Moms-to-be understand the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy. But it is also important to insure that you’re getting appropriate levels of food and nutrients before your baby is even conceived.
To begin, a mother’s pre-pregnancy weight can affect what happens in her pregnancy. Studies have shown that underweight women will tend to give birth to smaller babies, even when the women gain the same amount of weight during the pregnancy as women of normal weight. At the other end, women who are overweight before pregnancy have increased risks for some conditions during pregnancy, including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
A woman who wants to conceive should make a point to eat healthy, whole, unprocessed foods, and consume a balanced diet. Whole grains, vegetables and fruits supply an enormous array of nutrients and are an important part of a healthy diet.
And at this time, consuming enough calcium (and getting enough vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption) becomes that much more essential. Three daily servings of dairy supply a woman’s daily calcium needs. If she becomes pregnant, she will be building the baby’s bones with the calcium she eats; during pregnancy, therefore, calcium intake should increase by 400 mg a day, or an additional serving of calcium-rich foods. In addition to dairy products, calcium-rich foods include eggs, salmon, mackerel, sardines, and enriched foods.
Whole grains and green leafy vegetables are two good sources of iron and folic acid, two additional nutrients that a woman wanting to conceive should eat regularly. Iron helps to oxygenate and carry nutrients to all the body’s cells, keeping tissues healthy. Folic acid is an important B vitamin that is needed by every cell to break down, use and make proteins; it also helps make red blood cells and DNA, the cells’ genetic code. Folate is also known to prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
Additional sources of iron are: liver, beef, dark chicken meats, and seeds. Additional sources of folic acid are: some brands of orange juice (check nutrition panel), beans, enriched cereals, and some berries.
Avoid excessive consumption of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, as these substances deplete the body’s nutritional stores.
If you have any doubt that you’re getting all the nutrients you need in your diet, you may want to consider a quality daily multi-vitamin + mineral supplement.
As a final note, some moms-to-be may not think of it, but dental health is especially important during pregnancy, as pregnancy hormones may enhance your gums’ response to plaque, and gums may be more prone to develop gingivitis.
Excess bacteria in the gums could get into the bloodstream and travel to the uterus. Some health professionals believe that certain hormonal changes in the uterus may be caused by bacteria from a gum infection, and that may sometimes induce a pre-term birth. It is important, then, to keep scheduled visits to your dentist before you conceive, to help insure the success of your future pregnancy.
By Lisa Pecos