pre-conception and pregnancy

Preconception

  • It is ideal to begin preconception care four to six months before falling pregnant if possible (four months minimum). Good preconception care can improve fertility and reproductive health and can optimise the health of your conception, birth and baby.
  • It is best to stop the contraceptive pill four to six months before conception if possible.
  • The contraceptive pill increases the body’s need for vitamin B6, B1, B2, C, folic acid and zinc.
  • I recommend beginning supplementation four months before conception because many women on the pill are deficient in these nutrients and it is difficult to reduce deficiencies with diet alone.
  • Four months is the minimum amount of time required to reverse nutritional deficiencies before the vital first trimester.
  • It is best to consult a qualified nutritionist or naturopath if you choose to supplement.
  • Four to six months before conception enjoy a nutritious diet.
  • Eat small regular meals (5-6/day) with as great a variety of foods as possible (choose wholefoods).
  • Avoid alcohol, smoking, tea and coffee (caffeine) and refined and processed foods e.g. white flour and sugar.
  • Keep active and expose yourself to 20-30 minutes sunshine each day to activate vitamin D  which is essential for calcium absorption and bone health.
  • Ideally both parents should do a detoxification diet with a practitioner four to six months before conception to eliminate or minimise toxic chemicals that may be stored in fatty tissue.
  • Use non-toxic cleaning and personal care products. Please contact me if you would like to know which brands I recommend.

Calorie intake

  • Calorie intake should not be increased in the first 3 monthsof pregnancy -you are not eating for two.
  • From 3-9 months calorie intake can be increased by about 10% (around 200 calories/day). These extra calories should come from protein e.g. good quality yoghurt, tofu, beans, organic meat and poultry (where possible), fish, milk, cheese, nuts and seeds.

Protein Needs

  • Protein is by far the most important macronutrient needed during pregnancy.
  • Adequate protein is needed for the growth and development of the foetus to prevent premature delivery. It can help to improve brain and immune system development and can also help to maximise genetic potential.
  • The quality of the protein you eat is important, with meats, eggs and dairy providing excellent sources of complete sulphur-rich protein. These high quality proteins are needed for optimal brain formation.
  • Meeting protein needs can be challenging for vegetarians and supplementing with high quality whey protein may be warranted if protein needs are not being met through the diet.
  • Supplementation with whey protein is especially important if protein intake is reduced due to morning (anytime) sickness. Always busy whey protein from a practitioner to avoid artificial sweeteners.
  • High intakes of soy protein are not recommended because soy can affect thyroid function and oestrogen levels (fermented soy products are a better choice e.g. miso and tempeh).
  • Cottage cheese is a good choice of protein if you are having trouble fitting in or digesting denser forms of protein due to your expanding uterus.

Nutrition for Pregnancy

  • Eat good quality protein (60-75 g/day)
  • fresh fruit (2-3 pieces/day)
  • vegetables (3 serves/day of green leafy vegetables and other brightly coloured vegetables)
  • raw nuts and seeds
  • whole grains and legumes
  • extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil for cooking and salad dressings
  • choose organic if possible – there are grower’s markets in Everleigh and Rozelle.
  • eat three main meals and two healthy snacks each day.
  • drink 8-10 glasses of filtered or bottled water/day (2L).
  • drink raspberry leaf tea (two cups/day for the second trimester and three cups/day for the third trimester). This can aid morning sickness and also improves the tone of the uterus in preparation for delivery. Drink it away from supplements so that it does not reduce their absorption.
  • Avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
  • Reduce high salt foods – they can contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Reduce trans-fatty acids – present in margarine, baked products, processed and take away foods.
  • the need for calcium, folic acid and iron increases during pregnancy. Therefore a good pregnancy multivitamin/mineral should ideally be taken to make sure that increased needs for these and other nutrients are met.
  • There are much better multivitamins for pregnancy than Elevit. Please contact me for recommendations.

Nutrients for Brain Development

  • Nutritional deficiency is one of the principal non-genetic factors affecting the development of the brain.
  • There is growing evidence that shows that poor nutrition during pregnancy can lead to permanent deficits in learning and behaviour. Therefore optimal nutrition is very important for a child’s future.
  • All nutrients are important for the growth and development of the nervous system and brain, but the following nutrients are particularly important:
  • Iodine: good sources include ocean fish, seafood, shellfish (eat in small quantities during pregnancy), spinach, asparagus, dairy, garlic, mushrooms and sunflower seeds.
  • Taurine: found in animal protein, eggs and seafood. It is especially high in breast milk.
  • Choline: egg yolk (4-5/week), 2 tablespoons of lecithin/day or a good supplement.
  • Fish oil: in particular DHA (500–1500 mg/day) should be taken daily to improve the baby’s brain development and to reduce the risk of post natal depression. It is important to choose a high quality fish oil supplement because most are in a synthetic form which is not well absorbed and may be rancid or high in impurities. Please contact me if you would like some recommendations.

Exercise

  • Keeping a regular exercise schedule can be extremely beneficial during pregnancy.
  • Unless you are in a high risk category that prohibits you from exercising, moderate exercise (about 30 minutes/day) can help to improve your energy levels, keep your muscles toned, increase endurance, improve your sleep, prevent constipation and reduce back aches.
  • Do a variety of forms of exercise such as yoga, pilates, walking and swimming.
  • If you have any pain or discomfort,  consult a chiropractor.

Recommended Reading

Well adjusted babies by Dr. Jennifer Barham-Floreani
Gentle birth, gentle mothering by Sarah J Buckley MD
The aware baby by Aletha J Solter PhD
Raising our children, raising ourselves by Naomi Aldort
The Parents’ Concise Guide to Childhood Vaccinations by Lauren Feder, MD