That means that what Mum & Dad are eating, drinking & taking months before baby is born may have an impact on how easy conception is, the maintenance of the pregnancy & baby’s health after birth. It’s a pretty crazy concept and an area that is gaining more understanding overtime.
In reality, a lot of people have babies unexpectedly, fall pregnant quicker than anticipated, or are unaware of the role of preconception care (ie. caring for Mum & Dad’s health in preparation for pregnancy). These babies usually still turn out perfectly well! So if you haven’t had the chance to do preconception care, please don’t stress – instead, start doing what you can do now.
Taking into account the length of time it takes for the egg & sperm to mature, it’s best to start preconception care at least 4 months before trying for a baby in a healthy couple under 35 where possible. If Mum is 35 plus, or either parent has any diagnosed or suspected health issues, or if there has been a history of recurrent miscarriage or stillbirth, please reach out to your primary healthcare provider or a degree qualified Naturopath for support. Depending on your individual situation, the practitioner may suggest either a longer or shorter preconception care period. If you have known nutrient deficiencies, a preconception care period of 6 months may be a baseline (which again, your healthcare provider will provide more specific instruction around this).
Nutrition in preconception care & the first trimester
We want to correct pre-existing nutritional deficiencies in preparation for conception & ensure that any diagnosed conditions or symptoms are well under control. Once this is done, it’s time to start acting like you’re pregnant. Give up the alcohol, coffee, cigarettes & recreational drugs to protect your future bubs. Make sure you sleep enough. Take time to rest & reduce your stress load. And eat good food!
If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’ll know how much I advocate for a whole foods diet. That means choosing foods as minimally processed as possible, as close to their natural state as possible & prepared or cooked properly.
I know that can sound like a lot – so let’s break it down.
Think about eating –
Fruits & veg (ideally fresh, but frozen is okay too), minimally processed grains such as brown rice, barley, oats, buckwheat & quinoa. If eating bread, choose organic sourdough loaves from the local bakery. If eating muesli, either make your own or read the ingredients to ensure that it isn’t packed with sugar, preservatives or added flavors (basically, if there are numbers in the ingredients list, try to avoid that product). Eat protein rich foods such as organic eggs, grass-fed meat, low-mercury fish, legumes, organic tofu, nuts & seeds. Ensure adequate calcium intake – from green veg such as broccoli & spinach, canned salmon with bones, good quality dairy products if tolerated – generally better to choose Goat’s dairy where possible. Consuming healthy fats is also important – extra virgin olive oil & avocado are two of my favourite sources of healthy fats, as well as nuts, seeds & low-mercury fish.
Continue to eat a variety of nutrient dense foods (such as what’s mentioned above) throughout pregnancy. Your diet in pregnancy is important. But it’s also important that you don’t feel stressed out about what you can & can’t eat – if this is you, please consider reaching out to a professional such as a degree-qualified Naturopath, Clinical Nutritionist, or Dietician.
Trimester 2 Pregnancy Nutrition
As you enter trimester 2 you may notice changes in your gut health. Your digestion has now slowed down to increase your absorption of nutrients (isn’t the body amazing?) which could lead to some constipation – keeping water intake up at this time may be helpful. Some Mums will also notice heartburn or indigestion at this time. Eating small, more frequent meals throughout the day may reduce this. Reducing consumption of spicy foods and some fatty foods (such as deep fried foods. Ideally we don’t want to reduce healthy fat consumption). Caffeine, alcohol & chocolate are also known triggers of heartburn & indigestion.
By now, morning sickness should have passed. If it hasn’t, there’s lots we can do about it, simply book in an appointment.
Trimester 3 Pregnancy Nutrition
In trimester 3, we want to continue the pregnancy diet highlighted above. This marks the time where baby is taking on lots of nutrients to get him/her through the first 6 months of life outside the womb. We want to ensure that Mum has sufficient Vitamin D levels at this time – this can be tested with a simple blood test. If you live in Melbourne & work indoors, Medicare is usually able to cover this test for you (once every 12 months, if you GP sees fit*). Getting onto a good quality vitamin D supplement can be beneficial at this time, as well as prioritizing safe amounts sun exposure. Vitamin D is important for the development of baby’s skeleton & for calcium metabolism. It also helps reduce the chances of preeclampsia.
There are so many nutrients that are required at this time, and if I list them all this blog is going to be really long so I’ll just mention 2 that get a bit less hype (you may have already heard of the importance of iodine, essential fatty acids, and folate in pregnancy):
Iron – levels are important for baby’s stores which will support baby through the first 6 months of life. Not only this, but Mum is likely going to experience some blood loss when giving birth. We want her iron stores to be able to handle this as best as possible.If you think you’re eating enough iron rich foods (such as red meat & green leafy veg) there may be an underlying issue affecting your iron absorption. If this sounds like you, it’s important to work together with a degree-qualified Naturopath or Clinical Nutritionist to get on top of it.
Protein – important for baby to grow, Mum to heal post-birth & for blood sugar regulation. While important for all Mums, protein intake is particularly important for those with gestational diabetes. Sources of protein include: Nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, red meat, chicken & fish.
Preconception & pregnancy nutrition can be a lot to get your head around, but I hope that this blog has helped. This information is educational in nature & is not meant as individualized health advice. For prescriptive advice, please consider booking in a consultation.
Helping Mums & Dads optimize their nutrition prior to conception and throughout pregnancy is so important! And that’s why it’s one of my passions. While this is something that I often explore in one on one consultations with my clients, I also plan to run face to face & online workshops on this in the future. If this sounds like something that you’d be interested in, please let me know! You can do this either via email: email@example.com OR by filling out my contact form here, just make sure you let me know what you’re interested in.
*I am unable to order pathology through Medicare, however can order tests if you are happy to pay for them.
Further pregnancy resource:
Food safety is important during pregnancy in order to prevent food poisoning. You can read more about what foods are safe for consumption, and how to prepare foods for optimal safety here:
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