There is a common myth surrounding pregnancy: that you can eat for two and that nutrition can be forgotten for these nine magic months. In reality this is the most important time in your life to focus on nutrition and health. The way you eat during your pregnancy will lay the foundation for your and your baby’s future health as well as minimize the risks of a sick child, pregnancy-induced diabetes, preeclampsia and a traumatic birth.
The Close Connection
Never are two human beings so close as the baby and mother during pregnancy. Inside your belly there is a storm of activity as the cells of your baby’s body are dividing and forming organs and nerve circuits. You are literally sharing the same blood; your baby gets all essential nutrients from your bloodstream and the placenta will filter the whole thing.
Some substances are blocked by the placenta and not allowed to pass to the baby but unfortunately many dangerous substances, if consumed by the mother, will end up in the baby’s blood stream. Alcohol and nicotine will harm the baby’s growth and development, and should be avoided completely. Many medications have not been properly studied in pregnant women and medicines not specifically prescribed by a doctor should be avoided. Certain over the counter medicines can also be harmful to your baby, so it’s important to inform the pharmacist that you are pregnant.
One Ingredient to Avoid
Unfortunately, there aren’t always labels pointing to potentially dangerous substances. One every day ingredient has been linked to the same kind of pregnancy complications as certain medications or narcotics: sugar. The links between sugar, obesity and diabetes have been well documented, but for pregnant women the burden of risk is heavier. The Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2008 found that even slightly elevated blood sugar levels can lead to high birth weight, cesarean-section delivery and premature birth. Sugar is present in many pre-packaged foods, even savory varieties. One of the best ways to avoid this harmful ingredient is to prepare home cooked meals, and avoid convenience and fast foods as much as possible. Choose foods that will keep your blood sugar levels stable such as legumes, vegetables, lean protein, nuts and seeds.
The Building Blocks of Life
From the moment of conception, you are already a mother; your body is tending to and nourishing the fetus. Every breath you take sends oxygen to your baby’s tissues and every meal you have fuels the baby with the energy and building blocks he or she needs to grow and evolve. An unhealthy diet, high in fats and sugar and devoid of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, can increase the risk of something going wrong during pregnancy or birth.
Setting the Stage
A mother’s diet will influence the baby even after birth and for many years to come. Highly interesting research in recent years has shown that what the mother eats when she is pregnant will influence the child’s health into adulthood. Eating excessive sugar and fat will increase the risk of the child suffering from weight gain, insulin resistance and diabetes as a grown-up. So it’s up to you to ensure your child’s future health by making the best choices possible in your diet as early as possible!
Habits for Life
Never has there been a better time to start implementing new habits. Many women get the mindset that during pregnancy they can eat whatever they want and after the baby is born they discover that there is no time or energy to implement new healthy habits. Give yourself and your baby the best start by making sure that your body is nourished and healthy. That way, the magic of this special time is not lost and you will keep your glow and energy after your baby is born, and beyond. Let the miracle inside you be a motivation for transforming your eating habits. Today is the perfect day to begin the journey of a lifetime.
The basics of pregnancy health:
- Avoid processed foods.
- Eat a varied diet with plenty of vitamin and mineral rich foods.
- Don’t over eat—you need around 300 extra calories a day during pregnancy (that’s the equivalent of a handful of nuts and a banana)
- Increase your intake of iron, folic acid and calcium during pregnancy. Leafy green vegetables, lean meat and dairy are all good sources. You can also supplement your diet with a multivitamin especially designed for pregnant women.
 Barger MK. Maternal nutrition and perinatal outcomes. J Midwifery Womens Health 2010. 55: 502-511
 Murrin C, Shrivastava A, Keller CC et al. Maternal macronutrient intake during pregnancy 5 years postpartum and associations with child weight status age five. Eur J Clin Nutr 2013, 67: 670-679
 Maslova E, Rytter D, Bech BH et al. Maternal intake of fat in pregnancy and offspring metabolic health- A prospective study with 20 years of follow-up. Clin Nutr 2015, S0261-5614