By Lindsay Watkins, RD, CLC, Take Control Health Coach
Many women focus on their diet during pregnancy, but most don’t consider the importance of what they eat before they get pregnant. Pregnancy preparedness makes sense because many pregnancies are unplanned, and many birth defects develop during the first 8 weeks of pregnancy when many women don’t know they are pregnant. Read ahead to find out the optimal diet to prepare your body for pregnancy.
Aim for a Healthy Weight
A healthy body weight improves a women’s chance of conception. Being overweight can also increase risk for complications for mom and her baby during pregnancy and delivery, including high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, cesarean section, pre-term labor and delivery, and stillbirth. Being underweight can cause complications as well, such as pre-term delivery and small birth weight. Focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and healthy fats.
If you are trying to get pregnant or may become pregnant, it’s a good idea to start taking a prenatal vitamin. Look for one with at least 400-600 mcg of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects. These defects develop in the first weeks of pregnancy, so it’s important to start taking this before you become pregnant. Your prenatal should also have iron in it – the gummy vitamins don’t! Talk with your doctor to find out if you need any additional supplements such as calcium, vitamin D, or DHA.
Small amounts of caffeine, less than 200 mg per day, probably have little effect on fertility, and are considered safe during pregnancy. More than this can delay fertility, and some studies have shown increased risk of miscarriage with high intake of caffeine. Caffeine content is highly variable among brands of coffee and how it’s brewed. In general, up to 12 oz. of coffee per day should not interfere with conception, and is considered safe to consume during pregnancy.
Alcohol intake should be moderated prior to conception, and stopped all together when you become pregnant. If you think there is a chance you are pregnant, it’s best to stop drinking all together. “Moderate” alcohol intake means 1 or less drinks per day (12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of liquor such as vodka, rum, gin, or whiskey).
Resource: Today’s Dietitian