This week, Scott and Emma Derbyshire talk about nutrition around pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. Learn about what food you should eat, supplements you need, what to avoid, weight loss while breastfeeding, and some myths around these topics debunked.
Emma is a registered public health nutritionist. She was an academic lecturer in nutrition for over ten years. Now, she runs her consultancy called Nutritional Insight catering to companies, government, and individuals. Emma has authored over 150 papers, many of which related to pregnancy, nutrition, fertility, veganism, flexitarianism, etc. She’s also written Nutrition in the Childbearing Years, that covers before and during trimester and after pregnancy.
The Pre Pregnancy Stage: What You Should Know About
A large number of pregnancies in the UK are unplanned so many women go into pregnancy with suboptimal nutrition reserves. Hence, increased awareness is key.
Things to Avoid
Before pregnancy, you should avoid alcohol (which applies to men, too, since studies show alcohol can affect the quality of male sperms) and caffeine (not great for fertility) found in coffee, energy drinks, and chocolate.
What women need in their diet are those rich in iron since iron deficiency can be common in pregnancy. Food sources include lean red meat, oily fish (sardines, trout, salmon), and leafy green vegetables (eat more of these because iron absorption is not as efficient as when you eat lean red meat).
For women, supplement with folic acid (400mcg), iron, and Vitamin D (10mcg). A lot of these pregnancy supplements are focused more toward fertility. In men, evidence shows that Vitamin D can improve sperm quality.
During Pregnancy: The Three Trimesters
- First Trimester (14 weeks)
- Second Trimester (14-28 weeks)
- Third Trimester (week 28 onwards)
Folic acid is very important before pregnancy and in those very early stages of the first trimester. This is when the baby’s spinal cord starts to develop and the spine and brain cells divide. Additionally, in this stage, many women experience nausea and vomiting so drink enough water. Omega-3 is very important more towards the 2nd and into the 3rd trimester; while iron, calcium, and Vitamin D are important in the entire pregnancy.
Macronutrients and Water
Only in the 3rd trimester where you’d see energy increment of 190 extra calories per day, which equivalent to a slice of toast with marmalade.
Opt for good quality sources of protein like oily fish, lean red meat, quinoa (for plant-based diet).
An extra glass of water a day (on top of what you’re normally consuming) is recommended; even more during the first trimester if you’re experiencing nausea or vomiting.
Eating for Two?
Eating for two is a myth and can lead to unnecessary weight gain and weight retention after birth. You only need an extra 190-200 calories in that 3rd trimester.
Body Weight Before and During Pregnancy
Ideally, just follow your normal diet before pregnancy. You don’t want to be underweight or overweight.
Don’t be on a restrictive diet when you’re pregnant. The U.S. has the Institute of Medicine Weight Gain Guidelines where they look at your baseline body weight. If you’re overweight when you conceive, you’re advised to put on slightly less weight. And if you’re overweight when you conceive, you’re advised to put on more weight. For most people, the average amount you can gain is around 12 kg.
The Science Behind Cravings and Aversions
The underpinning theory behind this is that you’re craving things your body needs. Equally, aversions don’t really affect the baby’s growth and weight. The stronger the feelings are, the better because you’re protecting the baby from potentially harmful substances.
So if you’re getting any aversions, then don’t get near them. And if you’re getting cravings, for instance, if you’re a vegetarian/vegan and you find yourself craving meat, reflect whether you’re getting enough iron or Vitamin B in your diet because it could be a sign your body is short of those.
Things to Know When Breastfeeding
If you’re breastfeeding at birth, you need an extra 450 calories per day on top of your normal diet. When you’re a new mom, the focus is usually on the baby so you may find your meals become irregular. Take the time out as a new mom to make sure you are eating regularly and eating nutritious calories.
Still, don’t drink alcohol and monitor your caffeine. Drink enough water, specifically an extra 3-4 glasses per day, to help produce the milk.
Don’t go on any dramatic diets. Breastfeeding itself burns calories. It’s nature’s way of helping get your body back.
Breastfeeding is hard and puts a lot of pressure on moms. You can pump your breastmilk, which you can use when feeding at night to give you rest as it can get really tiring. Exercise is also a great way to get your body back.
Moreover, have a varied diet because this helps give the baby flavor experiences. Eat green leafy vegetables, curry, and unusual things. Those flavors will get transmitted through your breastmilk to the baby. So when weaning comes, they’re used to some of those bit of flavors.
Creating a Structure as a New Parent
Try to breastfeed. If it’s hard, pump your milk so your baby still gets the flavor experiences. So your partner can give the bottle to your baby while you can sleep at night.
Make sure you don’t skip meals. Cook in bulk and freeze your meals so you just have to defrost them and it’s ready.
- All about pre-pregnancy: what to eat, what to avoid, and supplements to take
- What supplements to take during pregnancy
- Why eating for two is a myth
- The science behind cravings and aversions explained
- Things to do and avoid when breastfeeding
- How you can give your baby flavor experiences through your milk
- How to create a good structure as a new parent
Quotes & Take-Aways
A large number of pregnancies in the UK are unplanned so many women go into pregnancy with suboptimal nutrition reserves.
Studies show that alcohol can affect the quality of male sperms as well.
In the first trimester, folic acid is really important because that’s when the baby’s spinal cord is starting to close, it’s starting to develop.
Eating for two is a myth and can lead to unnecessary weight gain and weight retention after birth.
The stronger the feelings are, the better because you’re actually protecting the baby from potentially harmful substances.
Breastfeeding itself burns calories. Breastfeeding nature’s way of helping get your body back.
Eat those unusual foods and unusual flavors because then your baby will be getting the same experience via the breastmilk.
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