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Preparing for pre-pregnancy diet

healthy pregnancy diet

What you eat, and how much, can affect your chances of falling pregnant. If you’re trying to conceive, it may be a good idea to plan your pre-pregnancy diet more carefully. Providing your body with the proper nutrients will not only make it easier for you to conceive but will also ensure the healthy development of your baby in the womb. The best foods to eat are the same as those recommended for general well-being, such as whole grains, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy proteins.

Studies have shown that eating a lot of sugar or saturated fats when you’re pregnant, for instance, can increase your child’s chances of becoming overweight or suffering from high blood pressure later on in life. Although healthy meals should provide you with most of the nutrients you need, you may have to boost your diet with a few supplements. Below is a short outline of some of the most important nutrients you’ll need in a pre-pregnancy diet, as well as a few tips regarding things to avoid in early pregnancy.

Folic Acid

Folic Acid

Women who are trying to fall pregnant should take 400 to 600 mcg of folic acid every day. Folic acid is the manmade version of folate, which is a B vitamin found in small amounts in foods such as leafy green vegetables, broccoli, beans, and chickpeas. Since there’s a good chance that your diet may not provide the amount needed, you should ensure that you have enough folic acid for pregnancy by taking supplements. If you’re a smoker or heavy drinker, or suffer from diabetes or epilepsy, you’ll need an even higher daily dose of folic acid.

Folic acid is super important since it protects the baby against neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Since most neural tube defects occur within the first 28 days after conception, it’s vital that you start taking folic acid before you fall pregnant. Many expecting mums don’t realise that they’re pregnant within the first few weeks, so they often start taking folic acid far too late. Pregnant women should continue to take folic acid until at least 12 weeks into the pregnancy.

Iron

Although a healthy diet will mostly provide you with enough iron, you need about twice the amount of iron that you do normally when you’re expecting. This is because the volume of blood in your body increases when you’re pregnant so that you can supply more oxygen to your baby. If you’re trying to conceive, you may also need to up your iron intake, especially if you suffer from heavy periods.

Iron deficiency can cause anaemia, which is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to provide adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues. Expecting mums who suffer from anaemia in pregnancy are at risk of giving birth prematurely. Low iron in pregnancy can also lead to postpartum depression and a low birth weight for your baby.

Pregnant mums need to take 27 mg of iron a day. Luckily, good nutrition can prevent anaemia during pregnancy. Adding iron-rich foods such as legumes, leafy greens, chicken livers, fish, and shellfish will ensure a sufficient supply of the mineral.

Calcium

Calcium is a key mineral for pregnancy. Apart from the fact that you need healthy bones to cope with pregnancy, the baby also requires calcium for the development of vital body parts such as its skeleton, heart, muscles, nerves, and hormones.

If your body is lacking in calcium when you’re pregnant, the fetus may start drawing calcium from your bones, which may cause health problems for you later in life, such as osteoporosis. In addition, low calcium during pregnancy can also cause premature birth and low birth weight. It’s therefore vital that you increase your calcium intake before and during pregnancy.

The amount of calcium a mum needs depends on her age. While teen mums should take at least 1,300 mg of calcium a day, mums older than 19 need around 1,000 mg. Although dairy products have been lauded as calcium-enriching foods, you should be aware of the fact that protein leaches minerals out of the body, including calcium. It is far better to get your calcium from other food sources such as cooked greens, broccoli, tofu, and sesame seeds. You can also take a supplement if you’re worried that your diet contains too little calcium.

Fibres

Eating fibre-rich foods is essential for general health and well-being. An abundance of research has shown that eating enough fibre prevents heart disease, bowel cancer, diabetes, stroke, and multiple other illnesses. Fibre is essential for a healthy digestive tract since it acts like a broom that sweeps the body clean of waste. It’s a well-known fact that a healthy body makes it easier for women to conceive. In addition, if you’re healthy, your baby stands a far better chance of developing a strong and healthy system.

Apart from keeping your blood sugar balanced, fibre helps the body get rid of excess hormones, such as oestrogen. According to research, a diet rich in fibre can lower the risk of ovulatory infertility. If you’re pregnant, be sure to also add plenty of fibre to your diet. Doing so will help prevent constipation, which is a common complaint among expecting mums. Pregnant mums need to ingest about 28 g of fibre a day. Good sources of fibre include fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.

Proteins

If you’re trying to fall pregnant, you want to reconsider your protein sources. According to research, your risk of ovulatory infertility may decrease by up to 50% if you replace some animal proteins, such as meat, fish, and eggs, with vegetable proteins in your diet. This is because insulin sensitivity is an important factor in ovulatory function and the sources of protein in a diet have been shown to influence insulin sensitivity.

Good sources of vegetable proteins include beans, nuts, tofu, and seeds. If you can’t go without meat, opt for fish and leaner meats. When you eat red meat, be sure to trim your beef and lamb of fat to avoid unnecessary weight gain, which disrupts oestrogen levels. Also, some studies have shown that the chemicals contained in animal fats can make it more difficult to conceive.

Although you should be careful about the sources of protein, it’s important that you consume enough protein when you’re pregnant. Pregnant women should eat about 70 to 100 g of protein daily. Protein is necessary for the proper development of your baby’s tissues and organs, such as the brain.

