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Ensure you have adequate nutrition

Thursday, June 07, 2018

A well-balanced diet is essential for a healthy baby, says Neha Sahaya

The growth of a baby from conception to birth depends entirely on nourishment from the mother. The complex process of rapid human growth and lactation demands a significant increase in nutrition from the mother’s diet.

The mother’s and child’s health depend upon on the pregnant women eating a well-balanced diet with adequate essential nutrients. In fact, women who have always eaten balanced diets are in a good state of nutrition at conception, even before they know they are pregnant. Such women have a better chance of having a healthy baby compared with women who have been under-nourished before conception and remain so throughout gestation.

The nine months between conception and the birth of a fully formed baby is a spectacular period of rapid growth of the embryo and fetus. Such activities require increased energy and nutrient support. Women who are poorly nourished when becoming pregnant or those with additional risk may require more nutrition support.

The first trimester

The average weight gain that occurs during the first trimester is one to two kilos. This is a time of rapid cell division, organ development, and preparation for the demands of rapid fetal growth that occur during the second and third trimester. Critical nutrients in this phase include Protein, Folic acid, Vitamin B12 and zinc.

The second and third trimesters

Hereafter, approx. 0.5 kg per week during the remainder of the pregnancy is typical. Energy intake is especially important since 90% of fetal growth occurs during the last half of gestation. Critical nutrients during this phase include Protein, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acid and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Complications that may impact nutritional status

These can include nausea and vomiting; constipation; food safety—food borne illness (high risk getting sick from eating unsafe food); the pregnant mother have low ability to fight infection; the unborn baby’s immune system is not fully developed, and increased risk of miscarriage or premature delivery.

Nausea and vomiting Eat small and frequent meals and dry, cold foods. Add ginger to your meal, sniff lemon, and suck on candy.  Supplement your food with vitamin B6 (25 mg, 3x/day); avoid spicy, acidic food and strong odours. Stick to a low-fat diet, avoid caffeine; drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Start your day with fruits or dry fruits and avoid tea/coffee for one hour at least. Add kokum sherbet and buttermilk in your diet.

Constipation Opt for foods high in dietary fibre, including cereals, bread, fruits and vegetable. Choose high-fibre snacks such as wholegrain creamy/biscuits or cake and adequate fluids. Consume lukewarm water, wheat bran (add in wheat flour 1:1 ratio); banana; dates, figs, papayas, home-made popcorn, figs, apricot, bael fruit, broccoli, legumes, bhindi, curd, juice of tomato, mint and coriander leaves and so on.

Avoid raw or unpasteurised milk, raw or partially cooked eggs, undercooked meat and poultry, fish or shellfish. Mercury can harm the developing nervous system in an unborn child or young baby. Especially avoid alcohol. The safest option is to stop drinking whilst trying to conceive, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Excercise

Try swimming and walking; Yoga–Iyengar yoga; Zumba or dancing (only if you have done it in the past and have an experienced trainer to guide you); weights or strength training depending on the semester and proper guidance. Workout of chest, quads, biceps and hamstring can be done, but avoid joint-bearing exercises. 

Remaining active is important during pregnancy. Work out at the intensity you are comfortable with and keep the duration to 30 to 40 minutes.

What could happen when there is

Not enough weight gain              

Low birth weight baby

Early baby

Baby may not develop properly

Baby may have life-long health problems

Higher perinatal mortality

Too much weight gain

High birth weight baby

Difficult birth (Feto to pelvic disproportion)

Higher perinatal  mortality

Mother may develop gestational diabetes

Baby may develop diabetes& cardiac problems in later life

Neha Sahaya is a nutrition consultant. This is the first of a two-part article to be continued.

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