Should you change your diet before trying for a baby?

It is known that nutrition during pregnancy is an important aspect in the magical creation of life. You can improve your chances of getting pregnant and give your baby the best start in life by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle before the baby is conceived. The interesting field of epigenetics shows that our environment can influence the expression of our genes. The food we eat on a daily basis, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the stress we experience are all parts of our environment and thus can influence the expression of our genes. 

Just the food we eat cannot guarantee a pregnancy however. We all know things are more complicated than that and there multiple factors involved. Some women are able to get pregnant easily even when they are eating less than an optimal diet, while others might struggle even if they have adopted healthy eating habits. We are each on our unique journey and it is important that we are kind to others and mostly – to ourselves.

The decision to create a new life should ideally be a well-thought and conscious one, and for that it is best to be well prepared. It is oftentimes recommended to start that preparation about four months before you plan to conceive in order to optimally prepare your body to host and grow a new life. This way you can increase the chances that you and your baby will get enough nutrients for a smooth and healthy pregnancy.

The good news is that the best foods to support pregnancy and conception are the same foods that will bring you more energy and well being. 

What to include in your diet 

Start by creating a menu that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables and include lentils and beans. Whenever you choose carbohydrates, rather than opting for white bread and pasta, go for wholegrain, high-fiber versions (bread with seeds, brown rice, quinoa etc.). These are not only high in fiber but also contain more nutrients, which will nourish and replenish your cells. Replace saturated fats, particularly fried foods, pastry, biscuits, cakes and chips for healthy, unsaturated fats. Some sources of healthy fats include avocados, nuts, seeds and oily fish. Including healthy fats in your menu is important as they are needed for the synthesis of sex hormones and help stabilize blood sugar levels. 

Stay hydrated and avoid added sugars. Focus on a variety of quality protein, and make sure you rotate the sources, including plant-based protein sources. 

Do you need a supplement? 

Sometimes even during pregnancy we tend to think that taking a pregnancy supplement covers all our nutritional needs and so we don’t need to pay particular attention to our food. Unfortunately this is not always the case and some formulas don’t contain all nutrients that are needed, such as omega-3s or choline. Optimising our diet first will make sure we get the most of the needed nutrients from our food. With that said adding a supplement to a balanced diet can be very beneficial and is recommended. This way you will be sure you are getting some of the essential nutrients needed for conceiving and supporting the growth of your baby. 

Nutrients to pay attention to 

There are a few nutrients that you need to pay more attention to in order to increase your chance of getting pregnant. 

Folic acid 

This is a nutrient that is best taken before getting pregnant in order to build up the level of folic acid in the body and protect your future baby.  Folic acid is important for neural tube development of the baby. As deficiency in folic acid can bring about a lot of complications for the baby, it is best to supplement it a few months before trying to conceive. Taking 400mcg of folic acid four months before conception is the general recommendation.

Vitamin D   

This vitamin plays an important role in the development of strong bonesIf you live in a country with not enough sunny days, or do not expose your skin to the sun regularly, you might have low vitamin D levels. The recommendation is tosupplement 10mcg of vitamin D before and during pregnancy.         

Iodine 

Iodine is an important mineral that supports the thyroid gland. Thyroid imbalances can affect fertility and so it is important to check your thyroid levels first. Iodine is also important for the baby’s development.

Zinc, Selenium and Iron 

Zinc and selenium can reduce the damaging effects of free radicals. They could also support fertility in men and improve sperm strength and count. 

Preparing for a pregnancy and entering a new phase of your life is exciting but can also be stressful. Make sure you focus on your mental and emotional wellbeing. Doing a medical test and visiting your dentist are also recommended. Your doctor can support your plans and give you guidance and advice on how to approach this exciting new chapter.

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