A pregnancy diet can refer to the nutritional intake and foods eaten before, during, and after pregnancy. The goals of such a diet include increasing fertility and successful conception, helping the developing fetus receive the proper nutrients, strengthening the mother for childbirth, aiding in a safe and successful birth, minimizing risks of birth defects or nutritional deficiencies, and reducing chances of infant morbidity or mortality. Physical and neurological disorders, as well as handicaps, have all been linked to malnourished mothers.
Possibly harmful pregnancy determinants
There are many foods that may decrease your fertility including caffeine, Trans Fats, and fish that is high in mercury (i.e. mackerel, shark, and swordfish). Mercury in particular can not only decrease fertility but can also be very harmful to a developing fetus.
Trans Fats can be found in processed and fried foods. Due to recent regulations, manufacturers are required to label the amount of Trans Fat in their products, though restaurants rarely do. High levels of caffeine, i.e. three or more cups of coffee a day, are linked to increased rates of miscarriage. Anorexia, bulimia, and obesity have all been linked to infertility.
The BMI for a woman seeking to conceive should be between 20 and 26. Drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, are extremely harmful for developing fetuses and embryos. As such, they should be completely abstained from until birth or the cessation of breastfeeding if applicable. Too much Vitamin A should also be avoided. For extra safety, all fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before consumption and even pre-made meals should be thoroughly heated to avoid common bacterial infections.
Beneficial pregnancy foods and nutrients
Women looking to conceive or already pregnant require a lot of nutrients. As always, there is the risk of over supplementing so suggested base nutritional guidelines should be followed (generally found on the labels). Zinc and Magnesium aid in the binding of hormones to receptors.
Folic Acid helps regulate the growth of the ovarian follicle. Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of adolescent deficiencies and rickets. Vitamin B12 helps battle both poor health and infertility. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a wide variety of benefits including: increased blood flow to reproductive organs, regulation of reproductive hormones, preventing low birth weight, and reducing the risk of premature delivery.
Omega-3 ‘s can be found in oily fish (salmon is an excellent source but consumption should be limited for mercury concerns) as well as flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, enriched eggs, and walnuts.
Timing and guidelines
The weeks immediately following conception are when the fetus is most vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies or pathogens as the placenta is not yet fully formed. Iron rich foods will help supply oxygen to the baby and are recommended. After birth, proper nutritional and caloric intake is required to help the mother require from pregnancy and childbirth.
If breastfeeding, nutritional and caloric intake should be increased accordingly. An expecting mother should be extremely careful about what she eats; the general rule is research and avoiding excess. Pregnancy is full of possibilities and uncertainties, but nutrition is one aspect that is fully under your control.