May 26, 2020
Living a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy is not only important for the mom to be to feel more energized and good in her own skin, it has also a big impact on the baby`s development and in part its future health.
However, living a balanced and healthy lifestyle throughout pregnancy is not always easy and it can feel overwhelming at times.
Sometimes you are confronted with a stressful day at work and you just collapse on the sofa in the evening or the sudden craving for ice cream and sweets kick in. All your focus is to get to the next supermarket to get your sweet treat.
Having these moments occasionally is normal, however, you can follow some simple tips, to live a more balanced life and feel healthier and more energized throughout your pregnancy.
5 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
Eat Nutritious Food
Ensure you eat enough carbohydrates in order to provide the needed glucose to fuel the fetal and maternal brains (1). When eating carbohydrates, try however to eat more complex carbohydrates, like brown rice, quinoa, fresh fruits and vegetables (2). Avoid cookies and sweets with refined sugar or white pasta as the consumption of these simple carbohydrates will result in a spike of blood sugar and insulin secretion, which can have negative health effects (7). Take some peeled carrots or fresh fruit as well as some nuts with you to the office to have a healthy snack ready, once the hunger kicks in. fill your office drawer with these healthy substitutes rather than chocolate bars and biscuits.
Eat regularly some fish as it is rich in DHA, a fatty acid, which is important for the development of the baby`s retina and brain (1).
Get the Right Supplements
The WHO recommendations on maternal health, advise daily iron and folic acid supplementation, in the range of 30-60mg iron and 0.4 mg of folic acid (3). This is to prevent maternal anemia due to low iron levels as well as neural tube defects in the fetus due to low folic acid intake. It is best to start with folic acid supplementation already before your pregnancy, when you are trying to conceive and it should be taken throughout your pregnancy.
Before starting your iron or multivitamin supplementation, visit your doctor and perform a blood test in order to assess your current iron level. