During pregnancy, the body undergoes many changes that result in the modification of nutritional needs and lifestyle choices. It is a good idea to make some modifications before conceiving to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Some things to keep in mind include:
- Mother’s weight: The mother’s pre-conception weight can cause problems if she is underweight or overweight.
- BMI under 20: increased risk of preterm delivery and low-birth weight infants.
- Obesity: increased risk of preterm delivery and still birth. Increased chance of developing high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and having an unplanned c-section.
- Folic acid status: Lack of folic acid can cause neural tube defects, like spina bifida, in babies. Neural tube defects occur at a very early stage during the pregnancy; sometimes before a woman knows that she is expecting a child. It is recommended that women take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day, beginning at least a month before they start trying toconceive.
- Substance abuse: Avoid drugs that have not been prescribed by your doctor. Avoid smoking and alcohol before pregnancy since they have a negative effect on a woman’s health. Drinking even a little alcohol can cause severe problems in the baby. Fetal alcohol syndrome can be a severe consequence of drinking during the early stages of fetal development.
- Calorie needs: Calorie needs increase during pregnancy. Make sure the extra calories come from nutritious foods.
o First trimester: No extra calories required.
o Second trimester: An additional 340 calories a day are recommended.
o Third trimester: An additional 450 calories a day are recommended.
- Iron: The body requires extra iron, 27 milligrams a day are recommended, when a woman is carrying a child.
o Foods high in iron include dark green leafy vegetables, poultry, red meat, pork, beans, peas, dried fruit and iron-fortified breads.
o Eating iron-rich foods with fruits and vegetables helps the body better use the iron.
- Mercury: Limiting mercury is important during pregnancy. Your body easily absorbs methylmercury from fish. Mercury eaten during any trimester crosses the placenta and can have a negative affect the baby.
o Many studies have shown that exposure even to low doses of methylmercury during pregnancy can damage a baby's growing brain and nervous system.
o Avoid fish that contain high amounts of mercury like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.
Problems While Expecting: Sometimes women experience certain temporary problems during pregnancy.
- Morning Sickness: Some women experience morning sickness. At times this nausea and vomiting may last all day. It is important to stay hydrated. Eating smaller, frequent meals and avoiding foods you are sensitive to may help. Also drink liquids between meals instead of drinking large amounts of liquids with meals.
- High Blood Pressure: At times, blood pressure increases during pregnancy. If this is accompanied by protein in the urine (pre-eclampsia) it can be dangerous and needs to be monitored. This can progress to eclampsia and pose a risk for the mother and the baby.
- Gestational Diabetes: High blood sugar can occur during any trimester. Uncontrolled high blood sugars can cause babies to be larger than average, and may increase the hospital stay after birth. Blood sugar levels during pregnancy are measured at 28 weeks. If the blood test comes back positive for gestational diabetes, the mom will be asked to follow a special diet, monitor her sugars, and at times take medicine.
- Heartburn: Digestion may slow down during pregnancy as stomach muscles tend to relax, this can lead to heartburn. To help ease mild heartburn:
o Eat slowly and eat smaller meals.
o Do not lie down until 2 hours after eating.
o Avoid greasy foods and caffeine.