Nutrition before Pregnancy

Thinking of becoming pregnant? Begin by performing a nutrition and lifestyle check up! Evaluate your weight, the foods on your plate and your physical activity patterns.

Pre-conception nutrition is a vital part of preparing for pregnancy. Factors such as a woman's weight compared with her height and what she eats can play an important role in a mother's health during pregnancy and the health of her baby.

Remember alcohol is not recommended during pregnancy or for those who may become pregnant. Alcohol intake in early pregnancy (often before women know they are pregnant) can have harmful effects on the developing baby.

Pre-pregnancy Weight

Current research stresses the importance of being at a healthy weight for optimum fertility. Being very overweight or underweight may make becoming pregnant more difficult and may lead to complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure.

A woman's body composition is important for ideal hormone balance. Fat cells make estrogen; too few or too many fat cells can affect the amount of estrogen in the body and therefore affect fertility.

Besides body weight, other factors that can affect fertility are PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), insulin resistance, excessive exercise, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, eating disorders and emotional stress. Your nutrition and lifestyle can influence many of these factors. Discuss these factors with a health care professional; Email Us or call (314) 996-4987 to speak with a registered dietitian. 

A mother's pre-pregnancy weight has a direct influence on her baby's birth weight. Studies show that underweight women are more likely to give birth to small babies, even though they may gain the same amount in pregnancy as normal weight women. Overweight women have increased risks for complications in pregnancy such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure.

Tips for achieving and maintaining a health weight are:

  1. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  2. Participate in strength training several times each week to build muscle mass and help decrease body fat.
  3. Balance calories to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Eat a healthy diet.

Make an appointment to talk with a doctor about whether you need to lose or gain weight before becoming pregnant. Email Us or call (314) 996-4987 to speak with a registered dietitian. 

Pre-pregnancy Nutrition

Many women do not eat a well-balanced diet before pregnancy and may not have the proper nutritional status for the demands of pregnancy. Generally, a pregnant woman needs to add about 300 extra calories daily to meet the needs of her body and her developing baby. However, those calories, as well as her entire diet, need to be healthy, balanced, and nutritious.

The USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the following healthy dietary guide to help you in selecting a variety of healthy foods before, during and after pregnancy.

  • Grains. Foods that are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain are grain products. Make half of your grains whole grains. Examples of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, and oatmeal.

  • Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange vegetables, legumes (dry beans and peas), and starchy vegetables.

  • Fruits. Any fruit or 100 percent fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed.

  • Dairy. Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Switch to fat-free or low-fat dairy products that are high in calcium.

  • Protein. Go lean with protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine by choosing more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.

  • Oils are not a food group, yet some, such as nut oils, contain essential nutrients and should be included in the diet in moderation. Others, such as animal fats, are solid at room temperature and should be avoided.

Email Us or call (314) 996-4987 to speak with a registered dietitian. 

In addition to the above food groups, the following nutrients should be included in a woman's pre-conception diet and continued into pregnancy: 

  • Folic acid. Current dietary guidelines recommend that women who may become pregnant consume 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid daily. Folic acid is a B-vitamin found in spinach, black-eyed peas, fortified breakfast cereals and enriched grains, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, kidney beans, peanuts, wheat germ, broccoli, and green peas.

    Folic acid can help prevent 50-70% of neural tube defects (birth defects of the spinal cord) in addition to other birth defects.

    Folic acid is most beneficial during the first 28 days after conception, when most neural tube defects occur. Unfortunately, many women do not realize they are pregnant before 28 days. Therefore, folic acid intake should begin prior to conception and continue through pregnancy.

    Your health care provider may recommend a folic acid supplement to ensure your intake is adequate. Call (314) 996-4987 or Email Us to speak with a registered dietitian. 
  • Iron. Many women have low iron stores as a result of monthly menstruation and diets low in iron. Building iron stores helps prepare a mother's body for the needs of the fetus during pregnancy. Good sources of iron include the following:
    • Meats such as beef, pork, lamb, liver, and other organ meats.

    • Poultry such as chicken, duck, and turkey (especially dark meat).

    • Fish and shellfish including sardines, anchovies, clams, mussels, and oysters. Check with your health care provider before consuming other types of fish as some may contain high levels of mercury.

    • Leafy greens of the cabbage family such as broccoli, kale, turnip greens, and collards.

    • Legumes such as lima beans and green peas, dry beans and peas such as pinto beans and black-eyed peas, and canned baked beans.

    • Whole grain breads and iron-enriched white bread, pasta, rice, and cereals.

    • Calcium. Preparing for pregnancy includes building healthy bones. If there is not enough calcium in the pregnancy diet, the fetus may draw calcium from the mother's bones, which can put women at risk for osteoporosis later in life. The recommended calcium intake for women is 1,000 milligrams. Three servings of milk or other dairy products each day equals about 1,000 milligrams of calcium.

Always consult your health care provider regarding your healthy diet and exercise needs.

For more information about pre-pregnancy nutrition call (314) 996-4987 to speak with a registered dietician or Email Us.