Pregnancy is an exciting time – 9 months of planning your future life as a mother or the expansion of your family. But pregnancy often comes with unwelcome side effects too as your body adapts to the responsibility of growing another person – including nausea and fatigue.
When you’re feeling rubbish it’s easy to reach for a biscuit over an apple, or a plate of chips over a salmon fillet. And another natural reaction is to curl up on the sofa and save exercising for another day. But it’s important that you override these feelings and take steps to ensure both you and your baby enjoy good health throughout your pregnancy.
While the concept of ‘eating for two’ was discredited a long time ago, it is important to remember that you are ‘providing nutrients for two’. So while you don’t really need to increase the quantity of food you eat, you may need to improve the quality. Try to eat a balanced diet that’s rich in vegetables and salad, nuts and seeds, and good proteins like eggs, lean meat and oily fish. It is also worthwhile taking a pregnancy multivitamin – to ensure you are getting all the different nutrients that your body needs.
There are a number of vitamins and minerals that are particularly important to have sufficient levels of during pregnancy, such as iodine, iron and vitamin D. But perhaps the most crucial nutrient is Vitamin B9 (also known as folic acid or folate), which is vital for your baby’s normal development – particularly in the first 12 weeks when the brain and spinal cord are formed.
Folic Acid is the synthetic version of vitamin B9 while folate provides the vitamin in its natural form. Whilst both types bring the benefits of vitamin B9, folate is more easily absorbed by the body and therefore has greater impact. To get the most out of your folate supplement, choose methylfolate – which is the type found in leafy green vegetables and proven to be the most absorbable form.
Avoiding (too much) weight gain
While gaining weight is a natural (and necessary) part of pregnancy, studies show that many pregnant women put on too much weight – a recent study of 1 million pregnant women put that number at almost 50%. Being overweight in pregnancy can lead to lots of complications – from relatively mild complaints like varicose veins and hemorrhoids to more serious conditions like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Excess weight gain can also lead to a heightened risk of obesity and diabetes for the baby.
You should expect to put on between 25 to 35 pounds in total during your pregnancy. It’s normal to only put on 3-4 pounds during your first trimester, then about 1 pound per week in your second and third trimester. While it is unlikely that your weight gain will be the same week by week, it is good to use this advice as a general measure to ensure you’re staying on track.
Making up about 20% of brain tissue, essential fatty acids (EFA) play a vital role in your baby’s development. There are two types of EFA – omegas 3 and 6. While omega 6 is widespread in the western diet, omega 3 takes more thought as it is only found in plant-based proteins like flaxseeds and walnuts (as ALA) and in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna (as DHA).
However, while the DHA in fish oils is hugely beneficial, eating lots of oily fish isn’t advised during pregnancy. This is due to the detrimental effects of mercury and PCBs – both prevalent in farmed oily fish products – on your baby’s nervous system. Therefore it is a good idea to take a high quality fish oil supplement instead, checking first that it is free from these contaminants. This is also good news if your morning sickness is putting you off kippers for breakfast!
When you’re pregnant it’s easy to focus entirely on the health of your baby, and forget about your own wellbeing. But your health and happiness have a direct impact on your growing baby, so it’s important to look after yourself too.
Taking a high quality daily live bacteria supplement can help you feel more comfortable in pregnancy by supporting both your digestion and your immunity. Good gut bacteria has also been linked to reducing the risk of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, as well as low birth weight and baby eczema.
Keeping active during your pregnancy will help keep you and your baby healthy – and give you a quicker recovery after the birth. It’s important that you feel comfortable with your exercise regime, so choose sports and activities that you’re already familiar with and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Being pregnant is a special time, but it brings a set of challenges too. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can give yourself the best chance of enjoying the experience, and give your baby the best start in life.