IMPORTANCE OF DIET WHEN PLANNING TO HAVE A BABY
When planning for a baby, a healthy diet will provide both you and your partner with the nutrients needed to prepare your bodies for conception. It takes 3-4 months for ‘new’ eggs and sperms to develop and so it is important that over this time span certain guidelines are followed to maximise the chances of them being healthy.
When you are pregnant, or even just considering it, what you eat is vital for the development and well being of your unborn baby and may affect its future health. So if you are planning pregnancy in the near future, the earlier you start assessing your diet and making relevant changes the better, if you want to give your unborn the best start in life!
Being a healthy body weight is important when considering pregnancy. If you are under weight it can be more difficult to conceive, primarily because there may not be enough ‘fat’ in the system to transport the all important hormones such as oestrogen, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and testosterone round the body. Women who are very overweight may also have problems conceiving and when pregnant may suffer complications with the birth.
Eating a healthy diet is also important for men who are hoping to become dads. There have been many studies confirming the importance of specific nutrients such as zinc and selenium for male sperm quality. It is also essential for men to stick firmly within the alcohol limits – ideally avoid completely but certainly not exceeding 2-3 units per day.
So it is advisable to take steps to make sure you are eating a healthy diet and to either lose or gain weight (if necessary) in a sensible way, before considering becoming pregnant.
Here are some recommendations to prepare the body for conception and pregnancy. Eat regular meals and snacks within a healthy regime which includes the following:
• Wholegrain carbohydrates such as brown pasta, rice and bread.
• At least 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables per day – especially dark coloured berries and green vegetables.
• At least 3 portions of dairy produce per day – drink semi skimmed milk and eat pro biotic yogurts – avoid ‘very low fat’ versions, as, as previously mentioned, some fat is needed to transport hormones around the body.
• Lean sources of protein such as meat, chicken, fish and eggs (well cooked), beans and pulses.
• Occasional fat rich and sugary foods.
• At least 8 medium glasses of fluid per day – diluted fruit juice, water or herbal teas are ideal.
• Very little or no alcohol or caffeine.
The above plan includes all the nutrients required to prepare the body for pregnancy – calcium from dairy products, zinc, protein and iron from protein sources, all the vitamins, especially Vitamin C, from lots of varied fruit and vegetables and the all important B vitamins, essential for growth and energy, from whole grains. Indeed, once pregnant, the digestive system in pregnant women changes and becomes more efficient at absorbing the nutrients, and, in fact most of the additional nutrients can be met by eating a well-balanced and varied diet.
So the old adage ‘eating for two’ does not mean that you should eat twice as much food!!
NOW YOU ARE PREGNANT...
you will be considering what you eat, more than at any other time.
The responsibility of feeding and ‘growing’ another human being should never be taken lightly. You need to know what foods are beneficial for your baby’s health and development and what should be avoided. Your baby gets the first call on all the nutrients it needs so you need to make sure that you are feeding yourself well and taking in enough nutrients to keep yourself healthy. And furthermore it does appear that what an expectant mother eats – or doesn’t eat – can have a profound effect on a baby’s health in the womb, after he or she is born and when they become an adult.
So what should you be eating to guarantee a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby?
What your body and ‘baby need’
• Plenty of fruit and vegetables – these are full of nutrients which will enable healthy cell development of the baby in the womb. They are also a very good source of fibre which will help the bowel work effectively and so help prevent constipation – the most common complaint amongst pregnant women.
• Complex carbohydrates rather than ‘white versions’, such as wholegrain rice bread, pasta and rice. These are full of nutrients, especially B vitamins, which can really help to balance the mood, and are also a very good form of slow release energy.
• Oily foods such as salmon, mackerel, nuts and seeds which are very good for brain development and may also help the body deal with the stresses of pregnancy.
• Dairy products such as milk, yogurts and low fat cheese - try to eat/drink 3 portions per day for the calcium required for the growing baby.
• Lots of fluids especially water to eliminate toxins quickly from the body.
• Protein from fish, lean meat and chicken, eggs, nuts and seeds and pulses is essential for the overall development of the baby. Certain protein such as red meat also includes iron which is very important for the development of red blood cells.
• A good quality Multi vitamin and mineral supplement is also recommended as this will ensure that you are getting the extra vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy pregnancy. What your body & baby can ‘do without ‘ The following should be avoided, or at least limited, as the body does not require them and will therefore spend too much time on the elimination process rather than concentrating on developing the growing foetus:
• Additives, preservatives and hydrogenated fats such as those found in processed foods and takeaways.
• Alcohol, caffeine and refined sugar which act as stimulants on the system and can greatly disrupt blood sugar balance which may cause Mum to feel faint and unwell.
• Soft cheeses, pates and unpasteurised dairy products which contain a form of bacteria which could prove dangerous to the developing foetus.
• Nicotine in the form of cigarettes which is very harmful to the growing foetus.
And don’t forget a healthy diet also essential for the energy you need to prepare you for the birth and looking after your new born baby!
MORNING SICKNESS & HOW TO OVERCOME IT...
Morning sickness in some form affects about half of all pregnant women, usually in the early stages – from 1 to 12-16 weeks. It can take the form of a feeling of general un-wellness, nausea or actual vomiting and can occur at any time of the day.
Causes - There is not one clear cause but it would appear that the symptoms are probably caused by either large numbers of hormones being released into the body, changes in blood pressure or changes in the digestive system.
Remedies - There are a number of remedies, not all of which work for every pregnant woman and some of which suit different degrees of symptoms.
Classic morning sickness - the feeling of nausea first thing in the morning can be caused by the action of moving on an empty stomach. A solution to this is to eat some simple food like a dry biscuit or water biscuit – have it next to your bed so you can eat it on waking. It can also be helped by eating something like cereal with milk last thing before going to sleep. Milk is useful because it is difficult to digest, so it keeps the intestines active for longer. Certain smells can also cause problems such as strong cooking smells, washing powders, soaps, perfumes and cigarette smoke – identification and avoidance is the best cure.
General rules to prevent feelings of nausea or reduce the feelings if they occur:
• Keep fluids in the system especially water, drink little and often to keep the digestive system functioning.
• Herbal teas can also settle the stomach, especially mint tea. Fizzy drinks are known to settle the stomach and some women find that lemon varieties are particularly effective.
• Some women find B- Vitamins particularly effective to combat the feelings – these are abundant in whole grains or are available as a supplement for a health food store.
• Ginger in any form is reputedly helpful in stopping nausea and sickness – either in form of ginger tea or ginger biscuits.
• Eating little and often is also recommended as this keeps some food in the system and so should keep the feeling of nausea at bay. Cereal with milk is a good food source for pregnant women because of the high calcium and fibre content, regardless of whether it is breakfast time or not.
• Avoid fatty foods if possible as these foods can trigger symptoms.
• Glucose sweets can be a good way to stop the feelings and also keep blood sugar levels up – so always carry some with you.
• Also tiredness can make symptoms much worse so try to rest whenever you feel you need to.
• Listen to and respond to your cravings as the body is asking for something which it needs and which does not normally feature in your everyday diet.
Now the good news As unpleasant as morning sickness can be, it is often a good sign as it means that the baby and its surrounding environment are developing well.