Nutritional considerations during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of exceptional growth, change, development and sacrifice. The female body undergoes an enormous transformation while it focuses solely on, and prioritises the nourishment of the foetus over itself. Ultimately, the baby is first in line for any nutrients required, often leaving the Mother lacking in critical vitamins and minerals.

Ensuring optimal nutrition is never more important than before, during and after pregnancy.

The first 1000 days of a baby’s life (including preconception) affects metabolic health, maternal weight, and can predict the likelihood of developing chronic diseases later in life. The phrase ‘1000 days’ has been termed to capture the time from conception to a child’s second birthday. This pivotal window provides the perfect opportunity for the right nutrition, to lay down a strong immune system, for healthy brain development and optimal growth.

Pregnant mother
(Source: Wikipedia)

Pregnant women need to boost their nutrient intake rather than their kilojoule intake. Instead of the old phrase eating for two, thinking boosting nutrient intake for two.

Below you will find the most important vitamins and minerals to include in your diet to ensure your baby’s first 1000 days are the best they can be.

Folate

Folate is a B vitamin found naturally in dark green vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli, as well as fruit and legumes. The synthetic version, (folic acid) is found in supplements or when added to foods. Inadequate folate during a baby’s development can lead to poor brain development and neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Increased requirements for folate actually start prior to conception, for this reason it is recommended to start taking Folate supplement of at-least 400µg 1-3 months before trying for a baby. Once you are pregnant, folate requirements jump to 600µg.

Calcium

This mineral is found in abundance in dairy products, canned salmon with bones, as well as almonds, spinach and fortified plant based milks. Calcium is important to prevent osteoporosis later in life, and particularly important during the third trimester as the baby starts to develop and strengthen it’s bones. During pregnancy your body adapts to absorb more calcium from food, and uses Vitamin D to aid absorption. If you do not eat dairy foods or feel that your calcium intake is inadequate, a Calcium supplement might be necessary. Calcium requirements during pregnancy are the same as prior to conceiving 1000mg for 19-50 year old women.

Iron

Iron is necessary for the production of red blood cells for both mother and baby. Iron-rich food sources include red meats, chicken, eggs and fish. Other sources of iron are beans, lentils and some vegetables. A mother’s blood volume increases up to 50% during pregnancy, requiring an extra 9mg of iron daily, taking Iron requirements to 27mg during pregnancy. Iron absorption improves during pregnancy, however anaemia is a common ailment during the third trimester even for women with adequate iron stores prior to pregnancy. If this occurs an iron supplement, or a pregnancy multivitamin that includes iron would be necessary. Iron levels can be checked during routine pregnancy blood tests ordered by your Obstetrician or GP. Vitamin C aids iron absorption, try pairing broccoli with your lamb chops, or a glass of fresh orange juice with grilled fish.

Fibre

Fibre is always an important, and sometimes neglected nutrient. Progesterone levels during pregnancy cause the bowel to relax and slow down the transit time of food, causing constipation for some women. The best approach is prevention here, so maintaining an adequate intake of fibre rich foods during pregnancy is essential. Fibre is found in whole-grain breads, cereals, rice, fruits, vegetables, beans, chick peas and nuts. Fibre needs water to work effectively and synergistically in the body. If constipation has arrived, natural fibre supplements such as Psyllium husk and chia seeds can help. Otherwise over the counter remedies such as Normafibre are available.

Stay tuned for my next post looking at Safe Eating During Pregnancy, which explores common misconceptions about foods that need to be avoided while pregnant.

For more tailored advice on what to eat during your pregnancy journey, I am available for face-to-face consultations in Brisbane, or online consultations via my blog That Healthy Girl. Being a new Mother myself, I can relate to the hormonal changes and food cravings during pregnancy, as well as baby brain!

As always, thanks for stopping by, Madeleine (THG).

This blog post was written by Madeleine Baumgart (That Healthy Girl) on the 17th August, 2016. Written information in the blog post is for informative purposes only and is not meant to be diagnostic, or replace any medical/nutrition advice provided to your by your health professional.

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