What you eat before conceiving has a profound impact on your chances of getting pregnant. In addition, your diet plan before pregnancy may affect your eating habits during pregnancy, as well as affecting your health and that of your unborn child. That said, it is hard to separate healthy eating from getting pregnant. In regards to this, more women are considering starting a healthy before-pregnancy diet plan. But what does this plan involve? Let us find out!
Today we will be painting a clear-cut picture of how your diet before conception affects your pregnancy. We will explore all the benefits of eating healthy before conceiving a child. Additionally, we will also discuss the foods to include in such a diet plan and their significance. So keep reading, especially if you want a child ASAP or in the coming months.
Why Consider A Before Pregnancy Diet?
When it comes to pregnancy, some women choose to plan for everything, even before conception.
According to Medicine Net, pregnancy planning is ideally done by sitting down with a professional (8). However, there are several reasons why such women consider pregnancy planning to determine a before-pregnancy diet. According to Medicine Net, some of these reasons include (8):
To Minimize Possible Toxic Exposures To The Fetus
There are some diets that you are advised to not follow when you are expecting. One of the most condemned foods, and for a good reason, is fish rich in mercury. WebMD acknowledges that the mercury content in such fish may harm the baby’s developing nervous system (12).
Due to this, most women choose to sit down with their nutritionists and healthcare providers to get insight on a healthy diet before and during pregnancy.
To Reduce Risk Of Genetic Diseases
The other reason why most women consider a before-pregnancy diet plan is to reduce the risk of inherited diseases. According to Medicine Net, during pregnancy planning, such women also undergo genetic counseling, which helps shed light on healthy eating patterns (8). Similarly, during genetic counseling, the genetic professional will discuss your reproductive options and explain preventive measures to avoid the inherited disease (3).
To Treat Chronic Diseases That May Affect Pregnancy
Several diseases that could exist before pregnancy may affect both the mother and the unborn baby. Some of these include high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, autoimmune disease, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), obesity, kidney, lung, and heart problems (5).
A visit to the healthcare provider before conception can give you insight into preventive measures. Similarly, you can as well learn of a diet that may mitigate the risk of some of these diseases. It is for this reason that most women choose to start a before-pregnancy diet.
To Help Control And Manage Weight Better
You probably have seen some women looking for a weight loss plan before pregnancy. If not, you perhaps have seen searches of how women can lose weight when trying to conceive. If you are overweight or obese, weight loss before pregnancy is vital because it helps increase your chances of becoming pregnant (13). Similarly, it also helps minimize your risk of having certain pregnancy complications (13).
According to Mayo Clinic, a body mass index of 30 and above decreases your chances of having normal ovulation (13). Similarly, a BMI of above 30 indicates obesity, which may also affect the outcome of your in vitro fertilization (IVF) (13). So, as BMI increases, your risk of an unsuccessful IVF also increases (13).
- Cardiac dysfunction
- Gestational diabetes
- Risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and recurrent miscarriage
- Sleep apnea
- The need or risk of a C-section
- A difficult vaginal delivery
- A pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other organ systems, mainly the kidneys (preeclampsia)
What Is Included In A Before Pregnancy Diet?
Good nutrition is without a doubt one of the most significant aspects of getting ready for pregnancy. However, you cannot always decide by yourself what is healthy and not what is not. Instead, it would help if you talked to your doctor about your health conditions, lifestyle, and eating habits.
The knowledge they can glean from this information will help them understand what to recommend in your before-pregnancy diet. Typically, most food experts and healthcare providers recommend your diet plan before pregnancy contains the following:
Fruits And Vegetables
Despite most countries having a plethora of fruits and vegetables available, there are people who will still not eat enough of these foods. However, fruits and vegetables are integral, and they make up the healthy pregnancy diet.
This means that you must consume these foods every day. Experts suggest you aim for three to five servings of both every day (2). Additionally, they suggest picking healthy food options. For example, for vegetables, opt for broccoli, spinach, cabbage, green beans, cauliflower, and others with low calories (2).
When selecting fruits, food experts advise you to opt for those rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Some of these include berries, apples, bananas, avocados, lemons, and kiwifruit. There are several ways you can incorporate these two in your diet plan if they are not your favorite. Some of these methods include:
A tasty and healthy smoothie you can prepare to help increase your fruit and vegetable intake is the green smoothie. Some of its ingredients include baby spinach, strawberries, bananas, mint, and lemon (4). Of course, you can add some more, depending on your preference for what your dietitian recommends.
Snacking On Them
As mentioned earlier, a before-pregnancy diet focuses on good nutrition. It means that you will also have to choose healthy snacks. Ditch the chips, cookies, and biscuits for healthy stuff like carrot sticks, almonds, bananas, peanut butter, or a fruit salad.
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You also need to consume more whole grains before conceiving a baby. This food group has a significant impact on your baby’s development in the womb and health status. This means that eating whole grains before conception should become routine even during pregnancy, which is a plus for you and your unborn child.
