There is simply no other condition for women more inspiring than pregnancy to care of themselves. Women look after their children, husband and other members of the family most of their lives but its only during pregnancy that they begin looking after themselves. For a healthy pregnancy, eating should start before conception. What you eat before conceiving and during the first trimester of pregnancy helps determine how well your child’s immune system develops. Nearly all pregnant women can benefit from a nutritional program which has to be followed one year before pregnancy, during pregnancy, during labour, delivery and through breast feeding.
Changes during pregnancy: During pregnancy hormone secretions change rapidly causing physical and emotional changes. These hormones affects appetite, moods, energy levels and the skin tone. In order to support a rapidly growing foetus, there are changes in her metabolism and biochemistry, which provide the right environment.
How safe are stimulants: Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are known stimulants, which should be avoided during pregnancy. Alcohol consumption is known to cause birth abnormalities and developmental problems. Some women allow themselves some alcohol in the form of wine, gin or vodka couple of times a week. Try to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy. As for tobacco, most women are sufficiently motivated to stop smoking during pregnancy. Smoking increases the incidence of premature labour and results in low birth weight.
Then there is the perennial question about coffee! Although consuming two to three cups of coffee per day is not associated with a higher risk of abortion, it is best to avoid coffee during pregnancy. Canadian researchers found that having as little as ½ cup of coffee daily raises the miscarriage rate by 29%. Each additional cup consumed raises the risk by another 22%. So for your own peace of mind consume as little caffeine as possible while you are pregnant. Caffeine is contained not only in chocolates, but also in colas, cocoa, tea and also in several cold remedies.
Diet during pregnancy: You need to consume approximately 2300 to 2500 calories during pregnancy to ensure a well balanced diet. It should include a wide variety of foods such as whole grain, cereals, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish and dairy products. 60% of your diet should be grain based. 25% protein and 15% fats and essential oils. While you are focusing on the food, don’t forget the fluids.
Drink at least eight to nine glasses of water to meet your fluid requirements. Include at least two to three servings of fruits and four to five servings of vegetables daily.
Some women will require special instructions about dietary requirements especially those with a history of anorexia, obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems etc. During lactation there is an additional need for nutrients and the diet needs to be changed accordingly. It is important to replenish the fluids lost during breast feeding. Consuming milk, juices and water helps to satisfy the thirst during breast feeding.
The need for nutritional supplements also changes during pregnancy. Folic acid is the only vitamin whose requirement doubles in pregnancy. Deficiency of this vitamin is linked to low birth weight infants and neural tube defects. Folic acid also helps to reduce the risk of congenital birth defects. Some women who are hereditarily predisposed to such defects need to increase intake of folic acid to about 800 mcg per day.
Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables, nuts like almonds, walnuts, whole grains and in whole pulses. The B-vitamins namely B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 are required to ensure higher infant birth weight and size. Supplementing with calcium helps to reduce cramps during pregnancy. Low intake of calcium is associated with high blood pressure and water retention. Dietary calcium can be consumed by increasing intake of leafy vegetables. Rajhma, kabuli, channa, sesame seeds, cheese, milk soya milk, carrot juice, tofu, pumpkin seeds, almonds etc.
Exercise during pregnancy: It is important to note that regular exercise is preferable to sporadic bouts of physical activity. Do not get involved in exhaustive exercises. Bouncing and jerky movements should be avoided especially in the third trimester. Low impact exercises such as walking, swimming, stretching are recommended. Ensure adequate fluid intake after exercise to prevent dehydration.
Summing it up: Each pregnancy is unique. Pregnancy can be easily supported by adequate rest, nutritional supplements, low impact exercises, avoidance of harmful substances and a positive attitude. Although external factors such as food and exercise contribute, it is your own positive relationship with your body and the child that really matters. If there is inadequate nutrient intake, it is the woman who suffers the subsequent deficiencies.
Just make sure to not overeat during pregnancy but the two of you must eat better than one.