Pregnancy, whether carefully planned or a sudden surprise, is a time of tremendous change. Physiological and hormonal changes kick in together with excitement, apprehension and a host of other emotions which can be positively overwhelming for mum and all involved!
Good nutrition and hormonal status are critical to the success of the pregnancy process and the health of a developing baby. From preconception through pregnancy to postnatal care, specific nutrients are required at each stage to ensure the process is optimally supported.
For some women, this entire process runs smoothly and only requires the most basic nutrient support, while for others it’s not as simple and additional support is needed to help them through the process.
Wherever you are on the spectrum, let’s take a closer look at the nutritional and hormonal requirements that optimally support each phase of this process.
Pregnancy Planning and Preconception
When planning a pregnancy, correct nutrient and hormone status can greatly influence the success of conception. A healthy balance of female hormones, particularly progesterone, is extremely important. So too are healthy thyroid gland function and adequate levels of specific nutrients such as Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, Zinc, Iodine and Iron.
Eating a wholesome diet rich in green leafy vegetables, wholegrain cereals, fish and organic meats can greatly enhance levels of these nutrients. Vegans and vegetarians should select good plant sources of these nutrients and if not possible, look at good nutritional supplements to provide these.
A good Pregnancy Multi is also recommended from preconception through pregnancy for post natal health as well, to help support the correct levels of basic nutrients.
During the first trimester of pregnancy, a mum’s hormone and nutrient status is solely responsible for maintaining both her own health and that of her developing baby. It is a crucial part of pregnancy and, as in the preconception stage, is dependent on healthy progesterone levels and healthy thyroid gland function. Nutrients such as Folic Acid help support the healthy formation of the developing baby and a good Pregnancy Multi will help provide additional nutrient support for both.
During the second and third trimesters, the developing baby begins to make its own hormones which contribute to maintaining a healthy pregnancy. However, nutritional demands increase dramatically for mums during these stages so adequate energy and nutritional intake is critical.
While there is no hard and fast rule regarding how to eat during pregnancy, here are some broadly accepted tips for optimal nutrition:
- Select a healthy diet, making sure that you are eating enough.
- Avoid highly refined and processed foods, particularly high sugar foods. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is paramount to a healthy pregnancy.
- Eat breakfast, particularly with a form of protein. This will help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and stress levels. Eating balanced meals through the day may also help keep cortisol, the stress hormone, in check.
- Try to eat fish twice weekly. This will help to boost your Omega 3 levels and help to support healthy nervous system function in your baby.
- If you are not getting enough sunshine, consider a Vitamin D supplement to make sure that you and your baby are getting enough of this important vitamin. Vitamin D may support the health of your baby’s immune function both during pregnancy and postnatally.
- Consider taking a Probiotic supplement during pregnancy. This may help to support healthy digestive function and healthy immune function in your baby.
- Be aware of the possible risks of listeria, and steer clear of raw fish, unpasteurised cheeses, pre-prepared deli foods and anything else that might put baby at risk.
- Try to limit caffeine and alcohol.
- Smoking during pregnancy is not recommended.
A woman’s hormonal and nutritional health is just as important after childbirth as it is during preconception and pregnancy, and may be beneficial for healthy mood support.
- Maintain a healthy eating plan that provides you with enough energy but at the same time assists you in returning to a healthy postnatal weight.
- Continue to take nutritional support such as a Pregnancy Multi.
- Consider additional supplementation, particularly if you are breastfeeding. Nutrients here include Calcium, Iron and Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Continue to avoid caffeine and alcohol, particularly if you are breastfeeding.
Brett Friedman Nutritional Medicine Consultant for Wondermins
Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine (Naturopathy; Nutrition), MSc.(Med) Genetic Oncology, BSc.(Hons) Microbiology
Always read the label and use as directed. Vitamins and minerals are supplementary to and not a replacement for a balanced diet. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. Wondermins, Auckland MR5792.