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It’s only natural that every mother wants the best for her baby. You can give your little one a head start in life even before your baby is born simply by improving your own diet.

The growing foetus gets all their nourishment from you via the umbilical cord attached to your uterine wall. If you eat a nutritious diet, your baby will receive all the nutrients needed to grow and develop to your baby’s fullest potential.

Optimal nourishment in your womb gives your baby the best chance to be able to grow and learn well, resist infections and enjoy better health throughout their adult life.

Preparing for pregnancy

Getting ready for parenthood starts even before you conceive. So​ if you are planning on starting a family, get your health checks done first. Also, pick up a regular exercise routine, and start eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, using the tips in My Healthy Plate as your guide. 

 

Once you have these basics in place, the next things you should pay attention to are these: 

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Starting your pregnancy with a healthy weight gives you and your baby the best chance at being and staying healthy. So before you get pregnant, work with your healthcare provider to establish a healthy weight, and work at safely keeping your current weight near this ideal level. Stay off crash diets as they deplete your body’s nutritional stores. And it’s important to remember that weight loss is not recommended when you are pregnant.

  • Eat healthily for nine months and beyond.

Nutrition plays a crucial role in the health of mum and baby. Good nutrition keeps you in the pink of health and at your best while you are pregnant. It also ensures your foetus grows and develops well while in the womb. Your baby needs 30 different types of nutrients to do so.

​These are the nutrients that are most crucial during your pregnancy for a healthy baby:

  • Folate and Folic Acid – Prevents birth defects

Spina bifida is a serious congenital condition, which occurs when the tube around the central nervous system fails to close completely.

Pregnancy is a period when the cells in your body divide rapidly to help form a baby and build your tissues to support new life. Folate, one of the many B vitamins, plays a critical role in cell division. A lack of folate in the diet is the cause of severe neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Many of the critical organs such as the brain and the spinal cord are also formed in the foetus well before many women confirm their pregnancy. This is why it is important you are consuming enough folate even before you conceive.

A diet that includes rich sources of folate, such as green leafy vegetables, lentils, brown rice and fortified products ensures you get enough folate. Also, check with your doctor if you need folate supplements, especially if you find yourself unable to eat well.

  • Iron – Prevents Anaemia

Iron is essential for making haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. The amount of blood your body needs increases while you are pregnant. So you will need more iron to produce more haemoglobin. A lack of iron in your diet can lead to anaemia, which can increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Eat red meat, chicken, eggs, green vegetables, legumes, and nuts to boost your iron intake.

  • Vitamin D – Builds stronger bones and teeth

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which in turn helps build healthy bones and teeth for both babies and mums. Getting enough Vitamin D during pregnancy can help your baby have enough stores for the first few months of life. Your body naturally makes Vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. You do not need to get tanned and or let your skin get sunburnt. Fortified foods or supplements can help if you wear clothes that cover your entire body or have dark skin.

  • Calcium – Strengthens bones

Both you and your baby need calcium for strong bones and teeth. Your body can’t make calcium, so you need to get it from food or supplements. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are excellent sources of calcium.

  • DHA – Promotes brain and eye development

Also know as Docosahexaenoic acid, DHA is one of the Omega-3 fatty acids that is found to be vital to the development of your baby’s brain and eyes. Fish oils are the most common source of DHA. However you can also get DHA from plant sources including a wide variety of nuts and seeds such as walnuts and flaxseed.

  • Avoid alcohol.

If you are trying to conceive, you should refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages. This is because potentially harmful substances may have an effect on your foetus’ development even before you know are pregnant.