25Nov

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Every woman wants to experience the joy of pregnancy but very few know or are aware that pregnancy starts much before conception. If you are facing problems in getting pregnant, your body and your partners body is trying to tell something. Healthy pregnancy starts 3-4 months before conception. You need to prepare your body to create a healthy baby. In this article, we are offering you a simple pre pregnancy guide which shall help in conception, prevent miscarriages & foster a healthy pregnancy.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

So, you want to be a mother. Where do you start? The first step after you have decided to be parents is to ensure the health & nutritional status of you and your partner. Do a thorough medical check up before proceeding.

DO THE BLOOD WORK

Before pregnancy, it is wise to do a medical check up because certain conditions like Obesity, Diabetes, Blood pressure, Anaemia, PCOS, Vitamin & Mineral deficiencies affect pregnancy & conception.

Below are some important tests which you must do before conception. Any deviations must be dealt with immediately.

  1. Pelvic Exam: In this the doctor shall examine your reproductive health. Doctor manually scrutinizes reproductive organs for any abnormalities. A blood test is recommended to check the hormone levels and an ultrasound test will be done to check ovaries & uterus. This exam will tell you if you have any fertility issues.
  2. Blood test: Do a blood test to check your Haemoglobin, WBC, RBC, platelets, sugar, calcium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Homocysteine levels. These tests should be done by you and your partner both. A man’s health status is equally important while planning a pregnancy.
  3. DENTAL CHECKUP: Get your teeth & gums checked regularly before conception as well as during pregnancy. Some recent studies have found a link between gum disease & delivery of low birth weight babies.
  4. BMI: Get your Body mass index checked online or you can do it on your own. BMI will tell you if your weight falls under a healthy bracket. Both, under weight and over weight affect fertility. A BMI of less than 19 suggests underweight, BMI greater than 25 is considered overweight and obesity, while BMI between 19 to 24 indicate healthy weight. Calculate your BMI using below formula:-

BMI = kg/m2 where kg is your weight in kg and m is height in meters

PRE PREGNANCY DIET

Your nutrition before, during & after pregnancy plays a key role. If the mother has fewer or no nutritional deficiencies then she will be able to bear and deliver a healthy baby. The main aim in pre pregnancy diet is to address micro and macro nutrient deficiencies.

You will have to make lifestyle changes, exercise daily, eat clean and reduce stress. All of this will need self motivation and discipline. If you struggle with discipline and can’t motivate yourself, then take help of your spouse, friend or a dietitian.

Below are some nutrients which are a must in your diet if you are planning a child:

1. FOLIC ACID

This is the most important nutrient while considering pregnancy. There is substantial research to prove the fact that folic acid deficiency leads to neural tube defects in babies. So, supplementation of folic acid is a must before conceiving. You can consult a doctor before starting any supplements. As for food sources, below foods are a rich source of folic acid. Include them in your diet regularly.

Foods rich in folic acid
Chick pea (काबुली चना)
Amaranth (राजगिरा)
Bengal gram dal (चना दाल )
Cluster beans (गवार फली)
Green gram dal ( मूंग दाल)
Gingelly seeds (तिल)
Cow pea (चवळी)
Ambat Chuka
Spinach (पालक)
Mint (पुदीना)
Lady Finger (भेंडी)
Egg
Source: C Gopalan, V Balasubramaniam, V Rama sastry, Nutritive Value Of Indian Foods ,NIN

2. CALCIUM

Research supports the fact that women who have a calcium deficiency before pregnancy are at risk of developing pre eclampsia (high blood pressure) during pregnancy. To avoid this, check your calcium levels before conception. In case you are deficient, start a calcium supplement or include calcium rich foods before conception until mid pregnancy. It will also be required to build your baby’s bones, teeth, nerves, etc.

You can include below calcium rich foods in your diet to address calcium deficiency if any:

Foods rich in Calcium
Shrimp, dried (सूखा झींगा)
Coconut palm jaggery
Crab small (केकड़ा)
*Safe, low mercury
Poppy seeds (खसखस)
Ajwain
Gingelly seeds (तिल)
Bombay duck (बोंबील)
*Safe, low mercury
Skimmed milk powder (cow’s)
Curry Leaves ((कढीपत्ता))
Amaranth (राजगिरा)
Turnip greens
Cauliflower greens (फूलगोभी के पत्ते)
Drumstick leaves (Moringa)
Fenugreek leaves (मेंथी)
Ragi
Black Til
Horse gram whole (कुलथी)
Rajmah
Soyabean
Moth beans (मटकी)
Bengal gram whole (चना )
Source: C Gopalan, V Balasubramaniam, V Rama sastry, Nutritive Value Of Indian Foods ,NIN

3. IRON

Iron deficiency in women may make getting pregnant difficult. By chance you conceive, it may increase your chances of preterm delivery or miscarriage. Also, in addition baby’s development might get hampered. Hence, its very important to check if you are anemic before considering pregnancy. Consult your doctor if your haemoglobin is lower than 12 gm/dl. In addition, its wise to include iron rich foods in your diet. (*If your haemoglobin is in normal range, refrain from making any changes in your diet since, excess iron can cause toxicity.)

