If you are trying to get pregnant and people around you know about it, you must have enough information regarding what to do and what not to do. The strangest one I’ve heard so far is that eating clay increases fertility! No matter what you have heard, staying healthy is very important when you are planning for a baby. You don’t want to eat for two people, as most people would advise, put on abnormal weight and get pregnancy (Gestational) diabetes.
Did you know that you only need one to two extra slices of brown bread (worth calories) to feed the baby growing inside you – pregnant women who start at a healthy weight should eat only about 200-300 extra calories a day, beginning only in the second trimester. Neither do you want to stay home and get pampered as it will make your body, including your birth muscles, lazy.
What to eat
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and stay on top of your vitamins
They contain vitamin and minerals, as well as fibre, which prevent constipation. Try to have at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables each day and preferably of 5 different colours. Different colours will give you different minerals that your body needs. Try and eat fresh fruits and veggies as they are rich in antioxidants although dried fruit is also high in minerals. Fresh juice is better than canned juice! Always wash them carefully. Cook vegetables lightly in a little water, or eat them raw but well washed, to get the benefit of the nutrients they contain.
It’s good to get your vitamins and mineral from your food but if it is not enough you may need supplements. Folic acid is very important and it is recommended that women who are planning to get pregnant take 400 micrograms of folic acid everyday, till 12 weeks of pregnancy. Lack of folic acid causes neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Good and natural sources of folic acid are green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, oranges and brown rice.
During pregnancy your body’s demand for iron will increase as you will need more blood to flow through your body. It’s important that you have enough iron stored in your body. Dried fruits, nuts, lean meat, lentils and beans are a few sources of iron. In some cases the doctor may prescribe an additional iron tablet but it really varies case by case.
You can eat starchy foods which are a source of vitamins and fibre and are satisfying without containing too many calories. They include bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, noodles, maize, oats and sweet potatoes. These foods can be the main part of every meal.
The protein in your diet should come from meat (but avoid liver), fish, poultry and eggs. Liver is very high in Vitamin A content and an excess of these vitamins can be harmful to the baby. So try to avoid eating liver when you are trying for a baby and also when you are pregnant. Make sure eggs, poultry, burgers and sausages are cooked all the way through. Check that there is no pink meat. Try to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish such as hilsha, tuna, koral fish etc.
Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are important because they contain calcium and other nutrients that your baby needs. Store them before you get pregnant so that when your baby grows you don’t lose your own bone density. Choose low-fat varieties wherever possible.
What not to eat
Eat less of foods that are high in sugar and fat
This includes all spreading fats (such as butter), oils, salad dressings, cream, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, pastries, ice cream, cake, puddings and fizzy drinks.
You should eat only a small amount of these foods. Sugar contains calories without providing any other nutrients, and can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Fat is very high in calories and eating more fatty foods is likely to make you put on weight that may cause issues during delivery. Having too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the chance of developing heart disease. Try to cut down on saturated fat and have foods rich in unsaturated fat instead, such as nuts. Check your Body Mass Index and if it says you are overweight, you can have problems conceiving and several other problems during pregnancy such as diabetes, high blood pressure and eclampsia, failure to lactate etc.
Say no to smoking
Whether its you or your partner, smoking is bad for the baby. Second hand smoke can cause low birth weight and cot death. Babies, whose parents smoke, are more likely to be admitted to hospital for bronchitis and pneumonia during the first year of life. So before you conceive its better that you and your partner are smoke-free. Protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things you can do to give your child a healthy start in life.
The more active and fit you are, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth. If you are overweight and unable to conceive, you should shed the extra weight. This doesn’t mean starving and getting into vigorous exercise. Talk to a proper nutritionist, eat healthy and exercise regularly.
A proper exercise routine includes always warming up before exercising and cooling down afterwards. Try to keep active on a daily basis: 45 minutes of walking each day can be enough, but if you can’t manage that, any amount is better than nothing! You can try swimming too. Its not too early to start pelvic floor exercises which will help you during labour.
If you are trying to get pregnant you should try to fit exercises into your daily routine. They will strengthen your muscles so that you can carry the extra weight of pregnancy and also make joints stronger, improve circulation, ease backache and generally help you feel well.
By Dr Kazi Mashfia Fardeen, Medical Expert, Maya.com.bd