Nutritional support for Healthy PregnancyDuring pregnancy your dietary requirements increase to help support not only your health, but that of your developing baby. Eating a wide variety of whole foods including protein, good fats and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, in conjunction with a specialised pregnancy multivitamin, is a good place to start for a broad-spectrum of important nutrients. In theory, a healthy nutritious diet should provide you with all the nutrients you need while pregnant, but there are some vitamins and minerals that are especially important:
- Folic acid & vitamin B12
Folic acid, if taken daily for one month before conception and during pregnancy, may reduce the risk of women having a child with birth defects of the brain and/or spinal cord, such as the neural tube defects known as spina bifida and anencephaly. Folic acid and vitamin B12 are important for DNA replication, cell division and growth, and are necessary to produce red blood cells and to maintain normal blood in healthy individuals.
Dietary iodine deficiency is re-emerging as a major problem in Australia and New Zealand and recent research has identified Australian pregnant women to be at risk of iodine deficiency. Iodine requirements are increased during pregnancy and adequate maternal iodine levels are important for healthy brain and nervous system development. To meet the increased demands of pregnancy, it is recommended that iodine supplementation be taken prior to trying to conceive and throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Healthy nervous system development is particularly sensitive to choline and low levels of choline are a risk factor for neural tube birth defects.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Fish oil provides a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Increasing omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy may be beneficial to both mother and child, and sufficient levels during pregnancy are required for normal development of the baby. DHA is important during pregnancy for healthy brain, eye and vision development of the developing baby.
Iron requirements are increased during pregnancy and iron deficiency in pregnancy is common in Australia. Iron is necessary for the formation of haemoglobin which transports oxygen in red blood cells to the tissues.
Physical activityKeeping physically fit and active during your pregnancy offers many health benefits such as improving your physical and mental wellbeing while helping you maintain a healthy weight range. Healthy pregnant women are encouraged to participate in some form of aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises to a point where they can still carry on a conversation without being breathless. Make sure you warm up, cool down and only exercise within your comfort zone. Depending on your level of fitness, physical activities to enjoy include walking, swimming, jogging, aqua aerobics, cycling or yoga.
Preparing for birth with Raspberry LeafTaken during the third trimester of pregnancy, Raspberry leaf is traditionally used to prepare the uterus for childbirth and has been found to tone the uterus, facilitate labour and accelerate delivery.
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