The Right Diet and Exercise whilst Pregnant

It is important to make sure you follow a balanced diet during pregnancy and also undertake some moderate exercise.

Do not diet to lose weight or stick to any fitness program you might have followed before falling pregnant aimed at keeping slim. When we talk of a healthy diet whilst pregnant we mean a diet which consists of a variety of foods and enables the unborn child and the mother to get all the nutrients and minerals they need. It is not advisable to go on a low calorie diet whilst pregnant as this could have adverse consequences including premature birth, and under developed baby or even miscarriage.

If you are planning or trying for a baby, you might want to consider preconception genetic testing. This type of prenatal test seeks to determine whether the people trying to have children are carriers of any autoimmune diseases thereby tailoring prenatal care and minimizing any potential risks. Prenatal DNA testing in such cases is done to confirm the presence of genetic sequences that code for Tay Sachs, Fragile X and Cystic fibrosis. Before performing any form of DNA testing it is obviously recommended to discuss with the appropriate specialist.

Being overweight in pregnancy

Being heavily overweight or obese whilst pregnant could result in serious complications. If you are considering getting pregnant then you should ideally go on a diet and lose some weight to bring it down to a suitable level. Obese or heavily overweight mothers are more likely to suffer from gestational diabetes or have to give birth by cesarean. Obese women have a 43% higher chance of having a C-section than their ideal weight counter parts whose probability of needing a C section is just around 11%. Larger framed women have less muscle in their pelvic area and are thus, less likely to be able to muster enough strength to “push”. Fat deposits can also hinder the baby from coming out which again could call for a cesarean. A higher maternal mortality and a higher risk of birth defects are further reasons to consider a diet prior to getting pregnant. Of course, the problem is that at least 50% of pregnancies are unplanned.

On the other hand, although your baby does require a good dose of nutrition, meaning that you should be eating more, you should not take your pregnancy as an excuse to eat for two people. Your baby only requires that you add around 300 extra calories to the recommended 2000 calories you should be taking

What should I eat?

It is very important to vary your diet as much as possible with plenty of fruits and vegetables, grains and dairy products. Also drink between 2 and 3 liters of water per day to prevent constipation. Dairy products provide vital calcium for the development of your baby’s bones. If you are lactose intolerant, your doctor will be able to guide you, perhaps suggesting supplements.

Folic acid is extremely important for pregnant woman; the incidence of neural tube defects is directly correlated to folic acid deficiency. Avocados are a great source of folic acid as are lentils and peas. A daily 400 microgram supplement is recommended for pregnant women and this dose upped if the mother has already given birth to a baby with a neural tube defect. Another important mineral is iron. This mineral is crucial and plays a vital role in supplying blood to the placenta, the organ which acts as the point of exchange for oxygen and nutrients between the mother and the fetus. Good sources of iron are spinach, strawberries and muesli.

What foods should I avoid?

There are certain foods which must be avoided as they are considered “risky”. This is especially true for seafood (clams, mussels and oysters) and all raw food (ensure all meat is well cooked). With regards to seafood, some fish like sword fish and tuna can have relatively high level of mercury and are best avoided.

Although dairy products are very important, you must avoid blue cheese and any cheese with green/blue moulds and unpasteurized cheeses as these can be sources of listeria which can cause an illness with serious complications for an unborn baby.

Lastly coffee lovers must reduce their intake of caffeine to under 200mg. Anything above that increases the chances of miscarriage.  Alcohol is to be avoided especially until the third month, after that a small amount (1-2 units a week) is fine.