Many women often do not pay attention to their nutritional needs, not until the time when they become aware of their pregnancy (most often, six weeks after conception). It is important for you to know that nutritional care before, during and even after pregnancy is critical for your health and that of your baby’s.
Why is nutritional care important before and during pregnancy?
- A woman who has been practising sound eating habits enters pregnancy with full nutrient stores and a healthy body weight.
- Good nutrition is essential for infants’ optimal growth and development, and has a critical role in determining their health later in life.
Are pregnant moms today practising good nutrition? Are you?
Unfortunately, maternal malnutrition remains a problem today, either as undernutrition or overweight. Such problems can be due to not fulfilling the body’s need for a wide range of different food requirements, or the lack of specific nutrients or vitamins needed by the mom and the baby.
Did You Know?
Malnourished women have a higher risk of giving birth to…
Babies with abnormal birth weight
- Maternal underweight or undernutrition increase the risk of having babies of low birth weight. These babies are more likely to develop complications that affect the vital organs and are more susceptible to infections.
- Overweight mothers have higher chance of having diabetes mellitus and big babies. These babies, on the other hand, are at greater risk of growing into overweight children and adults, and are predisposed to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes later in life.
Babies with birth defects
One of the most common birth defects is neural tube defect, resulting from incorrect development of the brain or spinal cord due to the lack of certain nutrients before and during pregnancy.
Babies with mental and neuro-behavioural impairment
These babies are more likely to have lower IQ, and brain and sensory impairments.
Key nutrients you and your baby need
Early intervention can potentially improve your health as well as your baby’s. Here’s a summary of nutrients most critical for you and your baby.
|Nutrient||Why you and your baby need it||Best sources|
|Protein||Main building block for your baby’s cells; provides reserves for labour and delivery||Eggs, lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, milk, cheese|
|Calcium||For bones and teeth; muscle contraction; nerve function||Milk and dairy products, sardine, tofu, broccoli, kailan, yoghurt|
|Iron||Develops red blood cells needed to deliver oxygen to your baby; prevents fatigue||Anchovies, cockles, spinach, kangkung, wholegrain breads|
|Vitamin A||Promotes healthy skin, eyesight and bone growth||Liver, sweet potatoes, carrot, pumpkin, mangoes, papaya|
|Folic acid||Helps blood cell and haemoglobin formation; early in pregnancy, it prevents neural tube defects||Green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, bananas, tomatoes|
|Fat||Gives long-term energy for growth; is critical for the development of your baby’s brain||Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, seeds, peanut butter, margarine|