“You are your baby’s sole source of nutrition during the most critical period of development”
Elizabeth Somer , M.A., R.D
We know that eating well during pregnancy is important for the health of you and your baby but why? It’s probably pretty obvious that growing a tiny human inside you is going to take some resources but what are they and what are your best sources of them? Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B family (1,2,3,5,6), Vitamin C, E and D, beta-carotene, Omega 3, folate, iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and selenium are just some of the essential nutrients you and your baby need. It seems like a lot and for women’s health in general most of what you need would be coming from a healthy, balanced and varied diet. However during pregnancy a marginal supply of vitamin stores may not be enough to ensure the health of your baby and to stop you experiencing unwanted effects of pregnancy like fatigue, lowered immunity, digestive issues and more. Cue supplements! The NHS recommends all women take 400mcg of folic acid daily before conception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, 10mcg daily of Vitamin D for the entire pregnancy as well as some Mothers needing iron and or Omega-3 supplements (please always consult with your doctor before starting, stopping or altering any supplements or medications). Most experts also recommend a good multi vitamin that is specific to pregnancy, fertility or breastfeeding.
Although we might be consulting with our doctors and taking the recommended supplements for pregnancy, what about all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that our baby’s and us, absorb from our food? If food throughout our lives is where we would normally draw all of our vitamins, minerals and nutrients then it is probably still a great place to start during pregnancy. Some vitamins can be stored in the body over time and thus your stores could be sufficient from even before pregnancy but other vitamins are not stored or stored for as long in the body and need to be consumed more regularly in order to keep both Mama and baby fighting fit! So we’ve discussed that you ensuring you have enough of the nutrients you need can stop you from unwanted side effects during pregnancy but what about your baby? Well, “according to researchers at the University of California , Davis ‘when [nutrient] intakes fall below the threshold, foetal growth and development [are] affected more than…maternal health’.” (Somer 2002) So it seems that your baby could be the most affected when you aren’t getting the nutrients that you both need. If you think about it, your baby is entirely dependent on you for all the vitamins and minerals it needs in order to grow, it has no alternative. Interestingly and somewhat reassuringly even if you aren’t getting the nutrients you need your baby will adapt and as effective as any parasite leech the nutrients it needs from you. “Failure [of the mother] in supplying the adequate amount of nutrients to meet foetal demand can lead to foetal malnutrition. The foetus responds and adapts to undernutrition but by doing so it permanently alters the structure and function of the body.” (Imdad and Bhutta 2012). So although you may have a baby that arrives ‘on time’ at a healthy weight, a pregnancy that lacked a balanced nutritious diet and correct supplementation could have long term effects on your baby’s health. We know that we all have a genetic blueprint passed down to us from our parents and that this blueprint may have predispositions to certain illnesses but through a healthy lifestyle and diet we can give our bodies the best chance of not having these illnesses manifest through out our lives. If we can start that process before our child’s birth, why wouldn’t we? We aren’t saying that you have to eat perfectly or have a perfect diet because guess what? There is no such thing but becoming conscious and aware you can begin to make small changes that have a big impact! Including dark leafy green vegetables in your every day diet, ensuring you are drinking enough water, consulting with your healthcare professional and having a supplement routine, are all small changes with a big impact and there are many many more. We hope that you can find this time as exciting as it is and find joy in your journey. It won’t be perfect and it will be completely unique to you, your body and your baby but we can promise you one thing, it will be worth it!
Written by Angelika Purves – Angelika is a private yoga and female empowerment coach based between Sydney and LA www.mamiji.co.uk