Our diet and lifestyle demand changes once the biological clock starts ticking! One needs to pay more attention to their dietary requirements and top up their vitamins/proteins/minerals levels!
Easy access to information and awareness all around has made it essential to be prepared for this crucial stage in life for women and men. The more prepared you are – the smoother the journey. You may not be a health conscious person per say, but once you start planning a family – you need to incorporate the change as soon as possible.
Preconception is a good time to begin
You must be wondering why you have to take care even before you conceive. You still have nine months. Actually – NO! Your body has to be prepared before to ensure a healthy conception! Most miscarriages occur during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The child, once conceived, depends on the mother for nutrition. The mother must thus be fully equipped to meet all those requirements. There are guidelines not just for one parent. Fathers have to do their bit as well, as the fertility of both parents plays a vital role. Let us review a few points that are essential —
One of the most important supplements given to women 3 months prior to conception to avoid neural defects. You can acquire this vitamin by consuming green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and other fortified products (example bread). The recommended dose for women is 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of folate or folic acid per day. However, depending upon your family history, current weight, diet, lifestyle, and clinical conditions, the dosage for the supplement can be increased. A meeting with your physician can help you plan and start on building your folic acid reserve immediately!
The early timing of this vitamin is imperative as the neural tube in babies closes during days 21-28 post conception, which is often before a woman even realizes she is pregnant. Spina bifida and Anencephaly, the two most common forms of neural tube defects, occur in an estimated 300,000 newborn worldwide every year (CDC, 2005).
Eat regularly and pursue a balanced diet
Each meal should include carb, fat, and protein in adequate quantities. Reducing sugar and avoiding binge eating will help later in preventing gestational diabetes. Fathers should also be extra cautious as obesity and other health conditions affect fertility and sperm quality.
Addition of antioxidants and probiotics
Meals rich in both can provide a major immunity boost. Food sources like bell peppers, strawberries, citrus, cauliflower are rich in anti-oxidants. Yoghurt is the most common source for probiotics if dairy can be tolerated. An alternative is fermented vegetables.
Spice it Up Carefully
Traditional herbs and spices help in limiting the free radical damage done to your body. They promote balance along the digestive tract, while supporting detoxification pathways. This does not mean that one should go gaga over Indian curries. Please avoid food that causes acidity, inflammation, or any allergies.
Post Conception, things get even more serious
Once the stick turns positive, your world changes. The gynaec appointments become more regular, appetite increases, energy levels decrease, hormones go for a toss. Do not panic, for you will slowly learn to balance it all. Family and professional help does come in handy, as you need to give more attention to your diet and lifestyle…
The table below provides the requirements for pregnant women –
|Nutrient||Daily requirements for pregnant women|
|calories||additional 300, in second and third trimesters|
Managing Your Diet
As explained above, including a variety of fruits and vegetables in different meals can help supplement your diet with all that is necessary. A meeting with your physician/nutrition counselor can help plan a daily diet as well. You may also require tests for any vitamin deficiencies and accordingly supplements to ensure proper intake. Family history and any current clinical indications can further be factored in to avoid the onset of any conditions. For example, if diabetes is already a risk factor in your family, then you must exercise control over your sweet/dessert cravings.
Healthy eating habits are just a part of the deal; as your body grows and demands more, you need to exercise as well. We are not talking about lifting weights or extensive cardio training, but regular movement is essential to digest food and to avoid stiffness/back aches.
Watch your Weight
Another benefit of understanding your body’s nutritional needs – avoid extra weight gain. It is easy and quite natural to give in to your cravings once you know you are allowed to pack a few more! No one is denying that! However, if you do not keep a check on that scale, you will take a lifetime to shed off those extra pounds 🙁
BMI is an excellent indicator for weight. Note down your BMI (use an app or ask your physician/nutritionist) pre-pregnancy and then keep a check on how much is the recommended weight gain. The table below helps explain the same …
|Starting weight||Body mass index||Recommended weight gain|
|underweight||< 19.8||28 to 40 pounds|
|normal weight||19.8 to 26.0||25 to 35 pounds|
|overweight||26.0 to 29.0||15 to 25 pounds|
|obese||>29.0||0 to 15 pounds|
While watching your weight is good, do not stress over it too much! The reason nutrition guidelines help is because they help you meet your dietary requirements without causing any harm. Eat a variety of food, walk and move around and you will be fine. Dieting or skipping meals at this juncture is a big NO-NO!
STAY AWAY from
There are certain habits that you must avoid/stay away from completely during pre/post conception. The list includes alcohol, cigarettes, recreational drugs, uncooked processed meats, and more. Excessive caffeine is also known to cause harm. All food items in limited quantities are okay, but studies show that items in the list are known to cause harm to the expecting mother and child. Passive smoking is equally harmful, hence the father or family around as well should be quite cautious!
Ever felt the urge to eat clay, chalk, or cigarette ash? It is not weird – it does happen to some mothers! You must seek professional help as this condition causes cravings for items that contain no nutritional value and are harmful. Studies show that this is due specific vitamin or mineral deficiency.
Post Delivery is a different ball game altogether…
You may think that after going through the ordeal of labour, you can now relax and take it easy. But, boy are we in for a surprise! Once the baby is out our body needs even more support to regain the strength that was lost!
Post-delivery care and diet is even more important as the mother now breastfeeds several times a day. The appetite increases and as the child is exclusively breast-fed – one must pay immense attention to ensure that the baby receives the most nutritious and healthy meal possible. The child builds its immunity and initial vitamin and mineral stock from here – a small change in the mother’s diet can also affect the baby’s health.
Your physician/nutrition counselor will help guide you with the proper requirements. Families have traditional recipes that include food fortified with supplements that help boost immunity and energy. Mild exercise is recommended 6 months post-delivery to ensure you slowly start improving your fitness levels. You will need this more as the child grows.
Mapmygenome and Nutrition
As a personalised genomics company, we understand the demand for awareness and genetic testing! We offer simple yet unique, saliva based tests to help individuals learn more about themselves. We help you figure out if you are prone to any vitamin deficiencies; learn if Diabetes, Blood Pressure, or Hypothyroidism are hereditary risks for you. How can you potentially delay their onset? How can you ensure your child is well equipped from the womb itself to avoid such conditions? We can give you the answers.
We have a team of experts who can assess your genetic predisposition to 100+ health conditions, physiological traits, habits, and drug responses. Our board certified and experienced genetic counselors help co-relate your DNA data and family history to provide you personalised recommendations for improving your diet and lifestyle. Couples can seek professional genetic counseling pre-conception for specific conditions as well.
In addition, we also provide you access to nutrition counselors who can help with diet charts and vitamin supplements! Get in touch with us! Get tested and know more about yourself! Your child deserves it… 🙂
In addition to predictive genomics, we offer carrier screening – preconception and during pregnancy. These tests cover 171 developmental, genetic, and metabolic conditions.
Find out more about our New Born Screening service, a screening test designed especially for newborns.
If you are worried about a specific condition, our Whole Genome Sequencing/Whole Exome Sequencing can be useful.
About the author
Dr. Pallavi Jain is part of the Scientific Team at Mapmygenome. She has a Bachelors Degree in Biochemistry with Genetics and a PhD in Molecular Medicine (UK). She recently completed an intensive course in IVF from Origio, Mumbai. She enjoys swimming and reading.