A healthy and nutritious diet is essential for maintaining good health throughout your life. For a woman who is planning to get pregnant or is pregnant, it is of utmost importance to maintain a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet. It prepares your body to meet the demands of nurturing a child in your womb. It is not just about having healthy food during pregnancy but you should have a well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet much before you plan to get pregnant.
A pregnant woman needs higher amounts of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins etc.) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.). So, you have to consume a balanced meal which will give you energy and also, supply all the required nutrients to your baby. Maintaining a well-balanced and nutritious diet before and during pregnancy protects you and your baby from long-term and immediate health risks. So, irrespective of when you plan to get pregnant, it is better to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle throughout your childbearing years.
Why the need for healthy diet before getting pregnant?
The nutritional status of a woman during pregnancy depends on the nutritional reserves available in her body before getting pregnant.
The healthy development of the baby depends on the health of the embryo that has formed. A healthy diet and lifestyle free from habits like smoking, alcoholism etc., ensures that a woman produces healthier eggs in her ovaries. A healthy egg ensures the formation of a healthy embryo and then develops into a healthy baby. A woman with poor nutritional status may have difficulty in sustaining the pregnancy or may not have the healthy eggs in her ovaries.
A good nutritional reserve in your body ensures that you are able to sustain the pregnancy and also provide required nutrition to the embryo as soon as the conception happens. No matter how much of healthy diet routine you follow or prenatal supplements you take during pregnancy, nothing can match the advantage of having an excellent nutritional reserve prior to conception.
For example, in surrogacy, the fetal health largely depends on the mother who carries the baby rather than the mother from whose egg the baby was conceived. An undernourished woman has higher chances of delivering baby of low birth weight. Also, lack of micronutrients in the mother’s body immediately after conception may cause serious birth defects in the baby.
Why the need for healthy diet after getting pregnant?
Poor nutritional status of the mother is one of the main reason behind high infant mortality rates in our country. Inadequate nutrition contributes to poor fetal development and risk of stillbirth. It also poses risk to the mother post-delivery and to the survival of the infant after coming out the womb. A newborn of an undernourished mother has lower immunity and is prone to catching life-threatening infections in the early stages of life.
A pregnant woman’s calorie requirement increases as the pregnancy progresses. Since pregnancy is a time of rapid cell growth, lack of nutrition supply can lead to birth defects, low birth weight, and stillbirths also. It has been found that maternal nutrition has a “fetal programming” effect on the baby i.e. it learns to replicate the nutrition habits, which will influence it for the rest of its life, after birth. If the fetus is not receiving proper nutrition, it will learn to adapt to lower levels of nutrition by altering its metabolism and other body functions, to ensure survival.
For example, a fetus which receives less macronutrients, reduces its glucose and insulin production which can cause low birth weight and slower rate of fetal growth. The fetus may also increase blood supply to brain and decrease supply to vital organs such as lungs, kidneys, and muscles. This can cause malformation or underdeveloped vital organs in the fetus.
Benefits of eating healthy before and during pregnancy
By now, you already know that eating healthy is important for a woman before and during pregnancy. You are already aware of how malnutrition can affect you and your baby physically and physiologically.
Let us understand the benefits of maintaining a healthy diet if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant.
1. Reduces pregnancy complications
Eating well during pregnancy can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. It also ensures that you gain healthy and adequate weight during pregnancy. It will also give strength to your body to recoup the blood loss during delivery and also prepares your body for breastfeeding.
2. Reduces incidents of birth defects
Lack of nutrients can lead to the baby being born with birth defects like malformed of vital organs and deformed physical features. It is best to consume prenatal supplements to rule out any possibility of the baby getting less nutrition than required.
3. Ensures good health for your baby throughout its life
The food you had during pregnancy has an influence on your baby’s food habits later in life. This is what is called “Fetal programming”. Your baby develops a taste for the foods you consume during pregnancy. If you eat food which contain high quantities of sugar and fat, your baby will show preference for such foods as it grows and may suffer from low nutrition later in life.
4. Ensures you recover stronger and healthier after delivery
A well-nourished body can easily bear the stress of a natural delivery or a C-section. It can easily recover from the blood loss and return to normal functioning within a few days of delivery. A healthy woman has the ability to produce adequate breast milk for providing immediate nutrition to the baby. Adequate nutritional reserves post delivery ensures that your baby gets all the required nutrients through breast milk.
5. Helps you lose weight faster
If you maintain a healthy diet throughout your pregnancy, you are likely to gain adequate healthy weight, which can be lost easily by maintaining a healthy diet postpartum. By eating well, you are indirectly imparting healthy eating habits to your baby as well.
Dear Ladies, a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet is important before, during and after pregnancy as its benefits are numerous. It ensures your well-being as well as your baby’s.
Your baby will grow and develop properly if it is nourished well and you will also recover faster postpartum. So, have a well-balanced meal every day for a “Healthy You -> Healthy Baby”.