Nutrition during pregnancy

Planning for pregnancy? Prepare your body also.

Pregnancy is a 9-month journey with extraordinary nutritional demands on the mother.  Most parents to be put some thought into planning for pregnancy. However, many do very little to prepare their body for pregnancy. Just like the athletes take time to prepare for the Olympics, it is wise to prepare your body for pregnancy. Remember that your diet before pregnancy will affect your baby’s development in the womb and their health in the future. Here are some of the things you need to do when planning to get pregnant.

Get into shape.

Your body weight is an important factor when planning for pregnancy. If you are underweight, you risk giving birth to a baby with low birth weight (<2500g). This baby will be at risk of dying or becoming sick immediately they are born. They will also be at risk of becoming sick in the course of their lifetime.

Being overweight increases your risk of getting pregnancy-related diabetes or high blood pressure.

 It is therefore important to have a healthy body weight if you are planning to get pregnant. However, this does not mean gaining or losing a lot of weight. Since it will result in hormonal changes which will interfere with your chances of getting pregnant. Talk to your doctor or a dietician about your weight before pregnancy.

Eat right

What you eat affects your chances of getting pregnant. Eating a balanced diet will ensure that your body has all the nutrients it needs to function properly. Now is the time to be in charge of what you eat before the cravings set in. Eating a variety of healthy foods will also go a long way in improving your health. Avoid eating junk foods and empty calories which add no benefit to you. Research shows that eating excess calories may cause your baby to be obese in the future.

Cut back on caffeine

The debate on how much caffeine is safe during pregnancy is ongoing. Some researchers found that women who drank 2 cups of caffeinated drinks daily for the first 7 weeks of pregnancy were likely to have a miscarriage. Caffeinated drinks include coffee, tea, and cola drinks among others. Kenya is a tea-consuming culture, it is advisable that a woman takes a maximum of 4 cups of tea per day when planning to get pregnant.

Quit drinking alcohol and smoking

Drinking alcohol raises the chances of birth defects in children. It is not clear how much alcohol causes birth defects. But again it is safe to error on the side of caution by avoiding alcohol.

Smoking increases the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and miscarriages. When it comes to smoking, your spouse should also quit smoking since this causes passive smoking to you which is equally dangerous.

Honor the pending dentist appointment

Dental hygiene is important for general health but more in pregnancy. If you have a pending dentist appointment or a dental issue you have been procrastinating, this is the time to get it done. Pregnancy hormones encourage the development of gum disease. If your teeth are not healthy then you may end up not eating well. Dental diseases can also result in premature birth and low birth weight infants.

Medical check-up

In case you are on any medication, it is advisable to talk to your doctor about your plans to get pregnant. Do not stop or start taking medicines without consulting your doctor.

Nutrition supplements

Taking preconception supplements is not necessary when planning for pregnancy. Eating a varied diet will ensure that you have most of the vitamins and minerals you need for pregnancy. The best foods for getting pregnant are the same as the ones that support a healthy body.

World health organization recommends folic acid supplementation for women during pregnancy to prevent birth defects. It is advisable to take these supplements 4 weeks before conception and through the first trimester. You can easily have sufficient folic acid (400 mcg/day) by eating a variety of foods in Kenyan cuisine. However, you MUST talk to your dietician about this to include folic acid-rich foods in your diet.

In case you have a history of neural- tube defects or are currently deficient in folic acid, you will need to take the supplements to protect your baby. Alcohol drinkers and cigarette smokers also need to take these supplements.

You should be very careful when buying supplements. Check the content of the vitamins and their amounts. It is safer to buy only folic acid supplements than a multi-vitamin supplement unless prescribed by your doctor. Some vitamins like vitamin A can cause toxicity and lead to pregnancy complications.