Every mum-to-be wants to consume the right nutrients, but what are they exactly? How do you know you’re consuming a sufficient amount from your diet? We asked Karin G Reiter, a Singapore-based nutritionist with more than 10 years of experience and a special interest in pregnancy and fertility nutrition, for advice.
Karin recommends that expectant women eat plenty of natural, nutrient-dense foods to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Here, she answers six important nutrition questions.
Will my pregnancy diet affect my baby’s health?
Karin G Reiter: Yes, it will. It’s important to follow the recommended nutritional guidelines for pregnancy to ensure a healthy baby. What mum eats now can lead to healthy or less than healthy development of baby’s brain, organs, nervous system and immunity.
For instance, certain foods have a greater chance of containing harmful bacteria or causing foodborne illness, which can be extremely dangerous to a growing baby. That’s why foods such as raw fish or unpasteurised cheeses are best avoided during pregnancy.
Many different nutrients play a role in supporting a healthy pregnancy, such as folate, which helps prevent brain and spinal abnormalities; as well as DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is also important for baby’s brain development.
Morning sickness is affecting my appetite. Will this affect my baby’s development?
Karin G Reiter: Morning sickness is a real pain, but it's a sign of a healthy pregnancy. The biggest concern with morning sickness is that you’ll become dehydrated, so make sure you’re drinking water throughout the day. When you do feel like eating, choose nutritious foods. Babies are clever at taking what they need nutritionally from you, but what you eat does matter. If your diet is deficient in nutrients, so will your baby’s diet – and this could harm their development.
What are the ways that fibre can benefit my pregnancy?
Karin G Reiter: Pregnancy can be rough on the digestive system, causing constipation and even haemorrhoids. So getting enough fibre by eating plenty of fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains is really important to keep your bowel movements regular. Fibre can also help to reduce your risk of pre-eclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy-related condition associated with high blood pressure.
My appetite has increased since I became pregnant. I’m worried that I’m gaining too much weight and it’s unhealthy. What advice can you give?
Karin G Reiter: It’s important not to be too hard on yourself while you’re pregnant. A big appetite, especially during high-growth periods of pregnancy during the second and third trimesters, is totally normal. Just make sure that your calories are coming from nutritious food – such as fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats and whole grains – to keep your blood sugar, mood and weight stable.
Why, when, what kind and how often should I take pre-natal vitamins when I’m pregnant?
Karin G Reiter: Even for women who are trying to get pregnant, it’s important to start taking nutrients, such as methylated folate, which is the active, natural form of folate to support a baby’s early development. A well-balanced diet should cover the range of nutrients needed, but most women opt to take a daily pregnancy nutritional supplement to ensure that they get the optimum amount and balance of vitamins and minerals needed. Make sure your supplement contains calcium, iron and folate.
How should my nutrition habits change during my first, second and third trimester?
Karin G Reiter: It’s important for pregnant women to listen to their bodies. Symptoms such as morning sickness in early pregnancy or reflex later in the pregnancy often dictate the sorts of foods you feel like eating and when you feel like eating.
Particular nutrients are especially important at different stages of pregnancy. For example, folate supports brain and nerve development in early pregnancy; calcium and vitamin D help with bone development in the second trimester; and nutritious omega-3 fats such as DHA are important during the final stages.
To ensure a strong baby and a happy, healthy mum, a range of fresh and nutritious foods is always recommended. Supplements can also be a great support, giving you the assurance that you’re getting the right mix of nutrients to stay in tip-top condition for you and your baby.
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