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Optimising Your Lifestyle During Pregnancy

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The previous two article written on this topic are Speed Bumbs on the Road from Bump to Baby and Optimising Your Lifestyle Before Conception

the last article discussed the lifestyle changes that are most important while you are trying to conceive. Once you fall pregnant, continuing these habits is vital but there are a few additional things worth considering, to ensure a healthy pregnancy and to give your baby the best start in life.

  • Optimise your weight gain.  Once you are pregnant it is no longer the time to be losing weight. However, we now know that if you started pregnancy above your healthy weight range, it is quite safe to gain less weight than a woman who is a healthy weight at the time of conception.  In the Bump to Baby Diet we explain how to work out your target weight gain and how much you can expect to gain at different stages of your pregnancy.
  • Eating for two?   While being pregnant increases your nutritional needs, the amount of extra food needed is much less than you might expect.  In fact your energy needs during the first trimester remain the same as they were before you fell pregnant and in the second and third trimester you only need around 10% more energy.  However your need for certain nutrients (such as iron) increases significantly more.  This means that choosing nutrient-dense foods – those that are packed with important vitamins and minerals - without overloading on kilojoules is particularly crucial in pregnancy.
  • Be aware of food safety.  There are a number of foods which should be avoided during pregnancy as they may contain harmful bacteria, such as listeria and salmonella, which can cause food poisoning and harm your unborn baby or cause miscarriage or stillbirth.  These include soft cheeses, cold meats, raw seafood, salad sprouts, pre-prepared salads and fruit salads, uncooked eggs and unpasturised dairy products.   Some types of fish should also be avoided in pregnancy due to high levels of mercury. Of course you should practice good food hygiene at all times, including washing your hands before preparing food or eating.
  • Keep active.  Pregnancy is not the time to hang up your walking shoes!  Keeping fit will help your body cope with the extra demands of pregnancy, can help with preventing excess weight gain and will reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes. You may need to modify the type and intensity of exercise you are doing, particularly as your pregnancy progresses and there are some instances when exercise is contraindicated so always talk to your health care team first.
  • To supplement or not to supplement? The only supplements that are routinely recommended in pregnancy are iodine and folate.  However there are others that may be needed – for example vitamin D or iron if your levels are low, vitamin B12 if you follow a vegan diet, and omega-3 if you don’t regularly eat fish.  If you choose to take other supplements is best to choose a pregnancy multivitamin & mineral, as other supplements, including herbal preparations, may not be safe in pregnancy.  It is best to check with your doctor, midwife or dietitian as to which supplements are best for your needs.
  • Avoid harm.  Alcohol and cigarette smoke are a risk to your unborn baby.  Drinking alcohol and smoking during pregnancy can harm your unborn baby and increase the risk of premature birth, miscarriage and stillbirth.  Babies born to smoking mothers also have a greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and even exposure to second-hand smoke can increase the risk of SIDS and having a low birthweight baby. While no amount of alcohol is known to be safe during pregnancy, it is particularly important to avoid binge drinking.  Caffeine (found in tea, cola drinks, energy drinks and chocolate) should also be limited as too much may increase your chances of having a miscarriage, premature birth or a low birthweight baby.

Want to know more? The Bump to Baby Diet covers all of these areas in detail, from working out your target weight gain and exactly what to eat to obtain all of the key nutrients in pregnancy, to the amount and types of exercise recommended in pregnancy and the things you should avoid to protect your developing baby.  Visit www.bumptobabydiet.com for details.

Dr Kate Marsh is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and Credentialled Diabetes Educator and co-author of the Bump to Baby Diet (Hachette Australia, 2012).  

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