Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is vital to obtaining optimal health - not just during pregnancy, but throughout your life as well. For pregnant women, or women of childbearing age, proper nutrition is crucial.
Food helps the body prepare for all the demands that come with pregnancy. A woman’s micronutrient and macronutrient requirements increase during pregnancy.
Hence, a pregnant woman must consume food that will give her both the specific micronutrients and energy, both of which are important for maintaining both her and unborn baby's health.
While pregnant women are put on nutritional supplements to provide large quantities of micronutrients like iron, vitamins, and minerals, the basis of a pregnant woman's dietary intake should be a healthy balanced diet.
Proper nutrition is especially crucial before conception as well as during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, including before a woman is aware she is pregnant. Hence, women need to be on a healthy diet during pregnancy and for the better part of their childbearing years, and especially if they plan to get pregnant.
The Significance of Having a Healthy Diet During Pregnancy
The key contributing factor to poor fetal development is a poor maternal nutrition. Poor fetal development increases the risk of your baby being born ill or dying.
The maternal nutritional status when a woman is pregnant plays a more crucial role in determining fetal health and the predisposition to a certain disease than genetic factors. Maternal nutrition seems to have a fetal programming effect.
Primarily, the fetus will learn your nutritional habits before they are even born, and that will influence the baby even after they are born. The fetus tends to adapt its metabolism as well as other body systems to efficiently cope with different nutrition states.
For instance, an under-nourished baby who doesn’t receive enough energy or macronutrients will respond by reducing insulin and glucose production. This eventually slows the fetal growth rate and increase low-birth-weight risk.
It could also permanently alter the metabolism and leave the individual predisposed to certain metabolic conditions like diabetes. Your unborn baby is likely to adapt to under-nutrition, which leads to redirection of blood flow, which ensures the supply of nutrients that protect the brain, as well as fully develop other organs like muscles, kidneys, and the endocrine system.
While the fetus is also developing in the womb, their nerves that regulate their appetite is also reprogrammed, which then affects their individual appetite regulation as they grow older.
Fetal programming doesn't just affect how much an individual consumes but their food preferences as well. Hence individuals programmed to consume high-fat and high-sugar diet from when they are growing in the womb, they will also have a tendency to consume such kind of diets throughout their adult lives.
Who is More at Risk of Poor Nutrition?
During pregnancy, all women experience an increased nutritional requirement. Hence women should make sure they are well-informed about what they are consuming during pregnancy.
It can sometimes be harder for some women to have access to all the required food groups for a healthy diet, but during pregnancy, the extra mile should be taken.
It helps to know that poor nutrition during pregnancy can potentially result from a massive range of factors, including nutritional intake.
Physical labor, infectious diseases, and adolescent growth tend to create nutritional demands that can require a diet that meets the needs of a woman’s normal health.
Lifestyle choices like tobacco smoking and drug abuse can limit the body’s extent to absorb and use nutrients and further increase the risk of poor nutrition status during pregnancy.
Women commonly affected by the increased risk of inadequate nutrition when pregnant include:
- Vegetarian or vegan women, because most macronutrients are sourced from animal- derived food
- Women with health conditions like infectious diseases and diabetes, both of which tend to create an addition nutritional demand on her body
- Women with low socioeconomic status who have poor health and nutrition and are more likely to give birth to a low-weight-baby.
- Torres Straight and Aborginal women, who due to demographic and socioeconomic factors, were predisposed to poor nutrition due to food insecurity and poverty.
- Women who are stressed. Stress increases nutrient loss and also changes eating habits
- Women who drink alcohol, smoke, or take illicit drugs, as they increase loss in appetite and nutrients
- Women with multiple pregnancies, as they place a higher nutritional demand on the woman's body
- Women who have given birth recently, short birth intervals don't provide the woman's body a chance to recuperate and build-up her nutritional stores between pregnancies
- Women with severe vomiting and nausea during pregnancy, a condition known as hyperemesis, that tends to occur beyond 16 weeks of gestation
Pregnant women who find it hard to access a balanced, safe diet should seek help from support groups or health professionals. Pregnant women with special eating requirements like lactose intolerance should seek individual nutritional advice from their dietitian, nutritionist, or GP. Visit childmode.com to learn more about food and pregnancy.