Likewise, Medical News Today also acknowledges that eating whole grains can help you maintain a healthy weight (10). However, remember that a BMI of above 30 can affect your fertility, which is why you need to add whole grains to your meal plan.
The other benefits you can reap from consuming whole grains include a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (10). But, unfortunately, many women cannot tell what whole grains are or what to have in their meal plan despite this knowledge.
Some of the best whole grains you can consider include brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, barley, whole grain oats, teff, farro, sorghum, and buckwheat. Speak to your nutritionist if you are uncertain of incorporating any of these in your diet plan.
Believe it or not, you ideally also need to be on supplements even before conceiving a baby. The argument is that taking supplements helps account for any essential nutrients you may not be getting sufficiently. That said, there are so many supplements out there, and you cannot be taking all of them.
This means it would help if you talked to a specialist who will determine the daily prenatal supplements you will be taking. According to Mayo Clinic, experts recommend considering taking these vitamins and supplements at least three months before conception (7).
Likewise, they emphasize consultation about supplements, especially if you have an underlying chronic medical condition or are on a strict vegetarian diet (7). However, do not take herbal supplements without professional advice, as some may be harmful to your pregnancy.
Healthy fats are also among the best foods to eat before being pregnant. Therefore, healthcare professionals insist on consuming healthy unsaturated fats. According to Medical News Today, unsaturated fats can be classified into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (9).
Monounsaturated fats are very beneficial in reducing LDL or the “bad” cholesterol levels (9). The impact of reduced LDL levels is reduced risk of heart disease (9). You can get monounsaturated fats from sources such as olives and olive oil, avocados, nuts, and nut butter (9).
Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, are also suitable for maintaining optimal health. The best source of these fats is fish. Most people may not know them as polyunsaturated fats but instead, omega-3 fatty acids (9).
The omega3 fatty acids in fish can benefit you in various ways. For example, they help keep your heart healthy, reduce triglycerides in the blood, and improve eye, joint, and brain health (9). Note that these fats are not only limited to this source. You can also attain polyunsaturated fats from soybeans, nuts, seeds, pastured eggs, safflower, and grapeseed (9).
Most women who may be trying to lose weight before conception may opt to go on a low-carb diet plan. However, this does not always account for a healthy diet before pregnancy because some of these meal plans may be pretty restrictive.
Remember that you need carbohydrates as they are your body’s primary source of energy. So, cutting them entirely from your diet is not the way to go. Instead, if you want to lose weight before pregnancy, consider adding complex carbohydrates to your meal plan.
Complex carbohydrates tend to have long chains of sugar molecules, making you feel fuller for longer (11). Most food experts recommend them due to their vast health benefits and high fiber, vitamins, and minerals (11). Examples of these complex carbs include whole grain pasta, whole fruits, and vegetables (11).
It would help if you also consumed enough protein before pregnancy to help meet your daily protein needs. Incorporating protein is essential as it will help your body get used to eating enough protein during pregnancy necessary for the baby’s growth.
Opt for healthy protein sources such as lean cuts of lamb and beef. You can also obtain protein from fish, but only those with low mercury content like tuna and tilapia (1). Other protein sources to add to such a diet plan include well-cooked eggs, peas, beans, seeds, nuts, poultry, and soy products.
Of course, this list would not be complete if we did not mention water. Water is essential, before, during, and after pregnancy. It increases your body’s ability to absorb and transport crucial vitamins, hormones, and minerals (6).
When you conceive, water helps these nutrient-rich blood cells reach your baby. You need to also drink as much water as you can, especially during pregnancy, for several reasons. According to healthcare professionals, water helps preserve an ideal level of the amniotic fluid (6). Similarly, water helps improve feta kidney functioning (6).
The Bottom Line
It will help if you practice healthy eating before conceiving as it affects your chances of getting pregnant and helps your body prepare for pregnancy. For this reason, you are advised to follow a healthy before-pregnancy diet plan. Such a meal plan contains fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, protein, complex carbohydrates, and water.
Talk to your dietitian or nutritionist to learn how to incorporate these food groups and still meet your daily calorie needs. You can also enquire about appropriate meal ideas and recipes using these food groups.
If you want to do even more for your body, why don’t you supplement a healthy diet with some exercise? Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Advice about Eating Fish (2020, fda.gov)
- Fruits and vegetables (2020, medlineplus.gov)
- Genetic Counseling (2021, medicinenet.com)
- Green smoothie (2018, mayoclinic.org)
- Managing a High-Risk Pregnancy (2020, webmd.com)
- Nutrition Column An Update on Water Needs during Pregnancy and Beyond (2002, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Pregnancy diet: Focus on these essential nutrients (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- Pregnancy Planning Tips (2021, medicinenet.com)
- Types of fat: Can fat be good for you? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What makes whole grains so healthful? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What you need to know about carbs (2020 medicalnewstoday.com)
- What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish (2021, webmd.com)
- Why is weight loss before pregnancy important? (2020, mayoclinic.org)