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What to Eat Before You Become Pregnant

by R. Carnavale | December 8th, 2014 | Pregnancy

salad (400x400) (2)What you eat before you become pregnant is just as important as what you eat during your pregnancy. If you’re planning to become pregnant, you’ll need to consider your body fat stores, antioxidant intake, use of supplements and recognize that if you’re well-nourished, you’ll increase your fertility and be less likely to experience a miscarriage or to develop anemia, fatigue, constipation and other problems that are common in pregnancy.

Nutrition can affect your fertility and good nutritional practices can increase the likelihood that you’ll conceive. Note that disorders such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (POS) celiac disease, which affect how the body uses nutrients and excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption can make it harder to conceive.

Women who have too much or too little body fat (body mass index less than 20 or greater than 30 kg/m2) may have abnormal reproductive hormone levels, which may result in infertility; hence, changing your diet to correct body fat levels will make it easier to conceive.

Certain nutrients aid in fertility, including EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids that help with egg development and hormone production. Also, most fetal organs and tissues develop during the first two months of pregnancy, oftentimes before a pregnancy is confirmed, so it pays to eat well before you know for sure that you’re pregnant.

A preconception and early pregnancy diet should correspond with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid Food Guide eating plan, which recommends a 2,000-calorie diet with a daily intake of six ounces of grains, two and a half cups of vegetables, two cups of fruits, three cups of milk, five and a half cups of meat and beans, five and a half teaspoons of oil and 250 calories from other food sources daily.

In addition, you should eat regular meals (no fasting or skipping a meal, especially breakfast) because a steady supply of glucose is necessary for fetal development. Fasting or skipping causes glucose levels to drop, which results in a less than ideal environment for the fetus.

If you’re planning to become pregnant, refrain from drinking alcohol, because five or more drinks a day can cause a miscarriage or babies who are small, malformed and mentally impaired. Even just one drink a day early on in your pregnancy can negatively affect your baby’s behavior and mental development.

Take a multivitamin and mineral supplement daily to reduce the risk of miscarriage and malformation in the fetus but refrain from overusing dietary supplements because that hurt the fetus.

Ensuring an intake of at least 0.4 g of folic acid (vitamin B9) daily is very important because nearly 70 percent of all cases of neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) are caused by folic acid deficiency early in the pregnancy. Vegetables (particularly dark green leafy vegetables), fruits and fruit juices, beans, nuts, peas, poultry and meat, liver, dairy products, eggs, avocado, seafood, grains, spinach, yeast, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts have high levels of folic acid. In addition, many grains and grain products, such as bread and cereal, are fortified with folic acid.

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