I am sure you all know that planning for pregnancy requires much more than just choosing the cutest pair of booties on the shelf (although that is an important consideration of course).
After becoming pregnant many women seek information about the importance of good nutritional choices during pregnancy, post pregnancy and during breast feeding. However, there seems to be a lack of understanding of the crucial role of nutrition during the months prior to conception, its impact on both a mother’s own health and on the growth and development of her baby.
So, for those of you who are contemplating the idea of motherhood, here are some valuable ideas to consider for a head start to a healthy pregnancy and optimum support for a growing baby.
Aim for a healthy weight
In the months prior to conception it’s important to maintain what is considered to be a “healthy weight” as this is thought to benefit women trying to conceive, and also to ensure the best possible start for growing a baby.
If your body at the moment is above your individual healthy weight range, it is advisable to set some goals for weight loss prior to conception. Although it’s a good idea to at least aim for your ideal weight, any weight lost prior to pregnancy will be beneficial.
In addition, beginning a pregnancy without excess weight can help to reduce the chance of pregnancy complications including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, longer hospital stays and caesarean section.
If your weight is below the healthy weight range, it’s important to ensure your food intake is meeting the nutritional requirements to achieve a healthy weight, to ensure optimal nutrient stores for your growing baby and reduce the risks of preterm births.
Include foods from all food groups
Try to develop the habit of eating healthy, balanced meals from now on so that you will have continual good quality nutrition throughout all stages of your motherhood experience.
It’s a good time to have a look at what you eat, and to remove some of the old habits which are not so healthy. Eating nutritious foods and limiting foods high in saturated fat will ensure optimal nutrient stores and reduce unwanted calories.
Folic Acid is important for the healthy growth and development of the baby and it also reduces the chance of deformities such as neural tube defects.
Folate is found naturally in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruit, beans and lentils and fortified in some breads and cereals, but, if you are trying to conceive it is beneficial to take an additional folic acid supplement. Although it is difficult to determine when you will conceive, recommendations are to start taking 400 microgram (µg) folic acid supplements daily one month prior to conception and continue through the first three months of pregnancy.
If you are considering a pre pregnancy diet it’s a good idea to include plenty of whole grain breads, vegetables, fish and eggs to ensure you are receiving ample iodine. Although we only need small amounts of iodine in our diet, pregnant and breast feeding women are often advised to take an iodine supplement for the healthy growth and development of the baby.
Combined with a good nutritional plan, moderate intensity exercise for 45 mins 5 times per week can help with attaining a healthy weight. There are many other benefits of physical activity such as reducing stress and anxiety, improving bowel habits, lowering the risks of diabetes and assisting with sleep. Once you become pregnant you can adapt your physical activity according to your body needs but it’s great to be in a state of fitness to begin your pregnancy.