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Healthy Pregnancy: Optimal Nutrition

Posted Oct 06 2012 11:00am

Optimal nutrition during pregnancy will ensure that you keep your energy levels up and experience full well-being to support the increasing requirements placed on you physically and emotionally over the months to come.  So many complications experienced in pregnancy, birth and beyond are due to inadequate nutrition. Beginning motherhood or welcoming a second, third…child into your family is much easier when you start off with surplus and balance rather than feeling physically and emotionally drained.

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“There is perhaps no greater area of disparity between the midwifery or humanistic model and the techno-medical model of care than the perspective of each toward the role of nutrition during pregnancy. According to the midwifery model, one of the most important things that you can do during pregnancy to be healthy and to prevent complications is to eat a nutritious diet.” Ina May Gaskin

Healthy nutrition begins before pregnancy and is maintained throughout with a fertile diet consisting of organic , whole foods and hydration.

This diet cuts out all refined foods, transfats, artificial sweeteners, refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol, refined (and excessive amounts of) salt, artificial flavouring, colouring, other additives and toxins in the form of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and growth hormones in commercially fed animals.

You are not eating for two when you are pregnant, in fact you only need about 200 extra calories. What is important, however, is to ensure that you are taking in quality foods. It’s about making each mouthful count. Pregnancy is not the time to go on a crash diet (releasing toxins into your blood stream and onto your baby) although monitoring weight gain and gradual weight loss, if required, is paramount to a healthy pregnancy. In the same way, insufficient weight gain is also of concern and one of the main causes for lack of surpus after birth and difficulties breastfeeding. Pregnancy is not the time to strive on maintaining your ideal weight but rather putting on a healthy amount of weight according to your height and build.

A fertile diet before and during pregnancy not only boosts natural fertility and prepares the ground for optimal fetal growth, but it also prevents a lot of the common symptoms experienced during pregnancy such as nausea, aches and pains, extreme tiredness, mood swings, stress, cravings, constipation, insomnia, water retention (oedema), excessive weight gain, under-nourishment and even plays a role in ensuring that you carry a healthy baby to term.

Remember: You are what you eat. And so is your baby. Although your baby’s foundation for health is created at the time of conception, ensuring that you eat a fertile diet throughout pregnancy will ensure that you build on this, giving your baby the best start in life.

And of course ensuring that you have a nutritionally optimal pregnancy also sets the scene for those vital first few weeks and months after birth providing essential energy and a good milk supply. Many of the reasons for difficulty breastfeeding and inadequate milk supply can be prevented with prior preparation and optimal nutrition.

* This is a time when most mothers to be would benefit from taking vitamin and mineral supplements .
* Cooking once to eat twice is a helpful habit to adopt as there’s no doubt that there are days when you won’t feel like cooking.
* Eat a rainbow. Make sure you make the most of nature’s bounty with vegetables and fruit of all different colours.
* Always have a kitchen stocked with fresh, healthy foods so that you don’t reach for the nearest take-away…although remember the 80/20 rule. Choose healthy options 80% of the time and for the rest, when you are invited out or are out and about somewhere where you can’t choose your preferred option, go with the flow and enjoy whatever it is that you do eat. A flexible attitude is key to balanced being.
* Listen to your cravings, they will tell you what you need (when craving chocolate for example, you could be lacking magnesium).

Optimal nutrition not only plays a role in ensuring a healthy, comfortable pregnancy and the creation of a healthy baby, but studies show that what you eat whilst pregnant affects your baby’s taste buds and dietary inclinations for the rest of their lives! Eating disorders tend to repeat for generations so building a healthy relationship with food and your body will pass this on to your child, breaking the cycle of a negative relationship with food.

It is possible to experience a very comfortable pregnancy, increasing your trust in yourself, that you are doing the right thing and that you can create the experience that you want. When you feel strong and in control of your physical being this in turn helps you to feel confident, reducing anxiety and worries that you might otherwise experience if you didn’t feel at your best. Health is empowering. It puts you in the driving seat of your experience. By nurturing this experience, this is what you will pass on to your child.

Not sure about where to start or if you’re on the right track? Contact me to create your own personal healthy pregnancy plan.

My next post in this series talks about the second pillar of physical well-being – exercise and physical therapy

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