Pregnancy is a wonderful milestone in the life of a woman. It is an experience that a woman would like to nurture in her heart for a lifetime. It is a time when a woman will be overwhelmed with a variety of emotions ranging from the happiness of being pregnant to the anxiety about the proper health, growth and development of young baby to be.
Child bearing imposes both physical and mental strain on the body and mind. To be able to counter this, it is important that the mother has a healthy diet during pregnancy. A nutritious and rightly balanced diet during pregnancy ,is important not only to maintain the maternal nutritional needs and the development of a healthy fetus but also to provide continuous adjustments in maternal body composition and metabolism.
While it is important to have proper nutrition and right diet during pregnancy, pre-pregnancy nutrition is equally important, as it helps determine fetal growth and therefore size and health of an infant at birth. Well balanced, nutritious diet also plays a great role post pregnancy as well by ensuring a good health to the mother and child during lactation.
As we observe of March as the National Nutrition Month, Dr Gunjan Pannu, Consultant – Chief Clinical Dietitian at Paras Bliss Hospital, Panchkula for Mother & Child talked about the importance of nutrition in ensuring good health and reproductive performance of women and survival and development of their baby. Conceiving is not an easy process and requires both health and mind to be prepared to take the leap. A major part of the nutrition given to the body during pregnancy is partaken by the fetus.
Therefore, it becomes important for a woman to store her nutrition much in advance before she decides to get pregnant. Hence, it is important to ensure intake of nutritious and well balanced diet pre pregnancy. And, since nutritious diet provides strength during lactation, post pregnancy nutrition becomes equally important,” said Dr Gunjan Pannu.
The drain of pregnancy and child feeding is such that it often leads women excessively deprived of nutrients. In women who do not take conscious care of their nutritional status, this can be dangerous for both short-term and long-term health. Calcium is one of the most crucial mineral needed for the growth of a fetus and this deprives pregnant women of a lot of their own body reserves.
“During pregnancy, the nutrient to the fetus is provided by the food taken by the mother. While nutrients such as mineral, vitamins and others are required for the mother to stay healthy to be able to deliver the child, nutritious diet is also important to ensure proper supply of nutrients to the developing fetus. In many cases women recover their bone calcium after they have delivered the baby and have breastfed her, many are left with depleted bones for life. This can be prevented if you take care of your calcium intake and bone health from early years and ensuring a healthy from the time you decide to get pregnant,” added Dr Pannu.
Following are the nutritional requirements during pregnancy:
Energy & carbohydrates: Additional energy is required during pregnancy to support the metabolic demands of pregnancy and fetal growth.
Protein: During pregnancy there is a need for additional protein. It is to support the synthesis of maternal and fetal tissues. The efficiency of conversion of dietary protein to milk protein is 70%. So the need for protein is greatest when lactation has reached its maximum.
Minerals: In pregnancy the needs for calcium, iodine, iron and zinc and in lactation calcium and iron increases.
Vitamins: During pregnancy Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Folic Acid and Vitamin B6and during lactation Vitamin C and Vitamin B are highly essential.
Fluid intake: You need to drink plenty of water. At least 4-6 glasses in addition to what is contained in the form of milk and other beverages. This should be taken throughout pregnancy and in lactation, an increased fluid is necessary for adequate milk production.
Supplements: These should be taken as per doctor’s prescription. Self-medication is not recommended.
Besides a healthy and varied diet, it is also important to bring changes in the lifestyle such as practicing light exercises regularly and avoiding stress and tension. You should try not to overload your system and keep it fresh with consuming juices and green vegetable on regular basis. It is highly recommendable to avoid non – nutritive substances in food like alcohol, caffeine and tobacco during pregnancy.
It is important to increase daily consumption of whole grained breads, whole grain cereals, pulses, green leafy and yellow vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, milk and milk products proportionately along with selecting good sources of iron and folic acid. Additionally, it is also essential to take small frequent feeds. Notably, one should not miss meal or undergo fasting during pregnancy.