Diet and lifestyle changes for fertility & pregnancy health
26th June 2018
The diet and lifestyle of a women around the time of conception can influence the development of her baby.
During the first few months of pregnancy the foundations for organ and tissues begin, and this time is often referred to as a ‘critical period of development’. During this time the main nutrient supply for the growing fetus comes from the mother’s blood, therefore a lack of certain nutrients may impact on the health of the growing baby.
To ensure the best outcome for you and your child it is important to optimise your health – both before conception and during pregnancy.
So whether you are trying to conceive, or recently found out you are pregnant, here are a few top tips to make sure you are pregnancy ready.
- Recommended supplements for all women trying to conceive:
A well-balanced diet will provide you with nearly everything you need for your pregnancy, although the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that women supplement their diet with folic acid and vitamin D around the time of conception.
Folate: (the natural form of folic acid) is a B-vitamin and it occurs naturally in dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, dairy products and seafood. Low folate status is common in the UK, and if it occurs during pregnancy it can result in infants being born small for their age or result in the development of a neural tube defect such a spina bifida (this means the neural tube does not fully close at the end of the 1st trimester). All women in the UK are advised to take 400ug of folic acid 8 weeks prior to conception and up to the 12 weeks of pregnancy. This is to ensure there is a good folic acid supply at conception and until the neural tube closes.
Vitamin D: Similarly to folate, vitamin D deficiency is common in the UK, and it plays an important role in our bodies by helping with the absorption of dietary calcium and phosphate from our intestines. These three nutrients are needed to help maintain healthy bones, teeth and muscles and help with the development of your baby during pregnancy. NICE recommend that all women take a daily supplement of 10ug from conception all the way through their pregnancy, it is also recommended to continue supplementation throughout breastfeeding as well, to ensure there is an adequate supply in breastmilk.
2. Reduce your alcohol intake or stop entirely if you’re trying for a baby:
The evidence strongly supports the avoidance of alcohol throughout pregnancy as alcohol in a mother’s blood stream crosses the placenta and into the blood stream of a fetus, resulting in nearly equal concentrations. As it can take a few weeks to confirm a pregnancy the safest approach is to avoid alcohol entirely when you are trying to conceive.
3. Taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight:
If you are worried about your weight, speak to your GP about different approaches to lose weight. s Women who start pregnancy with a normal body mass index, compared to overweight or obese women, have better maternal and infant outcomes. Also, if you develop a good exercise routine before you conceive research has shown that it is easier to maintain it during your pregnancy, compared to women who start exercising once they have conceived.
By adopting healthy behaviours before you conceive it is easier to maintain them throughout your pregnancy and can result in better long-term outcomes for you and your child.