Nutritional and lifestyle pregnancy needs can cause long term health effects in infants and children. Poor health practices before and during pregnancy can lead to risks of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases. Health caregivers should be trained and encouraged to support and provide insight into pregnant women. A mother should be able to meet the nutritional and health requirements demanded during pregnancy to ensure the healthy development of the embryo. Some of the key factors to consider for a healthy pregnancy experience are a healthy weight, physical activity, and healthy eating.
A healthy size of a baby is dependent on the amount of weight a mother gains during pregnancy. Too much or too little weight gain results in serious health complications to both the mother and the child. According to experts, excessive weight gain can cause diabetes and high blood pressure in expectant mothers. Obese women also have higher chances of getting health problems during pregnancy that can lead to one having a cesarean type of birth. For an easier pregnancy and delivery gaining a healthy amount of weight is advisable. The allowable weight gain depends on the body mass index of an individual which is obtained by calculating BMI.
During the first three months, the embryo is still tiny and there is no need for many calories intake and it is advisable to control weight gain. Health specialists can help with weight tracking while advising on the appropriate amount of weight to gain in each stage while taking into consideration your age and health condition. For the proper development of the infant healthy food intake and low-calorie beverages are preferable. Weight loss is not encouraged during pregnancy.
To ensure the baby gains the standard amount of weight an expectant mother should watch the types of food they take. Low-calorie beverages especially water and healthy food consumption are favorable. There is no need for calorie intake during the first three months. In the next few months there can be a little more calorie intake and finally the final weeks there is no need for extra calories. If there are no weight gain calorie intake impacts positively but when there is too much weight gain, there is a need to cut down the amount of calorie intake. However, it is good to note that the amount of calorie intake and weight gain needs vary from one mother to another depending on their health status, body type, and the number of babies they may deliver.
A healthy eating plan comprises of nutritious foods and drinks for example
- Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and fiber.
- Whole grains such as brown rice and oats. These provide fiber and B vitamins.
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products or non-dairy products such as soy and almond. These are calcium and vitamin D rich foods.
- Healthy protein sources especially plant proteins e.g. beans and peas, seafood, nuts, and seeds.
- Limited salt, solid fats, and sugary drinks and foods.
Vegetarian mothers eating plan is healthy but may need to be supplemented with needed nutrients such as calcium, vitamin B12, Iron, Proteins, and vitamin D among other nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are key in a diet during pregnancy. An example of a mineral that reduces birth defects is Folate. Examples of foods rich in folate are spinach, broccoli, fortified low sugar cereals, strawberries, beans, and fortified bread. Other than the intake of healthy foods and beverages the following points are also important:
- Eating breakfast every day in the morning. Whole wheat products are good immediately after a mother wakes up and other cereals and fruits can be taken later in the morning.
- Intake of high fiber foods, drinking of water frequently, and physical activity.
- Prevention of heartburn by spreading the meals in small portions throughout the day and avoiding spicy and fatty foods.
Examples of beverages and foods that should be avoided are
- Soft cheeses
- Caffeinated drinks
- Seafood with high mercury content
- Food that may contain bacteria e.g. E-coli, viruses, or parasites is to be avoided since they may cause illness to the baby and mother.
- Anything that is not considered food such as clay.
Physical activities have several benefits to both the mother and the child during pregnancy. It reduces the risk of excess weight gain, muscle aches, diabetes, depression, and risk of health problems such as high blood pressure. Aerobic activity for around 150 minutes a week can be effective since it increases the heart-beat rate and breathing. Other activities such as going for walks, being active, and moving around other than sitting are recommended for pregnant women.
A healthy lifestyle such as physical activity, healthy diet, and healthy weight gain is the key needs during pregnancy. However, health care professional health is required to keep track and be updated about the baby’s health. It is important to seek guidance in case of any complications since every mother differs and what works for one may not apply to the other.