What you eat when planning for pregnancy is very important. A balanced diet before conception helps to prepare your body for the remarkable experience of pregnancy. And during pregnancy, good nutrition is needed for your foetus to grow and develop well.
Eat well before pregnancy
During the first few weeks after conception, the foetus develops rapidly. Even before you are aware that you are pregnant, several important steps in the development of your foetus have already taken place. So it’s best to be nutritionally prepared for pregnancy so that your unborn child is given the best start in life.
Eat well during pregnancy
Most nutrients are not stored in the body. Therefore, the nutrients required by your growing foetus, such as protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals must come from your diet. A varied and nutritious diet will help to ensure that you and your foetus receive the best nutrition for a successful pregnancy.
Your diet will also provide your body with the extra energy you need over the next 9 months of pregnancy and during lactation.
The benefits of adopting good eating habits
Adopting good eating habits before becoming pregnant offers numerous advantages. A good diet will also benefit you during and after pregnancy.
Can eating well before conception improve my feeling of wellness during pregnancy?
Yes. Quite simply, good nutrition before conception can help to build up your reserves of essential vitamins and minerals, like folic acid (a B group vitamin) and iron. A balanced diet helps your body get prepared, which among other things, may help you to avoid feeling tired during pregnancy (from low body iron stores).
Can the foods I eat really help combat feeling tired during pregnancy?
Yes. If you are low in iron, you might be more tired. You might also have a lower immunity. Keep up an iron-rich diet with foods like red meat, poultry and iron-fortified cereals or ask your doctor about taking an iron supplement.
Can the food I eat help to improve my bowel habits during pregnancy?
Yes. Irregular bowel movements are a common problem for women during pregnancy. You can improve your bowel regularity by eating a fibre-rich diet, drinking plenty of water and including some regular physical activity, like walking.
Food and fertility
Beliefs about the powers of so-called ‘fertility foods’ date back to early civilisations. Unfortunately, most are pure fiction. Many are based on the simplistic notion that eating foods that look like sexual organs, such as eggs or figs, can help your sexual organs work better. Others claim that eating spicy foods can increase sexual potency by raising your blood pressure and pulse rate. There is no scientific proof that eating camel’s hump, shark’s fin, ginseng or chilli peppers can help increase your fertility.
A diet low in zinc can reduce fertility in both men and women. Oysters are packed with zinc, but you don´t have to eat a dozen oysters every day to be fertile. Eating a variety of foods rich in zinc, like seafood (oysters, mussels, prawns), red meat, legumes (baked beans, lentils, kidney beans), chicken, cheese, yogurt and eggs may help keep your reproductive system working properly.
Several other vitamins are important for fertility. There is evidence to show that vitamins B12, C and E play a role in improving sperm quality in men. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as lean meat, fish and nuts will ensure you get plenty of these vitamins every day.
A varied and well balanced diet, rather than any specific food, will help improve your chances of conceiving a baby. To maximise your potential to conceive, it is important to:
- Maintain a healthy weight – strict dieting and a severe drop in weight can affect ovulation in women or sperm production in men. On the other hand, being obese may also affect fertility.
- Enjoy a variety of foods from the core food groups every day including fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrain breads, cereals, legumes, lean meats, poultry, fish and reduced fat dairy products.
- Include a variety of foods that are naturally high in zinc like lean red meats and seafood. Eat a variety of foods rich in folate. A folic acid supplement (0.5mg daily) is also encouraged one month before conception and during the first three months of pregnancy.
- Limit your intake of alcohol – even small amounts of alcohol can interfere with fertility.
- Watch your intake of caffeinated beverages – too much caffeine can decrease fertility in women. However, for men, drinking a cup of coffee before making love can cause sperm to become more active. Slow sperm is one of the main causes of infertility in men.
- Refrain from smoking. Tobacco smoke and recreational drugs can harm your unborn child.