If you’re planning on getting pregnant, you can improve your chances of conceiving and having a successful pregnancy & pregnancy outcome by following the steps-
Don’t rely on supplements to make up for an unhealthy diet. Vitamin and mineral supplements cannot replace a healthy diet. A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any time, but is especially vital if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy. It is important to eat a variety of different foods every day to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your baby need.
Healthy Diets: Fruit and Vegetables
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables because these provide vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, which help in digestion and prevent constipation. Eat at least 4-5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day – these can be fresh, frozen, dried or juiced.
Starchy Foods (Carbohydrates)
For the first six months of your pregnancy (1st & 2nd trimesters), you won’t need to have more calories than you did before you became pregnant i.e. about 2,000 calories a day. However, during the last three months of your pregnancy (3rd trimester), you will need an extra 300-500 calories a day, making a total of about 2,300-2,500 calories a day. Calorie rich foods include meat, fish oil, bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, maize, millet, oats, sweet potatoes, yams, and cornmeal. These foods should be the main part of every meal.
During pregnancy, your need for protein significantly increases. Protein is necessary for development of all new cells. Sources of protein include: meat, milk, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, pulses, nuts, potatoes, egg white, yogurt, oranges, etc. Take at least 60gm/day
Nutritional Supplements: Folic acid (before & during pregnancy)
Folic acid is important for pregnancy as it can help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects. A neural tube defect is when the foetus’ spinal cord (part of the body’s nervous system) doesn’t form normally. You should take 400 microgram folic acid tablet every day while you are trying to get pregnant and until you are 12 weeks pregnant. Don’t worry if you get pregnant unexpectedly and weren’t taking folic acid supplements. Start taking them as soon as you find out, until you’re past the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. You should also eat foods that contain folate (the natural form of folic acid), such as green leafy vegetables, liver and brown rice. Some breakfast cereals, breads and margarines have folic acid added to them.
Iron in pregnancy
If you are short of iron, you’ll probably get very tired, may suffer from anaemia and have an increased chance of bleeding during & after delivery. Lean meat, dark green leafy vegetables, drum stick, dried fruits, and nuts contain iron. If you’d like to eat peanuts or foods that contain peanuts (such as peanut butter) during pregnancy, you can do so as part of a healthy balanced diet unless you’re allergic to them. Many breakfast cereals have iron added.
Vitamin supplements in pregnancy
Eating a healthy, varied diet in pregnancy will help you to get most of the vitamins and minerals you need. It is best to get vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, but when you are pregnant you will need to take some supplements as well to make sure you get everything you need.
• Vitamin D: Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These are needed to keep bones and teeth healthy. You need to take 10 micrograms each day throughout your pregnancy to provide your baby with enough vitamin D. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight on your skin. Vitamin D can be found naturally in oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel and sardines), eggs and meat, breakfast cereals, soya products, some dairy products, powdered milk, etc.
• Vitamin C: Vitamin C protects cells and helps to keep them healthy. A balanced diet containing fruit and vegetables, including broccoli, citrus fruits, tomatoes, bell peppers, blackcurrants, etc. can provide all the vitamin C you need.
Calcium in pregnancy
Calcium is vital for making your baby’s bones and teeth. Dairy products and fish such as sardines – are rich in calcium. Breakfast cereals, dried fruit – such as figs and apricots – bread, almonds, tofu (a vegetable protein made from soya beans) and green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli are other good sources of calcium. Take 1000mg/day
Cut down on unhealthy habits
• Stop smoking: Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to a variety of health problems including premature birth, low birth weight, cot death (also known as sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS), miscarriage and breathing problems/wheezing in the first six months of life. Smoke from other people’s cigarettes can also damage your baby, so ask your partner, friends and family not to smoke near you.
• Cut out alcohol: Don’t drink alcohol if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Alcohol can be passed to your unborn baby through the placenta, and too much exposure to alcohol can affect your baby’s physical & mental development. It can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) where the child will have irreversible growth deficiency, facial abnormality, neurological & functional impairment. It is advised to avoid alcohol in the first three months in particular, because of the increased risk of miscarriage.
• Infections: Some infections, such as rubella (German Measles), can harm your baby. MMR vaccine can be taken to protect you against rubella. The MMR vaccination is not suitab
le for women who are already pregnant or who become pregnant soon after (within one month) vaccination.
• Caffeine: High levels of caffeine can result in babies having a low birth weight, which can increase the risk of health problems in later life. Too much caffeine can also cause miscarriage. Caffeine is naturally found in foods such as- coffee, tea and chocolate, and is added to some soft drinks and energy drinks. To cut down on caffeine, try decaffeinated tea and coffee, fruit juice or mineral water instead of regular tea, coffee, cola and energy drinks.
• Medicines: Some medicines, including common painkillers, can harm your baby’s health. To be sure a medicine is safe in pregnancy:
• Make sure your doctor, dentist or other healthcare professional knows you’re pregnant before they prescribe anything or give you treatment
• Talk to your doctor immediately if you take regular medication, ideally before you start planning for a baby or as soon as you find out you are pregnant
• Use as few over-the-counter medicines as possible
• Illegal drugs in pregnancy: Using illegal drugs during pregnancy (including cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin) can have a serious effect on your unborn baby like- miscarriage, stillbirths, low birth weight, preterm labour, fetal abnormalities, etc. Abstain from such temporary temptations rather than regret & suffer life-long.
• X-rays in pregnancy: Avoid X-rays during pregnancy if possible as it can cause miscarriage, fetal growth restriction, congenital malformation, mental retardation, and increased risk of childhood cancer. Make sure your doctor or dentist knows that you’re pregnant before they treat you.
– Anne Buchanan