Below are some iron rich foods you can consider including in your meals if you are iron deficient.

Foods rich in Iron
Garden cress seeds (अळीव)
*Pregnant women should avoid
Black til
Amchur powder
Cauliflower greens (फूलगोभी के पत्ते)
Amaranth (राजगिरा)
Turnip greens
Rice flakes (पोहा)
Soyabean
Bengal gram roasted (chana futana)
Little Millet (Samai)
Cow pea (चवळी)
Source: C Gopalan, V Balasubramaniam, V Rama sastry, Nutritive Value Of Indian Foods ,NIN41

4. FIBER

Fiber is an important nutrient. Our daily dietary fiber intake should be between 25 to 30 gm per day. However, many people ignore it. This essential nutrient helps to keep weight in check, detoxify and keep sugar & cholesterol under control.

Research says women who have optimum fiber intake prior to conception & during pregnancy are at lesser risk of gestational diabetes (occurs during pregnancy). So, start monitoring your fiber intake. Make sure you get it through diet and not supplements.

Foods rich in Fiber
Guava (पेरू)
Amla
Sitaphal
Passion fruit
Dates (खारीक)
Fenugreek seeds (मेथीचे दाणे)
Amchur powder
Ajwain
Garden cress seeds (अळीव)
*Pregnant women should avoid
Black Til
Walnut (अक्रोड)
Amaranth (राजगिरा)
Peas (वाटाणे)
Rajma
Horse gram whole (कुलथी)
Millets
Ragi
Drumstick (शेवगा)
Double beans, broad beans
Coconut
Fig (अंजीर)
Flaxseed (जवस)
Source: C Gopalan, V Balasubramaniam, V Rama sastry, Nutritive Value Of Indian Foods ,NIN

5. OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS

This nutrient boosts fertility in men by increasing sperm motility. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are essential fatty acids with myriad of health benefits. Supplementing before conception shall help in developing brain and nervous system of your baby.

Below are Omega 3 rich food sources:

Foods rich in Omega 3 Fatty acid
Oil fish like Salmon, Mackarel, Sardines
Ground Flaxseeds (जवस)
Chia seeds
Walnut (अक्रोड)
Soy nut
Canola oil
Soyabean oil
Omega 3 fortified Oil
Source: Roberta Larson Duyff, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 5th Ed

6. VITAMIN C

It helps in boosting fertility in both men & women. It regulates hormones like progesterone in women which is responsible for successful implantation. In addition, Vitamin C also helps in absorption of another key nutrient, iron.

Below are Vitamin C rich food sources that you can include in your diet:

Foods rich in Vitamin C
Amaranth (राजगिरा)
Drumstick leaves (मोरिंगा)
Fenugreek (मेथी)
Drumstick (शेवगा)
Amla
Guava (पेरू)
Orange (संत्रे)
Sweet lime (मोसंबे)
Strawberry
Bitter gourd (कारले)
Lemon (लिंबू)
Source: C Gopalan, V Balasubramaniam, V Rama sastry, Nutritive Value Of Indian Foods ,NIN

7. VITAMIN B6

Eating adequate amount of this B Vitamin called pyridoxine shall improve your chances of conception and make the uterine lining stronger. It may also prevents pre eclampsia (high blood pressure) and preterm delivery.

Below are B6 rich food sources:

Foods rich in Vitamin B6
Ready to eat Cereal, 100% fortified
Chicken breast
Banana
Baked potato
Walnut
Peanut butter
Source: Roberta Larson Duyff, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 5th Ed

SIMPLE TIPS TO ACHIEVE PRE PREGNANCY FITNESS

  • Eat nutrient dense food.
  • Have 3-4 servings of vegetables and fruits.
  • Include fruits like Orange, Sweet lime, Banana, Guava daily.
  • Eat spinach daily and Amaranthus at least twice a week.
  • Choose healthier options like low or no fat, whole grains, green leafy vegetables.
  • Reduce weight if your BMI is above 24.
  • Do yoga or walking daily for half an hour.
  • Practice relaxation and mindfulness.
  • Avoid anti nutrients like alcohol, refined sugar, trans fats, caffeine and tobacco.
  • Avoid fried foods, refined flour, bakery items, etc.

Follow this pre pregnancy guide to have a healthy pregnancy. Small dietary & lifestyle changes you make in your life shall not only benefit your health but also your baby’s health. Healthy women give birth to healthy babies.

“Pregnancy can be a time when you take tremendous pleasure in eating, not only because you may enjoy food more but also because you know that it is nourishing both you and your baby.”

– Martha Rose and Jane L. Davis
pre pregnancy diet

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