There are many healthy habits that you and your partner should start months/years before getting pregnant. Usually, the mother is the only one thinking differently about diet and lifestyle. However, since the father is offering 50% of the genetic material to form an embryo, it is important that both parents address their own health in order to support the health of their child during pregnancy and in the future. There is a very strong scientific connection between parental history and experiences and the child’s health.
And what about if you have an autoimmune disease, like celiac disease, that can affect fertility, pregnancy health and the baby’s health? Every case is different, and you should discuss it with your doctor. You might need multivitamins and minerals to boost your health, and you might need to start planning the pregnancy earlier. However, in general, the tips do not differ much from others. Find what you and your partner can start doing now to contribute to the good health of your child:
I know you already know that. But what we need to highlight here is that paternal smoking, and chemical exposure are well known to be linked to increased risk of cancer and neurological disorders in children. Smoking affects the absorption of vitamins and minerals and contains free radical chemicals – at least 1,000 chemicals are estimated to be produced by a lighted cigarette. Quitting smoking as early as possible before planning the pregnancy is recommended for both mother and father. Maternal smoking, especially during pregnancy, can affect growth and development of the baby and cause serious diseases.
Every day we are exposed to chemical and toxins. They come from foods that we eat, cleaning products, pharmaceutical drugs, cosmetics/beauty products, pollution in the air, and so on. Those toxins accumulate in breast milk. Therefore, more than reduce your exposure to toxins, you should help your body to eliminate toxins. There is no need to go through a “detox” diet. Just increase nourishing foods (organic when possible), support excretion by drinking plenty of water, doing gentle exercise, stretching, massage, perhaps skin brushing, lymphatic drainage, saunas, and sleeping as much as your body needs.
Mothers and fathers should aim to keep a healthy weight even before conceiving. Obesity is usually linked to many diseases that can affect the baby’s health. But especially mothers have to aim to be at the ideal weight when getting pregnant. A woman who starts out underweight (BMI below 18.5) and who fails to gain sufficiently during pregnancy may give birth to a baby with a low birth weight (5.5 pounds or 2,500 grams), that when coupled with nutrition deficiency can lead to the death of the child. Maternal overweight or obesity status (BMI over 25) has also been shown to increase the risk of birth defects in various studies, and health problems for the baby in he/she adulthood.
Habits of exercising daily can have many benefits when the woman gets pregnant. There is no need to do an intense workout, but it should be constant, at least 30 minutes per day for 4-5 days a week. Aim to find an activity that you love, and does not require efforts that are not healthy during pregnancy. Pilates and yoga, for instance, can support flexibility, and stress relieves. Walking and swimming are also great options during pregnancy. It is worth saying that physical activities improves constipation and bloating, facilitate labor by improving muscle tone and strength, help to prevent or manage gestational diabetes, improves mood and sleep.
Although counting calories may be necessary in some cases, and for some people under the supervision of a dietitian, it is not the case for most of the people aiming to be healthy and getting ready for pregnancy. So if you want to eat healthily, change your focus from calories to real foods. For instance, avocado, nuts, salmon may be high in calories and fat, but they are sources of nutrients that your body needs. And the most important thing to highlight is that “eating for two” is a myth! A pregnant woman will need more nutrients, but not necessarily more calories. The increase of calories should be small, studies suggest around 10% more in the third trimester, considering the total intake recommended for you. Some doctors might recommend a bit more in the second trimester (i.e.: 300 calories) and then more on the third (500 calories). Forget numbers, and just make every food you eat count as a nutrient that you and your baby need.
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