged couples worldwide. Research has also shown that sometimes failure to conceive could be a result of obesity, on the part of the prospective mothers. Obesity can, potentially, disrupt ovulation and diminishes a woman’s chance of conceiving. At least, if a woman’s inability to conceive is down to obesity there is something she can do about it. Good nutrition and weight loss goes a long way in increasing a woman’s chances of conceiving and becoming pregnant.
Healthy eating and good nutrition may also play an important role, both before and after conception, in preventing congenital disorders like neural tube defects. Knowing which foods to eat and which to avoid is a good starting point for women planning to get pregnant.
Foods To Eat Plenty Of:
High calcium foods like milk and dairy products. Calcium essential for bone formation in the unborn baby.
Lean meat and fish for protein and iron. Extra iron is not usually needed as during pregnancy there is no menstruation, hence iron loss is diminished. If iron supplements are taken unnecessarily constipation and nausea may uccur.
High folate foods like broccoli and legumes which may help prevent neural tube defects. Folate supplements may be necessary before conception and for three months into the pregnancy. Seek a doctor’s advice over this.
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High fibre foods like fruits and vegetables, and fluids, help prevent constipation, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.
Foods To Avoid:
Foods rich in vitamin A, liver, which can be toxic in pregnancy and may result in birth defects. Supplements containing vitamin A, as well as fish liver oils, should also be avoided.
If possible, alcohol should be avoided, or at the least, very small amounts may be consumed.
Some cheeses like, Brie and Camembert (soft cheeses) contain the listeria bug, which can cause poisoning, so should be avoided.
Some fish like shark, swordfish and merlin may contain harmful levels of mercury, which can be harmful to the baby’s developing nervous system.
Raw and undercooked eggs pose the risk of salmonella infection. Raw meat and other uncooked foods may pose the same risks, as well as other types of food poisoning from campylobacter and E. Coli.
The main thing, during pregnancy, and probably as important before pregnancy, is to have a varied and healthy diet which provides adequate amounts of all the nutrients needed by both the mother and the developing baby. As it is difficult to obtain sufficient amounts of vitamin D from diet, especially where there is limited sunlight exposure, vitamin D supplementation may be necessary.
If you are planning to have a baby just remember that there are diet and nutritional measures you can put in place, both before conception and during pregnancy, to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy mother and baby. Give your baby the best start in life!