For a healthy baby: How diet impacts various phases of pregnancy

For a healthy baby: How diet impacts various phases of pregnancy
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For a healthy baby: How diet impacts various phases of pregnancy

Highlights

The pregnancy journey comprises of three trimesters that are usually characterised by the specific phases of development of the baby

The pregnancy journey comprises of three trimesters that are usually characterised by the specific phases of development of the baby. Throughout these trimesters, the mother is expected to follow a healthy and balanced diet for the nourishment of the growing baby as well as to support their own body to have a smooth and fit pregnancy. Dr Manu Sharma, Neonatologist ,Pediatrician, Max Healthcare discuss how you can ensure that during each trimester to fulfill your and your baby's nutritional needs.

The First Trimester

Contrary to popular belief, pregnant women need not 'eat for two' at any point during the pregnancy. The food intake should only depend on the activity and energy levels of the mother. With that being said, the type of food intake and overall diet can be influenced by the kind of physical development the baby undergoes every trimester.

The first trimester is often considered the easiest in the case of normal, complication-free pregnancies. Adjacently, it is also the period when the baby's brain and organs undergo rapid development. This period can also be marked by the development of a spinal cord and traces of a beating heart.

Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) can be ideally consumed throughout the first trimester, alongside a well-balanced diet. Seafood such as salmon, sardines, and tuna are rich in DHA, followed by DHA fortified dairy and poultry products. You can also check if your prenatal vitamins contain DHA. It is known to be critical in the brain and eye development of the fetus supporting vision and cognitive function.

DHA also plays an important role in the health of the mother, reducing the risk of preterm labour, preeclampsia and postpartum depression. However, DHA levels in Indian pregnant women in the third trimester have been found to be lowest when compared to other developed countries. Therefore, it is important to check the DHA levels and modify the diet to reach the desired levels. Easy-to-use, self-collection at-home tests can help expecting women as well as lactating mothers to check their DHA levels to ensure their DHA levels are adequate to support their growing baby.

The Second Trimester

The second trimester is characterised by the increase in the size of both the mother and the baby. As the baby grows further, increasing in height as well as weight, the mother too gains weight. Energy levels are also typically lower during this period. The umbilical cord that provides nourishment to the baby from the mother gains thickness and develops over time.

Again, a well-balanced diet with essential carbohydrates, fats, protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals is required. It is also crucial to drink a sufficient amount of water. Some essential nutrients that are necessary during this period are iron, folates, vitamin C and A.

It is also important to avoid certain foods. Caffeine, for example, can be consumed in limited amounts. Artificial sweeteners such as xylitol or aspartame can be limited, while alcohol consumption is to be completely avoided.

The Third Trimester

By the third trimester, the fetus continues to grow in both size and weight. This may cause a lot of discomfort for the mother as this is usually the time when the fetus positions head down for birth. The baby's external features such as hair, nails, etc., develop in this phase.

The mother is usually low on energy, perhaps the lowest, during this stage. The extra weight, false contractions, sleep deprivation might demand more energy from the mother than the other trimesters. Additionally, other pregnancy symptoms such as heartburn can also be at an all-time high in some cases.

A well-balanced diet, just as in the other trimesters is essential including vitamin A and Omega-3 DHA, Vitamin D. Fruits, vegetables, the required amount of protein and fibre, and whole grains are essential. This can be combined with healthy fats and dairy products that are ideally low in fat and are pasteurised. If you are an expectant mother and always wondered why your diet mattered so much, then you've got your answer now. So, while you enjoy your pregnancy journey and wait for the day to welcome your baby, make sure to eat a healthy and well balanced diet!

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