Healthy Lifestyle And Balanced Diet
Eating a healthy and balanced diet, having regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight gain are essential to ensure your baby develop in the optimal nutritional environment.
During pregnancy, your body has a higher demand for nutrients. You need extra Energy (+21%), Protein (+54%), alpha-linolenic acid (+27%), Iron (+50%), Zinc (+38%), Iodine (+47%), Folic acid (+50%), Vitamin A (+10%), Vitamin B2 (+27%), Vitamin B6 (+46%), Vitamin B11 (+27%), Vitamin B12 (+8%), and DHA (200mg/day). The extra demand can be met by making smart food choices.
Adequate intake of folic acid (folate) prevents the fetus from being affected by neural tube defect (malformations of the brain and spinal cord). The World Health Organization recommends pregnant women should consume 400 micrograms folic acid a day for at least three months before you become pregnant, and every day during the first trimester. If you have had a previous child with a neural tube defect, the higher dosage of folic acid is required to prevent the recurrence of neural tube defect.
Calcium is the building block for bones and teeth. Pregnant women require 1000 mg of calcium daily. Inadequate calcium intake during pregnancy may increase the risk of preterm labour and gestational hypertension.
Iron is an essential element for haemoglobulin production. Hemoglobin is crucial for transferring oxygen in your blood from the lungs to the tissues and fetus. Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy can make you feel weak and tired, pale, and may affect the growth of fetus. Good nutrition can prevent iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy. The iron from animal products, such as meat, is most easily absorbed. Prenatal vitamins typically contain iron. Taking a prenatal vitamin that contains iron can help prevent and treat iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy. However, some women may experience constipation with iron supplement.
To enhance the absorption of iron from food and supplements, pair them with a food or drink high in vitamin C. If you take iron supplements, avoid the calcium-fortified variety and tea (containing Tannic acid) which affect the absorption of iron.
Iodine is an important element for metabolism and thyroid function. And, Iodine is essential for your baby’s growth and brain development. Iodine deficiency may cause serious health consequences for the baby. The demand for iodine increases during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The World Health organization recommends pregnant and lactating women should consume 250 micrograms iodine a day. You should consider taking a prenatal multivitamin/multimineral supplement that contains iodine, as it is difficult to get sufficient iodine from food alone when you are pregnant.
Vitamin D is vital for the immune system. Vitamin D helps calcium absorption and is essential for bone health and development. It also helps to reduce the risk of food allergy in infants. You can obtain some vitamin D by eating fatty. However, diet alone is usually not sufficient to meet your need. Most of the vitamin D you need is made in your skin when you are exposed in sunlight. For most people, 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure of hands, face and arms, about 2 to 3 times a week during the summer months is sufficient to keep vitamin D level high.
Omega-3 fatty acids include DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). DHA is important for the development of the brain and eyes of your baby. Oily fishes are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarians and others who avoid fish can consume foods rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA). DHA and EPA can be made from ALA in our body to certain extent. And, you can consider taking DHA supplement.
When pregnant women smoke, the carbon monoxide and other toxins can go directly to fetus through the placenta, and cause the fetal damage. Smoking during pregnancy puts you at higher risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and premature labour. The smoke you inhale can also affect how your unborn baby grows, resulting in a low birth weight. And, smoking in pregnancy can increase the risk of fetal abnormalities and intrauterine death.
If you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum. Drinking alcohol, especially in the first three months of pregnancy, increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and your baby having a low birth weight. Drinking after the first three months of your pregnancy could affect your baby after they're born (fetal alcohol syndrome), including poor growth, facial abnormalities, learning and behavioural problems.
You can still enjoy a cup of coffee during your pregnancy. But you should limit yourself to 200mg of caffeine a day, which is two cups of instant coffee or one cup of brewed coffee. If you regularly have more than 200mg of caffeine a day during your pregnancy, it could increase your risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.
All foods should be cooked thoroughly. Chilled ready-to-eat and refrigerated foods (e.g. Raw seafoods, smoked seafoods, Pates, Deli meat, ready-to-eat salads, sushi, soft ice-cream, soft cheeses and unpasteurized milk) may be contaminated by listeria bacteria. Listeria infection during pregnancy may result in miscarriage, early death of the infant, preterm labour or the baby may suffer severe health problems. When infected by listeria, the pregnant women may show flu-like symptoms, chills, fever, headache, back pain and sore throat. Even though some may be asymptomatic, the infection can still severely affect the baby.