In addition to my Physiotherapy and Pilates qualifications, I have an advanced diploma in Nutrition and weight management and an area which interests me greatly is pre and postnatal nutrition. I hope you enjoy, Laura.
The diet and nutritional status of a woman prior to conception can affect the health of the baby and even the chances of conceiving. During pregnancy, the developing baby draws upon the mothers stored nutrients therefore she must have the optimum balance of vitamins and minerals at the start of her pregnancy. This can be achieved by eating a balanced and varied diet. The UK Government uses a concept of the “Eatwell Guide” to explain what is meant by a well balanced and healthy diet. For more information on the Eatwell Guide, please visit NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk)
Being under or overweight can affect chances of becoming pregnant and have implications to the mother and baby’s health. It is not advisable to diet whist pregnant, therefore women should aim to have a BMI of 18.5- 24.9 before thinking about becoming pregnant.
In addition to eating a balanced diet as per the Eatwell plate, women trying to fall pregnant should take a Folic Acid (Vitimin B9) supplement. Folic Acid is essential for development of the babies spinal cord. Inadequate levels can lead to neural tube defects e.g Spina Bifida and anencephaly. As the spinal cord develops early during pregnancy it is advised to start taking it as soon as you start trying to become pregnant. The normal recommended dose is 400mcg/day however woman at high risk e.g. diabetes, epilepsy, has neural tube defect or previously had a child with a neural tube defect may require higher dose and are advised to see their GP. Supplementation of folic acid should continue until week 12.
ADDITIONAL NUTRIENT REQUIREMENTS DURING PREGNANCY
A healthy balanced diet (The Eatwell Guide) provides the majority of vitamins and minerals needed during pregnancy, however the following are particular important during this time and therefore have increased requirements.
1. Vitamin D – Needed to ensure that mother and baby are absorbing calcium properly. The Department of Health recommends 10mcg/day
2. Iron – Iron rich foods during pregnancy are important to avoid anaemia. Examples of iron rich foods include: red meat, pulses, eggs, green vegetables and fortified cereals.
3. Vitamin C – Vitamin C aids the absorption of iron however, tea and coffee contain a substance that can inhibit absorption and therefore should be limited.
WEIGHT GAIN DURING PREGNANCY
Weight gain is completely normal during pregnancy however insufficient or excess weight gain carries risks for the baby and mother. The majority of the weight gain occurs in the 2nd half of pregnancy and although you may believe that you are eating for two, you only actually require an extra 200 calories per day in your third trimester (no additions calories in the 1st or 2nd trimester).
There are no guidelines in the UK regarding weight gain however the Institute of Medicine in the US have produced guidelines based on your BMI prior to falling pregnant:
< 18.5 BMI should gain roughly 12.7-18.1kg
18.5-24.9 should gain roughly 11.3-5.9kg
25-29.9 should gain roughly 6.8-11.3kg
> 30 should gain 5-9.1kg
Breast feeding drains a mothers nutrient reserves therefore it is important that she continues to eat a varied and balanced diet during this time. Breast feeding can use an additional 500 calories per day therefore mothers need to listen to their hunger signals and consume regular meals and snacks throughout the day.
Breast feeding women have increases fluid requirements and whilst there are no set guidelines on specific levels, it is recommended that they try to have 1-2 L per day.
Caffeine should be limited as it is excreted in breast milk and may keep your baby awake (only a very small amount is excreted but babies are more susceptible to caffeine).
Alcohol must also be limited as it can pass from the bloodstream into the breast milk. There are no official guidelines on whether it should be avoided completely but it is recommended not to consume more that 1-2 units once or twice a week.
Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herding and sardines) should only be consumed 1-2/week due to the pollutants that it contains.
If you have any nutrition related question or concerns or simply want to share recipe ideas (anything peanut butter related would be greatly appreciated!) please feel free to grab me for a quick chat or check out my instagram @bfit_healthy_happy.