Did you know a healthy pregnancy starts before conception?
When you and your partner begin planning for children, part of those plans should include a checklist to ensure both of you are in a good nutritional state. If you aren’t already doing so, eat a nutritionally balanced diet at least 6 months to 1 year before becoming pregnant. Maintaining a healthy weight (BMI between 19-25) and a balanced diet consisting of all food groups should provide you with the vitamins and minerals you need for a good reproductive system.
Some key preconception nutrients include:
Folic acid or folate is a type of vitamin B (B9) used to create red blood cells and to help women sustain adequate blood volume throughout pregnancy. Women of childbearing age should consume at least 400mcg of folic acid daily as it helps reduce the risk of the baby developing neural tube defects (more commonly known as spina bifida), a birth defect that leaves the spinal cord unprotected due to incomplete closure. Folic acid also helps with DNA formation, cell growth, and overall baby development.
Good food sources: Spinach, asparagus, lentils, broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, avocados, beans, nuts, and oranges.
Zinc is one of many minerals the body uses to maintain male and female reproductive health by ensuring proper cell maturation (both eggs and sperm) and regulating hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. A diet low in zinc may hinder a woman’s chances of getting pregnant and/or increase the risk of miscarriage as the ovaries require large quantities of zinc to produce high quality eggs for fertilization. For men, low zinc levels directly affect the quality and production of sperm. A daily recommended allowance of zinc is 11mg for men and 8mg for women.
Good food sources: Oysters, lean beef, pork, chicken (dark meat), fortified cereals, beans, and nuts.
Calcium is a major nutrient needed for the baby’s bone development. Since it might take several weeks to months to increase the body’s calcium concentration, it’s recommended a woman take at least 1,000mg of calcium a day, prior to conception. If a woman doesn’t consume enough calcium during pregnancy, her body will draw what’s needed from the bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Good food sources: Milk, dairy products like cheese and yogurt, soy milk and/or almond milk fortified with calcium, and tofu.