Life begins at conception . Organs develop rapidly and nutrition has a key role during  critical stages of foetus development. Well balanced diet contains all nutrients required for health in appropriate proportions, and is normally achieved by eating a variety of foods with when necessary, a  supplement intake. Imbalances are linked to difficult conception and complications during pregnancy.





A healthy varied diet is important as energy & nutrient intake increase to compensate for the metabolic changes in both mother & foetus. Nutrition during this period, especially in 1st trimester is important for growth & development of foetal organs, muscles, bones & tissue, with energy intake increasing by approx.300 kcal/day. Inadequate nutrient intake is linked to birth defects, infant mortality and morbidity. A total gestational weight gain of approx. 12.5 kg will result in healthy outcome.

MICRONUTRIENTS ( Vitamins & Mineral )

Folic acid or Pteroylglutamic Acid: Essential for erythrocyte formation, development of nervous system & for growth and reproduction of cells Water soluble B vitamin, found  in green leafy vegetables : spinach, broccoli, sweetcorn, cabbage, peas, oranges, lentils and fortified breakfast cereals. Supplements of 400mcg/day in addition to normal dietary folate intake, need to be taken prior to conception and throughout 1st trimester of pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects i.e spina bifida & anencephaly.
Iron: Found in haemoglobin& myoglobin, needed for foetal development, production of erythrocytes & oxygen transportation. Good sources of haem iron present in meat& fish and non-haem found in plant products e.g beans, lentils, green vegetables and breakfast cereals. Absorption is enhanced by vitamin C but inhibited by tea & coffee. RNI (recommended nutrient intake) for the entire gestation period is 680mg/day. Iron deficiency anaemia can cause slow foetal growth & development i.e low birth weight, brain, bone & eye defects & premature birth.
Vital for foetal growth & development & strong teeth and bones. Found in dairy products, green vegetables & enriched soy products. Maternal hypertension & low birth weight are associated with calcium deficiency. RNI IS 700MG/DAY.
Needed for protein synthesis & cell  development. Rich sources found in shellfish, red meat, eggs, poutry & brazil nuts. Zinc supplementation is necessary as iron interferes with zinc absorption . RNI is 4-7mg/day. Deficiency can lead to infertility problems, low birth weight & foetal abnormalities.
Essential for growth & development of foetal heart, skeleton, brain & nervous  system. Good sources include legumes, whole grains, nuts and shellfish. Iron interferes with absorption, thus supplements of 1.2mg/day need to be taken. Deficiency can cause premature birth & malnutrition.
Vitamin D
Necessary for growth & maintenance of bones & teeth & aids calcium absorption. Sunlight is important in the synthesis of vitamin D. Food sources include oily fish, eggs, fortified milk & margarine. Deficiency can cause rickets RNI 0.01mg/day.

Vitamin A
Fat soluble vitamin stored by the body. Essential for cell division &  foetal development. Rich sources liver –should be avoided in pregnancy as it causes foetal abnormalities & spontaneous abortion, eggs, milk. Beta-carotene-form of vitamin A, found in deep orange & yellow fruits, spinach, peas and peppers,  RNI 600 mcg/day. Deficiency delays ovulation.

Potentially dangerous food:
Food –borne diseases: Listeria- bacteria infects human through contaminated food. Common in pregnancy as progesterone present during pregnancy reduces cell-mediated immunity responses. High levels of listeria found in brie, unpasteurised milk & pate, which should be avoided as it can cause spontaneous abortion and still birth.
Toxoplasmosis- raw undercooked meat may contain toxoplasma gondii, causing mental retardation & blindness in the new born.
Mercury high content found in sword fish, shark & tuna should be avoided, can cause infertility and birth defects.
Adverse lifestyle factors
Smoking, alcohol & caffeine have adverse effect on fertility and should be avoided or cut out completely.
Avoid pre-peri conception as heavy consumption can result in mental & physical retardation, cognitive impairment, major birth defects, impaired foetal growth & infertility.

Consumption should be limited to one cup/day as foetus is unable to metabolise it. Problems included reduced uterine blood flow, low birth weight and premature death.
Harmful  toxins  i.e carbon monoxide & nicotine, restrict blood supply to the foetus, resulting in decreased levels of oxygen & nutrients supplied. Smoking causes maternal complications, poor nutritional status, low birth weight, with longer term problems including nicotine addiction in the infant.
It is important to understand and be aware of the factors that affect and hinder a healthy pregnancy outcome, in order to reduce the risk of developing maternal complications and birth defects.

© 2007-2013 Mensfe All rights reserved