Eating for baby — do’s and don’ts

2012-02-09 00:00

FOR the next few weeks we are going to take a closer look at how good nutrition during pregnancy is critical for long-term health for both the mom and child. Pregnancy Week this year is from Sunday until February­ 18 and the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) is using the week to raise awareness of the importance of adopting healthy eating patterns to ensure optimal pregnancy outcomes.

Many women don’t realise that nutrition­ during pregnancy has short and long-term effects on the health of their baby and on their own health too. Dietary quality from the first weeks of pregnancy exerts a strong influence on the development of the baby and the placenta. This in turn has an impact on the growth of the baby and on maternal wellbeing.

In the short term, poor quality eating puts mother and baby at risk for complications during delivery, excessive bleeding, weaker immune systems and poor post-natal recovery. Long-term, inadequate nutrient balance during pregnancy, as a result of poor eating plans, can affect the health and development of the child for the rest of its life.

From conception to two years of age is a vital window period during which the foundation for long-term health can be laid. Undernutrition during pregnancy increases the risk of chronic diseases later in the child’s life. I have noticed in my practice that many women start making dietary changes when they realise the life of another is dependent on their choices. Focusing on what they should eat rather than entirely on what they should avoid is the most effective way to ensure long-term success both individually and for the whole family.

Pregnant women don’t need to be eating for two in terms of the amount of food, but they do need to be eating more nutrient-dense foods. This means that what they do eat must be carefully chosen to contain as many micronutrients as possible. Many micronutrients are critical for healthy embryo development in the initial days and weeks of pregnancy before a woman even realises she is pregnant. Eating a healthy diet prior to conception is key to ensuring a good start for the next generation and a speedy recovery to full health after pregnancy for the mom.

The micronutrients that are most commonly lacking are folic acid and iron. Folic acid is critical in the first six weeks to ensure a healthy neural tube develops. It also works together with iron in the mother to prevent anaemia.

A woman’s blood volume increases by 50% during pregnancy and this production of extra red blood cells places a large demand on her iron stores. Preventing anaemia is often a challenge and is even more difficult if the woman is anaemic before falling pregnant. Anaemia can retard the foetal growth and cause a number of complications, including premature delivery.

Some good sources of iron are red meat, spinach and lentils, while iron-fortified breakfast cereals often provide­ the most iron in a single serving. Folic acid is also found in lentils and fortified cereals. Achieving adequate intake of these micronutrients however, often demands a supplement.

A number of other micronutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and magnesium are also needed in higher quantities during pregnancy. Complications associated with pregnancy such as nausea, constipation and tiredness often hamper optimal nutritional intake. Women who are pregnant or who are planning to fall pregnant should consult a registered dietitian for advice and eating plans tailored to their needs.

Next time we’ll address the topic of weight gain before and during pregnancy and look at the role it plays in a successful pregnancy.

 

• For more trusted information, visit www.nutritionweek.co.za with compliments from ADSA.

• Sharon Hultzer is a consulting dietitian. She can be reached at eatsmart@iburst.co.za

 

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.