Pregnancy is an exciting and exhilarating time in a woman’s life, but it can present Mums-to-be with new challenges and fears. From pre-conception to birth, everyone wants to feel that they’re doing the best for their baby, and protecting their own health at the same time. However there’s no need to decide upon a fad diet once you see that positive pregnancy test, a normal healthy and balanced diet is a good foundation for expectant mothers, with a few minor adaptations. There is lots of confusing and conflicting information available on the internet, but these easy to follow tips and guidelines will help you to achieve a healthy pregnancy throughout pregnancy and motherhood.
Many women now recognize the importance of ensuring adequate intake of folic acid, for themselves and for their baby. Taking a folic acid supplement of 400mcg before conception and in the first trimester, or 12 weeks, of pregnancy helps to reduce the likelihood of neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida and Anencephaly. There has also been research which suggests that folic acid can help to reduce risks to the mother, including conditions such as preeclampsia and premature labor. In addition to supplements, folic acid can be found in fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, fruit juice and lentils; but it is recommended that women continue to take a supplement even when incorporating these foods into a balanced diet. It’s important to check the vitamins you’re taking as an excess of vitamin A in pregnancy is linked to an increased risk of deformities. Taking a specially developed conception or pregnancy vitamin can help to reduce the likelihood of encountering these issues.
Don’t eat for two!
Whilst most healthy women will gain weight during pregnancy, eating for two is a myth. During the second and third trimester, pregnant women will require around an extra 300 calories per day. Ideally these should be from a healthy balance of nutritional sources, such as lean protein, fruits and vegetables. It’s also important to not fall into the trap of thinking that not gaining weight will make pregnancy and delivery easier – gaining around five to eleven pounds is normal and is a sign that the baby is receiving adequate nutrition. If you’re concerned about weight gained during pregnancy then one of the healthiest and most effective ways to lose this excess weight is through breastfeeding – and there are many health benefits for the baby too. There are foods to be avoided altogether during pregnancy however, and these include:
* Unpasteurized or ‘unset’ cheese and dairy products
* Raw and undercooked meat
It’s not too late
Of course most doctors will advise women who are planning to conceive that healthy eating is good preparation for pregnancy; however a large proportion of pregnancies are unplanned. If you’ve not been eating ‘right’, don’t despair! Whether you’re planning for a baby, have just received your positive test or are already entering the third trimester; it’s not too late to improve outcomes for yourself and your baby. Stopping alcohol and tobacco consumption can have a huge impact at any stage of pregnancy, and reducing your caffeine intake has been shown to reduce the risk of miscarriage in several studies. Beginning a healthy and balanced diet will stand you in good stead throughout your pregnancy and beyond!