Congratulations you have decided to create a new human being and your baby deserves the best start in life that you can possible give him or her (or both).
Just like you wouldn’t build a home on weak foundations, it is very important that you give your child the very best nutritional foundation that you possibly can. When you are pregnant your nutritional requirements increase up to 100% but your calorie intake requirements only increase by 15-20%. So you don’t need to eat more, you need to have more nutrient dense food.
Often women don’t know that they are pregnant for a few weeks so it is important that you already have enough of the correct nutrients before you fall pregnant. Once you fall pregnant your baby is developing at an exceptional rate and essential organs are starting to grow right from these early days. Your unborn baby requires lots of nutrients from the moment of conception and they will take what they require from you, this means that you need to have these nutrients available to your baby, plus more for you, before you even know you are pregnant.
So what are the key nutrients that you should make sure you are getting plenty of before you fall pregnant?
All living things are made from protein, including babies. They are not made from chocolates, sweets, breads etc. You also need additional protein to assist with the development of healthy eggs. Your partner needs protein to their body produce healthy sperm. Ensure that you eat protein with every meal and snack.
B Vitamins (including Folic Acid)
B vitamins are essential for a variety of processes that occur in the body including the production of energy, metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and reproductive health. There are specific B vitamins which are required to support healthy egg production and the early embryo development e.g. Folic Acid (B9) is required for healthy neural tube development and B12 which is required for the activation of Folic Acid and to assist in the development of a healthy nervous system and DNA.
Food sources: dark leafy greens, animal products, eggs, quinoa.
Iron is a key nutrient required for healthy blood, it helps to carry oxygen around the body. Many women tend to be low in iron even before they fall pregnant, this can lead to anaemia during pregnancy due to the increased blood supply required to support a growing baby. Prior to pregnancy get you iron levels and ferritin stores checked by your Health Professional. Always take iron with Vitamin C included to help absorption and take it away from tea and calcium or zinc supplements as these can stop absorption of the iron.
Food sources: animal products, brown rice, quinoa, nuts and seeds, lentils, eggs
Zinc is probably the most important nutrient that you require prior to falling pregnant, during your pregnancy and after birth. Zinc is required for approximately 300 different body processes and many people are deficient in zinc. You require zinc for the production of healthy sperm, healthy eggs and to help to regulate your hormones. Zinc is also required for a healthy immune system and zinc deficiency can increase your risk of a miscarriage. Research has also linked zinc deficiencies with post natal depression.
Food sources: oysters, pumpkin seeds, ginger, almonds, walnuts
Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D
Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D are all essential for the development of healthy bones, teeth and nervous system and are extremely important leading up to and during pregnancy. Approximately 30-40gms of calcium is transferred to the foetus during pregnancy, so it is important that the mother has sufficient stores so that her own teeth, bones and nervous system are not affected by this drain. Magnesium also helps to reduce symptoms of PMS and stress prior to pregnancy. Vitamin D is also required for the absorption of Calcium and for healthy cell development in the embryo.
Food sources: natural yoghurt, goat’s milk, salmon, sardines, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, tahina, green leafy veges, sunlight (Vitamin D)
Essential Fatty Acids
The rapidly developing foetus has a high need for essential fatty acids. Fatty acids are required for the development of the nervous system which starts approximately 21 days after conception. At 40 days after conception brain waves are recordable. Therefore it is essential that women have enough essential fatty acids prior to conception.
Food sources – fatty deep sea fish, chia seeds, linseeds, flaxseed oil.
Even with the best of intentions it can be hard to meet the body’s needs with diet alone. Taking a good quality pre-conception and pregnancy supplement can assist you in getting the nutrients you require. Speak to your Health Practitioner for further information about the best product for you.