Truth be told, what you eat during pregnancy to a greater extent determines not only the outcome of your pregnancy but it plays an important role in the developing and growth of the growing foetus. It increases immunity to fight against infections, prevents the occurrence of certain congenital birth defects and it allows for a smooth delivery during labour.
During pregnancy, the developing baby derives all its nutrients from the mother via the umbilical and the placenta which attaches to the baby and the womb respectively. So it is true to say that whatever you eat during pregnancy will affect your child both positively and negatively depending on your nutrition. In this article, we will discuss on nutrition tips and positive ways your diet will affect your child during pregnancy.
- Prevention of congenital abnormalities
During routine antenatal visits to the hospital, all pregnant women are usually placed on folic acid and other drugs. These drugs are usually referred to as routine drugs. Studies have shown that folic acid prevents the development of certain congenital abnormalities e.g. neural tube defects (inappropriate development of the brain and the spinal cord), abdominal wall defects (causing protrusion of the intestine via the abdominal wall) and cleft lip/palate.
Folic acid and Vitamin B12 are obtained by eating meals rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, beef and salmon oil. Adequate nutrition is sufficient to provide a pregnant woman with the recommended daily amount of folic acid and vitamin B12. However, during pregnancy, women are encouraged to take folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements to prevent these congenital conditions. The current trend in the prevention of neural tube defects is for women to start folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements about a year before getting pregnant. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects, abdominal defects and also reduces the incidence of preterm labour.
- Increase fetal red blood cells
In the human body, red blood cells are specialized cells tasked with the function of carrying oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body and also returning deoxygenated blood back to the lungs. For the formation of healthy red blood cells, iron must be present. Therefore, a diet rich in iron will affect your child positively during pregnancy.
Iron gotten from the mother is transferred to the developing baby via the placenta and it is used to form hemoglobin (oxygen carrying pigment found predominantly in the red blood cells). Lack of iron leads to poor oxygen concentration in tissues which can lead to intrauterine fetal death, preterm labour, spontaneous abortion, increase risk of post partum hemorrhage, and sudden fetal death.
Iron can be gotten in red/white meat, green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts and by iron supplements. This is important because pregnant women need additional amount of iron to compensate for the loss during menstruation, improve oxygen carrying capacity to the baby/ maternal organs and in ensuring that the baby gets the right amount of iron for the formation of fetal red blood cells. As a standard medical antenatal care practice, all pregnant women are encouraged to take iron supplements during their course of pregnancy and for few months after delivery.
- Development of the brain and cognitive functions
The brain is a vital organ of the human body and it controls virtually all functions of the human body. Adequate diet during pregnancy provides the body with all the necessary nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed for the brain to develop adequately. Diet rich in omega-3 fatty acid and other essential nutrients improves cognitive functions, improve intelligent quotient, improved vision, motor skills, language comprehension and memory are also greatly enhanced during the development age of childhood. It is not farfetched to say that what you eat during pregnancy affects your child during pregnancy and even up to years after delivery. Omega 3 rich food include; salmons, sardines, walnut and flax seed.
- Improve bone and teeth formation
Calcium is another important nutrient needed by the growing baby to develop healthy and strong bones. Calcium gotten from the diet of the mother is transferred to the baby via the placenta. It is recommended that a pregnant woman gets about 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. This is of importance during the second and third trimester when bone and teeth formation occur. Calcium is gotten from diet and food containing calcium are legumes, cheese, dark leafy vegetables, okra, almonds and canned fish.
- Improves immunity during pregnancy and after childbirth
White blood cells are specialized cells referred to as ‘the soldiers’ of the body. They are produced by the bone marrow and are mobilized whenever there is an infection caused by a microorganism in the body. During pregnancy, immunity is slightly reduced hence increasing the risk of maternal and fetal infections.
With inadequate nutrition, essentials nutrients and minerals are not available and these are important in the synthesis of healthy white blood cells. It is important to note that these white blood cells and antibodies are transferred from the mother to the child during pregnancy and thus are effective in protecting the baby for 6 months after delivery. Foods that improves immunity contains carotene, vitamin A, C, E and K, Selenium, zinc and magnesium. These nutrients are obtained from fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils and dairy products.