The nutritional status of the mother before and during pregnancy can really influence the baby's health. Inadequate nutrition during pregnancy can lead to growth restriction in the foetus, resulting in an infant with a higher insulin response to food and reduced growth. It is, therefore, of upmost importance for expecting mothers to follow a healthy and balanced diet during pregnancy to promote the best health for themselves and their babies.
In addition to physical health, prenatal care also includes guidance on nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle factors that can contribute to a healthy pregnancy. Healthcare providers can provide guidance on healthy eating habits, safe levels of physical activity, and other lifestyle factors that can help support a healthy pregnancy.
Prenatal care also involves preparing for labour and delivery. Healthcare providers can discuss birth plans, pain management options, potential complications, and other aspects of childbirth to help ensure a safe and positive birth experience.
We discuss necessary nutrients for optimal health, especially during pregnancy. We look in particular at certain key nutrients that support the health of both the mother and the baby.
It is important to consume a balanced diet that provides all necessary nutrients during pregnancy. However, specific attention should be given to certain key nutrients that are especially important for the health of both the mother and the baby. These nutrients include folate, iodine, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids[i][ii].Eating foods high in folate, such as beans, peas, orange juice, and leafy green vegetables, can help prevent these birth defects.
The saying "eating for two" is not entirely accurate as pregnant women only need to increase their calorie intake by 10-25% to support healthy weight gain. Rather than simply increasing calories, it is important to focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods instead of low-nutrition ones.
Maintaining a healthy gut flora during pregnancy has also been linked to improved immune function and a reduced risk of inflammatory conditions such as asthma, eczema, and coeliac disease. Probiotic use is considered safe during pregnancy and has been associated with a reduced risk of allergies and infections[iv].
Gestational Diabetes and Pre-eclampsia
When managing gestational diabetes, Nutritional Therapy is often the first approach to consider. The Mediterranean diet, which is typically a high intake of vegetarian foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, as well as fish, and a low intake of processed animal and fatty foods, has been associated with a reduced incidence of gestational diabetes, and improved glucose tolerance in pregnant women who do not have the condition.
Gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia are serious complications of pregnancy that can have long-term effects on the baby's health. A low glycaemic load Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of fibre and probiotics, as well as adequate omega-3 intake, has been associated with a reduced risk of these conditions[iii].
Viridian Pregnancy Omega Oil - Recommended for pre-conception, pregnancy and postnatal, especially while breastfeeding.
Wild Nutrition Your Pregnancy Nutrition Guide - Your Pregnancy Nutrition Guide book by Henrietta Norton at Wild Nutrition. Drawing on over a decade of work with mothers-to-be, expert nutritionist Henrietta Norton provides you with clear and practical advice on what to eat during preconception, pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood.
Pure Encapsulations PreNatal Nutrients - PreNatal Nutrients is formulated to support women of childbearing age, pregnant women and lactating women. Provides essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients based on scientific recommendations for pregnancy. Convenient and easy to take vegetarian capsules.
Try: Bare Biology Mums & Bumps Omega 3 Fish Oil - GDM and preeclampsia affect omega-3 levels in mothers and babies, which can impact brain development. Low DHA exposure during development may be due to reduced placental transfer. Finding ways to increase DHA delivery during pregnancy could benefit babies born to mothers with these conditions[xi].
Try: Pure Encapsulations Folate 400 - Folate helps create new cells and is especially important for the growth and development of the brain and spinal cord in the early stages of pregnancy. If the neural tube, which forms the brain and spinal cord, does not close properly, it can cause birth defects. In some cases, taking a supplement of a specific type of folate called L-methylfolate may be more effective for pregnant women with certain gene variations. If you have any concerns or questions feel free to contact us today. We recommend a consultation to find the right supplemental solutions for your unique requirements [v].
Try: High Potency Magnesium with B6 - Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, has been suggested as a potential treatment for morning sickness during pregnancy. Some studies have found that taking vitamin B6 supplements can reduce the severity of nausea and vomiting in pregnant women.
Try: Viridian Liquid Iron - Iron is an important mineral during pregnancy because it helps make haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood. During pregnancy, a woman's blood volume increases to support the growth of the baby, which means that more iron is needed to make enough haemoglobin. In some cases, a doctor may recommend an iron supplement to help prevent or treat anaemia during pregnancy[vi].
Try: Viridian Vitamin D3 400IU - Research has demonstrated that Vitamin D can enhance insulin tolerance through several mechanisms, and lower insulin resistance in individuals with type 2 diabetes as well as healthy individuals. Studies have also indicated that taking vitamin D supplements during the first and second trimesters can effectively decrease the likelihood of glucose intolerance and developing gestational diabetes mellitus later in pregnancy[vii].
Try: Viridian Synerbio Mother and Baby Probiotic powder - Synerbio Mother and Baby Powder provides friendly bacteria in the form of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, the best documented strain of good bacteria for use by mother and infants. During pregnancy, some women may experience digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn due to hormonal changes and the pressure of the growing uterus on the digestive organs. Probiotics can help regulate the digestive system and alleviate these symptoms. There is also some evidence that probiotics may have other benefits during pregnancy, such as reducing the risk of gestational diabetes[viii][ix][x].
Try: Bio-Health Raspberry Leaf - Raspberry leaf has a long tradition of use during the last trimester of pregnancy to strengthen and tone the uterine and pelvic muscles, and then during labour to assist contractions and to check haemorrhage. It is believed that the alkaloid fragarine is responsible for this action. High doses should be avoided during the early stages of pregnancy as raspberry leaf can stimulate uterine contractions[xii].
