It might sound strange, but a healthy pregnancy starts before you conceive. Your pre-pregnancy health has an impact on everything from your egg quality to the prevention of birth defects while you’re pregnant.
Over half of pregnancies are unplanned so if you’re thinking of pregnancy in the near future, it’s worth having a look at your pre-conception health.
Here’s 3 reasons why…
1. Baby’s organs start to form before you find out you’re pregnant
Most women don’t find out they’re pregnant until they miss their period. By that time, your baby’s gestational age is already 4 or 5 weeks old, and your baby has already started forming major organs like his heart and brain.
By 4 weeks old, your baby’s neural tube closes. That means the tube that becomes your baby’s brain and spinal fuses shut. Why does that matter? Well, remember that nutrient folate everyone talks about? A deficiency in folate can lead to birth defects like spina bifida and other birth defects in the brain and spine.
So if you’re thinking of pregnancy anytime soon, take a good-quality prenatal multivitamin with folate in it. Eat folate-rich foods like spinach, broccoli, avocado and legumes. Reduce processed foods and replace them with “real food” that has minimal ingredients. Real food such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, meat, seafood and whole-milk dairy.
Even if you don’t plan on becoming pregnant for a little while, I know women who take a prenatal multivitamin because they can see a difference in better skin, healthier hair and stronger nails – which are all good signs that your body is getting enough of the vitamins and minerals it needs.
2. Nausea might prevent you from eating a well-balanced diet in the 1st trimester
Over two-thirds of women experience nausea and vomiting throughout the 1st trimester and sometimes, into their 2nd or 3rd trimester too.
Some women feel so sick during the 1st trimester that they can’t hold down much food.
Other women (and myself included), crave only carbs in the 1st trimester. The sight of salad made me nauseous for the first half of my pregnancy, and my normal healthy diet saw an appearance of a lot more white bread, noodles and pasta for the first few weeks.
Although it’s what most women eat a lot of during the first half of pregnancy, white bread and crackers aren’t going to provide optimal nutrition for your baby when your baby needs it most.
That’s why building your nutritional stores before you get pregnant is invaluable.
If you start to eat more of the food with the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy – even before you find out you’re pregnant – you can be more relaxed if you can’t eat as healthily as you’d like in the 1st trimester.
3. You can build up our nutritional stores to sustain you throughout pregnancy
I like to think of nutrition before and during pregnancy as making a deposit into your nutritional “bank account”.
Each healthy choice is a deposit into that account, for your baby and you to withdraw from.
If you, mama, don’t get enough certain nutrients, you’re more likely to experience certain pregnancy side-effects such hair loss, anemia, digestive issues, fatigue and a lower immune response.
You can start depositing into that account now, so you have adequate nutritional stores before your baby is conceived.
This is especially the case for fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E, K and minerals such as calcium, chromium and iron. These guys are stored in your body over a long period of time so you can boost your body’s nutritional stores of them to help you and your baby during pregnancy.
Want more ways to prepare?
If you want to learn more about preparing your body for a healthy pregnancy, check out The Bella Mama Pre-Pregnancy Guide.
For $12, this step-by-step e-book is your ultimate guide to improving your egg quality, boosting fertility and increasing your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
What if you didn’t get a chance to prepare?
If you didn’t get a chance to “prepare” for before you found out you’re expecting, don’t worry. It’s never too late. You’re so much better off making those changes now than never.
Even one small change like sneaking more greens into your day, switching out soda with seltzer water, or replacing a white flour muffin with whole-wheat toast, has many nutritional benefits.
There’s no better time than the present to make those changes – for you – and for your baby.
You’ve got this, bella mama.