Vitamin D

Although this vitamin is often overlooked, it is actually very important for overall health. In addition, higher levels of vitamin D can be beneficial if you’re trying to conceive. Many people, however, don’t know whether their vitamin D levels are sufficient. Studies have shown that up to 20 to 52% of women of reproductive age don’t have adequate levels of vitamin D. Men also need vitamin D for healthy sperm function.

If you’re trying to conceive, ensure that you take at least 10 mcg of vitamin D daily. Apart from increasing your chances of natural conception, higher vitamin D levels have also been linked to higher IVF pregnancy rates and live birth rates.

You should continue to take vitamin D throughout your pregnancy. Vitamin D is essential for the proper absorption of calcium and phosphate in your body. Apart from keeping your body healthy, vitamin D will also aid the development of your baby’s bones, teeth, heart, and nervous system.

Although you can get vitamin D from the sun, you may not always get enough exposure to sunlight to allow your body to produce the vitamin. Also, the skin of women of Asian, African, and Middle-Eastern descent needs longer exposure to the sun to synthesise vitamin D. Some foods, such as salmon, sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna, mushrooms, and egg yolks are good sources of vitamin D. If you rarely eat these foods, it’s best to take a supplement.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

omega-3

The multiple health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are well-documented. These good fats can lower inflammation in the body and improve your heart health. The good news is that several studies have shown a correlation between healthy fats and increased fertility. This is because Omega-3 fatty acids help with regulating reproductive hormones and also allow for improved blood flow to the reproductive organs. In addition, healthy fats may improve the quality of a woman’s eggs, which increases the chances of successful fertilisation.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also crucial for the healthy development of the fetus. They are essential for the neurological and early visual development of a baby. Omega-3 oils also have positive effects on pregnancy since they have been shown to increase birth weight and prevent premature birth. They also decrease the risk of preeclampsia, which is a condition that can lead to serious complications for the mother, such as liver or renal failure.

Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines are excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re not a fan of fish, you can get your Omega-3 fats from flaxseed, linseed, almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.

Stop With Bad Habits

It’s important that you learn which foods and substances to avoid in early pregnancy and also what to avoid during pregnancy in general. Firstly, stay away from sugary foods and drinks and also saturated fats. The intake of saturated fats has been linked to lower fertility rates, and so have diets that contain high levels of sugars. Here are a few other substances that you should avoid if you’re pregnant or trying to fall pregnant.

Caffeine

Although you don’t have to give up your morning cup of coffee, it’s advisable to limit your caffeine intake if you’re trying to conceive. Some studies have concluded that women who drink lots of caffeine may take longer to conceive. A high caffeine intake may also slightly increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.

You should remember that everything you ingest passes through the umbilical cord to your baby. In addition, research states that caffeine can lead to the constriction of blood vessels in the uterus and placenta, which can decrease the blood supply to the fetus. Caffeine may also cause rapid weight gain in babies after birth because of the disruption of fetal stress hormones.

According to experts, expecting mums should limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg a day, which amounts to about one mug of filter coffee. Remember that apart from coffee, other drinks such as tea, coke, and energy drinks also contain caffeine.

Smoking

Smoking has a markedly negative effect on reproductive health. This is the case for both males and females. In females, smoking can cause delayed conception, since the introduction of the toxic substances in cigarettes to the ovaries can kill eggs. Since eggs can never be replaced, this damage is permanent and often leads to earlier menopause in female smokers.

Smoking can also cause miscarriage. One of the common negative effects of smoking is a condition called ectopic pregnancy, which is when a fertilised egg implants outside of the uterus. Smoking also causes changes to occur in the lining of the uterus, which can cause miscarriage too.

Even if you’re able to conceive and give birth, smoking will negatively affect the well-being of your baby. Apart from premature birth and lower birth weights, smoking can cause genetic diseases, such as Down syndrome, as well as a multitude of other defects, such as heart problems and skull deformation.

Alcohol

Although a glass of wine every now and then is OK, you should limit your alcohol intake if you’re trying to conceive. If you regularly drink more than seven drinks a week or more than three drinks per occasion, you are more likely to suffer from fertility problems. This is because alcohol negatively affects ovulation and cycle regulation.

Drinking alcohol can also lead to an early miscarriage since it can prevent the proper implantation of the egg in the uterus. If you’re trying to conceive, encourage your partner to also drink less, or abstain from alcohol. In men, drinking can negatively affect sperm production.

Once you’re pregnant, it’s advisable to completely quit drinking. Alcohol can cause multiple problems for a baby during pregnancy. Apart from affecting brain development, alcohol can cause growth and central nervous system problems.

FAQs

What Foods Are Best for Fertility?

Opt for a healthy and nutritious diet if you’re trying to conceive. Ensure that your diet is varied and includes many different vegetables, fruits, and legumes, to ensure that you ingest all the nutrients your body needs. Also, remember to include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.

Which Fruit Is Best for Fertility?

Apart from being an excellent source of vitamin C, grapefruits and oranges are beneficial for egg and semen health. This is because they contain polyamine putrescine, which plays an important role in the regulation of human cells.

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