(Morning Sickness) - Ginger
Nausea and vomiting are common during pregnancy and can be linked to low blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is important to maintain healthy blood sugar regulation as described previously to alleviate these symptoms, a moderate carbohydrate diet is recommended such as the Mediterranean diet. Constant nausea can make it difficult to eat, worsening low blood sugar levels. In addition to regulating blood sugar, other interventions such as consuming ginger can be a helpful addition to manage these symptoms[xiii].
Female Hormone Cycle Mapping - This test can provide an insight over a full female cycle to assess oestrogen and progesterone fluctuations throughout the cycle. This ‘mapping’ test provides a clear insight into the cycle so any fluctuations from the normal pattern can be easily identified. This provides a useful tool in situations of hormonal imbalances and fertility issues.
It is common for pregnant women to experience sleep disturbances, including insomnia and sleep deficiency. Therefore, it is important to prioritise healthy sleep habits, such as practicing good sleep hygiene, relaxation techniques, staying active, and maintaining a balanced diet.
B6 and magnesium are crucial cofactors in the production of serotonin, which is a precursor to the sleep neurotransmitter melatonin. These nutrients play an important role in promoting healthy sleep patterns[xiv].
Stress during pregnancy can have negative effects on both the mother and the baby. It has been linked to an increased risk of emotional disorders in children. Additionally, it can increase the risk of postnatal depression in mothers. As stress and anxiety can be heightened during pregnancy, it is important to learn how to manage these feelings before becoming pregnant.
There are several ways to reduce stress and promote relaxation during pregnancy. Taking a walk outside has been shown to decrease cortisol levels, which can help alleviate stress. Mindful meditation is also a helpful technique that can be easily practiced with the help of many available apps. Adequate sleep is essential, as lack of sleep can contribute to stress and anxiety. Additionally, getting sufficient magnesium is important, as it supports normal nervous system function and has a calming effect. Dark leafy green vegetables are a good dietary source of magnesium, and a supplement of 200-400mg/day may also be helpful. Taking a bath with 2 handfuls of Epsom salts, which are high in magnesium sulphate and can be absorbed through the skin, can aid in relaxation and promote better sleep[xv].
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[iv] Mahdizade Ari M, Teymouri S, Fazlalian T, Asadollahi P, Afifirad R, Sabaghan M, Valizadeh F, Ghanavati R, Darbandi A. The effect of probiotics on gestational diabetes and its complications in pregnant mother and newborn: A systematic review and meta-analysis during 2010-2020. J Clin Lab Anal. 2022 Apr;36(4):e24326. doi: 10.1002/jcla.24326. Epub 2022 Mar 3.
[v] Dessie MA, Zeleke EG, Workie SB, Berihun AW. Folic acid usage and associated factors in the prevention of neural tube defects among pregnant women in Ethiopia: cross-sectional study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2017 Sep 21;17(1):313. doi: 10.1186/s12884-017-1506-2. PMID: 28934941; PMCID: PMC5609063.
[vi] Farias PM, Marcelino G, Santana LF, de Almeida EB, Guimarães RCA, Pott A, Hiane PA, Freitas KC. Minerals in Pregnancy and Their Impact on Child Growth and Development. Molecules. 2020 Nov 30;25(23):5630. doi: 10.3390/molecules25235630. PMID: 33265961; PMCID: PMC7730771.
[vii] Karamanos B, Thanopoulou A, Anastasiou E, Assaad-Khalil S, Albache N, Bachaoui M, Slama CB, El Ghomari H, Jotic A, Lalic N, Lapolla A, Saab C, Marre M, Vassallo J, Savona-Ventura C; MGSD-GDM Study Group. Relation of the Mediterranean diet with the incidence of gestational diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jan;68(1):8-13. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.177. Epub 2013 Oct 2. PMID: 24084515.
[viii] Chen, Y.; Lu, J.; Wickens, K.; Stanley, T.; Maude, R.; Stone, P.; Barthow, C.; Crane, J.; Mitchell, E.A.; Merien, F.; et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus Probiotic in Early Pregnancy on Plasma Conjugated Bile Acids in a Randomised Controlled Trial. Nutrients 2021, 13, 209.
[ix] Mahdizade Ari M, Teymouri S, Fazlalian T, Asadollahi P, Afifirad R, Sabaghan M, Valizadeh F, Ghanavati R, Darbandi A. The effect of probiotics on gestational diabetes and its complications in pregnant mother and newborn: A systematic review and meta-analysis during 2010-2020. J Clin Lab Anal. 2022 Apr;36(4):e24326. doi: 10.1002/jcla.24326. Epub 2022 Mar 3.
[x] Sohn K, Underwood MA. Prenatal and postnatal administration of prebiotics and probiotics. Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2017;22(5):284-289. doi:10.1016/J.SINY.2017.07.002
[xi] Devarshi PP, Grant RW, Ikonte CJ, Mitmesser SH. Maternal Omega-3 Nutrition, Placental Transfer and Fetal Brain Development in Gestational Diabetes and Preeclampsia. Nutrients. 2019;11(5). doi:10.3390/NU11051107
[xii] Parsons M, Simpson M, Ponton T. Raspberry leaf and its effect on labour: safety and efficacy. Aust Coll Midwives Inc J. 1999 Sep;12(3):20-5. doi: 10.1016/s1031-170x(99)80008-7. PMID: 10754818.
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[xiv] Reichner CA. Insomnia and sleep deficiency in pregnancy. Obstet Med. 2015;8(4):168-171. doi:10.1177/1753495X15600572
[xv] van Niel MS, Payne JL. Perinatal depression: A review. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2020;87(5):273-277. doi:10.3949/ccjm.87a.19054
Sahakian V, Rouse D, Sipes S, Rose N, Niebyl J. Vitamin B6 is effective therapy for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Obstet Gynecol. 1991 Jul;78(1):33-6. PMID: 2047064.
Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.