It was Mother’s Day last month and we all agree on the fact that moms and moms-to-be need a lot of love, respect and attention. But what they also need, and especially so when they are expecting a little one, is the right kind of nutrition!
Dr. Shweta Khandelwal, MSc, PhD (Nutrition), MSc (Public Health), Senior Research Scientist and Associate Professor, Public Health Foundation of India, tells us what.
Mothers need love and respect and they also need nutritious food, healthy lifestyle and good sleep. I am dedicating this post to women who are planning to or going to embark on this additional role in their lives - that of being a mother! Pregnancy has been referred to as the critical window of opportunity to improve health outcomes for both mother and baby in the long run.
Numerous websites and documents give tons of (unfortunately mostly non-scientific) advice for pregnant women. The catch here is that food and diet is such a personalised experience that people believe what they want to and actually find instances/cases supporting their hypothesis. Since we are so many and so varied, you can find examples for both or multiple sides of the story. Often self-searched/googled information substantiates “Little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
We understand that for every small query, running or calling your doctor is not possible. Thus for your convenience, we have summarised pregnancy related information from some of the most credible sources of information. Please note these are drawn up assuming your pregnancy is a normal, healthy one. These tips can also be useful if you are not pregnant but are thinking about having a baby! By making changes now, you can get used to new eating and activity habits and set a healthy example for your family for a lifetime.
As has been mentioned before, a well-balanced diet should be able to take care of most of the additional requirements that arise during pregnancy followed by the breastfeeding and weaning phases. It is interesting to note that the amount of energy required is actually higher during the breastfeeding and weaning phases than during pregnancy! Same goes for calcium, iron and zinc.
Source: RDA for Indians 2010, ICMR
As you see from the table, some micronutrients are additionally required during these physiological periods. Though it is possible to meet the requirements for most of the nutrients through a balanced diet, pregnant/ lactating women are advised to take daily supplements of iron, folic acid, vitamin B and calcium. Folic acid, taken throughout the pregnancy, reduces the risk of congenital malformations and increases birth weight. Calcium is essential, both during pregnancy and lactation, for proper formation of bones and teeth of the offspring. Calcium also helps to prevent osteoporosis in the mother. Iodine intake ensures proper mental health of the growing fetus and infant. Iron is required for blood (esp RBC) formation. Bioavailability of iron can be improved by using fermented and sprouted grams and foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits.
Pregnancy is a beautiful time. This time should be utilised in taking care of yourself as well as laying the foundation for a healthy offspring. Enough evidence indicate strong linkages between maternal health and offspring growth and development not only during early life but also in adult life.
A happy pregnancy and a healthy life to you!