Diet for a Healthy Pregnancy

What are the needs for a pregnant woman?

What kind of complements are allowed? Are they really necessary? Does the pregnant woman need a specific diet?

First things first: we are not doctors, and only your doctor, who possess your medical records and history is the best advisor when it comes to the best recommendations in oder to have a healthy pregnancy.

It is quite possible we may miss something or omit a detail that could be relevant to your case. Your gynaecologist or your doctor could decide to have your pregnancy followed by a nurse or an obstetrician. Please consider this article as guidelines or general rules, nothing more.

 The first piece of advice is, of course, to avoid all strong intoxicants, such as  tobacco, drugs, alcohol, or pills which are not mandatory, etc…, intoxicants which have an obvious impact on your health and your future child’s health.

Keep in mind that everything you consume may eventually reach the foetus, so, more than ever, watch out for what you consume. 

Caffeine

As there are ongoing studies, many physicians and pregnancy specialists recommend to limit your daily caffeine consumption up to 200-300 mg/day. A superior caffeine consumption may be related to an increase of the gestation period. Moreover, it also may be linked to potential miscarriages and birth defects.

Caffeine crosses the placenta, thus it has effects on your child’s nervous system. For pregnant women, caffeine is active from 9 to 11 hours, but more than 100 hours inside the foetus, because the child is developing itself and does not have yet the required enzymes for caffeine elimination.

A consumption inferior to 300 mg/ day is permitted ; but reactions involved in caffeine consumption do not change because you cut your intakes! Coffee remains a strong stimulant, that can complicates birthing anyway.

As you consume caffeine, the effects you feel may be the same your child would feel too (such as an increase in the cardiac rhythm.)

This advice applies to caffeine, and not coffee, it means this recommendation is the same for caffeine-containing products, such as creams, energizing drinks, etc…

Some studies have been done regarding this matter, such as High caffeine consumption in the third trimester of pregnancy: gender-specific effects on fetal growth.1 that showed an important caffeine consumption during the third semester could be responsible for the foetus delayed development, especially if it’s a boy, but other studies managed to prove a lack of causality between an important caffeine consumption and a delay of the foetus development.

« Safer is better » so apply the principle of caution and watch out your caffeine consumption.

Vitamin D

More than 80% of the population is concerned by a vitamin D deficiency, but what is the current situation for the pregnant woman?

A study has been conducted on 162 women, divided in three groups; for the first one, a dose of 400 IU has been given, the second group received 2000 IU and the last one received 4000 IU. After the 12th week, and until the birth, the level of Vitamin D has been measured into the blood plasma; it was noticed the first group had insufficient vitamin D levels (less than 32ng/mL). A superior proportion, but still insufficient, has been measured for the group which received the 2000 IU. Finally for the last group, most of the women had sufficient vitamin D level within the blood plasma. This study led to the conclusion that 4000 IU were adequate for the mother and child’s health. Please note that 4000 IU do not represent any harm for your health.

Vitamin B9

This vitamin plays a major role for the nervous system development as well as the DNA synthesis. Doctors usually recommend this vitamine for pregnant women in order to prevent neural tube deformations. Even if these deformations can be treated, they can represent a danger.

This recommendation led many countries to add vitamin B9 into foods, as a synthetic version of folates you can find into natural food. The digested B9 is converted to levomefolic acid (or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate), which is the active form of vitamin B9, via an enzyme, the MTHFR; but this enzyme is not able to quickly process an important quantity of folic acid, which means you end up with this circulating unconverted amount. Long term studies have not been done yet. You would prefer the following natural sources of folate sources:

  • Calf liver
  • Beef liver
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Algae
  • Asparagus
  • Persil

 As for your supplementation, a daily intake of 400µg/day represents a superior benefit against an inferior intake of vitamin B9.

Pregnancy for Taoists

Taoism is a 26 000 years old medicine ; and it is the religious and philosophical systems of China. You may find these recommendations a bit odd, but these are nevertheless what they usually recommend. Feel free to follow them. In  The Great Tao, S.T Chang, provides recommendations based on his own work:

  1.  Do not try to conceive during storms of strong winds.
  2. Do not conceive if your partner is ill or feels weak.
  3. Do not take any intoxicants while conceiving.
  4. The child will have a superior health is sex is avoid during the pregnancy period.
  5. If the couple has difficulty conceiving, then reducing the sexual activity can help the body to reinforce itself. Too many sexual relations can weaken the reproductive system.

pregnancy_feat

Nutrition

During the gestation period, it is best not to change too drastically your diet, because liberated toxins during pregnancy can have an impact on the foetus development.

Even if there is not any general rule, there is no need to eat much more. Slightly increase your intakes (From 300 to 600 calories per day), and put an emphasis on lipids, particularly Omega-3, which participate to the brain and retina developments ; as well as DHA that participate in the neurotransmitters metabolism.

The DHA crosses the placenta, in other words, it is the DHA you consume that is likely to determine your future child’s DHA intakes. Endogenous ALA to DHA conversion is not as efficient as dietary intakes.

Consume fish oils and fatty fish. Beware though about the amount of fish you consume, small fishes being loaded with heavy metals, mercury and toxins, such as PCB.

It is advised not to consume over 340 grams of fish per week. During the pregnancy period, as explained, folic acid (closely tied to vitamin B12 for blood building and foetus development) and magnesium (essential for calcium absorption) require an increase. Finally, whole foods consumption, vegetables and fruits (in moderation) will bring you everything you need.

For vegetarians and vegans, it is strongly advised to have a vitamin B12 supplementation. As a main rule, avoid « mega doses » of vitamins which can be harmful .

Sources

  1. Vik T, Bakketeig, Trygg KU, Lund-Larsen K, Jacobsen G. High caffeine consumption in the third trimester of pregnancy: gender-specific effects on fetal growth. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2003 Oct;17(4):324-31.
  2. Sengpiel V et. al. Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy is associated with birth weight but not with gestational length. BMC Med. 2013 Feb 19;11:42. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-42.
  3. Xiaoping Weng, Roxana Odouli, De-Kun Li. Maternal caffeine consumption during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage: a prospective cohort study. AJOG Volume 198, Issue 3, Pages 279.e1–279.e8
  4. Hoyt AT et. al. Maternal Caffeine Consumption and Small for Gestational Age Births: Results from a Population-Based Case-Control Study. Matern Child Health J. 2014 Aug;18(6):1540-51. doi: 10.1007/s10995-013-1397-4.
  5. Jaclyn M Coletta, Stacey J Bell, Ashley S Roman. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Fall; 3(4): 163–171.
  6. Valenzuela A, Nieto MS.[Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in fetal development and in infant nutrition]. Rev Med Chil. 2001 Oct;129(10):1203-11.

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