Pregnancy is such an exciting time. The human body is a wonderful thing. It can make a baby. But in order to do it properly and not leave mum deprived, it needs to be well looked after. You might think that means putting our feet up and eating for two, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
Exercise is actually recommended in pregnancy. It’s really important to prepare for birth. Women are recommended to do 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week (activity where your heart rate is raised but you can still talk). Alongside exercise, good nutrition is vital.
Hydrating during pregnancy
First and foremost, make sure you are well hydrated. Time to check your wee is pale yellow in colour. Being hydrated can help reduce headaches, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections and constipation (all things women struggle with in pregnancy). It can also help reduce nausea and even reduce sunburn risk although I wouldn’t recommend you test that out.
A good breakfast helps stabilise blood sugar which is so important to do in pregnancy. Opt for wholegrains with some protein and some fruit or veg; for example, porridge made with semi skimmed milk and summer fruits. Wholegrains contain more fibre than white starchy carbs. These will help to reduce constipation as well as keep your blood sugar more stable.
Make sure you have a decent wholegrain lunch too with some protein and veg. A wholegrain sandwich with sliced chicken and salad, served with vegetable sticks and an apple, is a great example. Packing in those fruits and vegetables helps you get more fibre but also a variety of vitamins and minerals. Fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juice all count (80g is a portion). But remember 150ml is the maximum amount of juice you should have in a day because juice contains less fibre than the whole fruit and veg.
For dinner, aim for something simple after a long day; for example, a piece of fish with couscous and frozen vegetables. Frozen fish is often cheaper and it’s quick and easy to prepare.
Managing snacks during pregnancy
If three meals a day are not filling enough, feel free to have some snacks too. Try to listen to what your body is saying about when it is hungry and when it is full. It can be very easy to put on extra weight in pregnancy which can be hard to lose afterwards.
It is not advised that women try to lose weight in pregnancy, but trying to listen to our bodies can really help us to eat better. Ask yourself if you are really hungry or if you are just bored, tired, lonely, angry or some other emotion. Reach out to a friend or loved one for some support instead of reaching for food. It’s easier said than done, I know. Sometimes going for a gentle walk or calling a friend can be helpful.
Supplements during pregnancy
There are some key nutrients which you need to get from supplements, including vitamin D and folic acid. If you are vegan, you also need to have vitamin B12 and iodine too. Any supplement you take needs to be a pregnancy safe one, so always check the label or speak to your pharmacist first.
All other nutrients can come from your food. Ensuring you eat oily fish (2 x 140g portions a week is enough) will help you get iodine, iron and omega 3 which are essential pregnancy nutrients. Wholegrains and pulses will help you get zinc and fibre which are vital too. Dairy (or a fortified dairy alternative) is important for calcium. If the diet doesn’t contain enough, baby will just take it from mum’s stores – including her bones – so diet is important.
Getting support with pregnancy nutrition
Eating well isn’t always easy though. There are so many things which get in the way. Having had hyperemesis (extreme pregnancy sickness three times), I know that can be one barrier – I just had to eat what I could keep down. Time, energy, work, money… there are so many things which get in the way. It’s best to make small changes. If you are concerned, speak to a Registered Nutritionist, dietitian, your GP or midwife and get some support.
Getting the right nutrition is so important but sometimes we need a helping hand. That’s what I do in my consultations with women. I look at their likes and dislikes, and what their current schedule looks like (and their budget). We then work out how to get the nutrition they need in a way that is achievable. Setting good foundations during pregnancy can help a woman’s long term health but also baby’s long term health. It can also help families continue to eat well after baby is born when all routines go up in the air. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment of time and energy.
Feel free to reach out via my bloss profile if you have a question or feel you need some support with pregnancy nutrition.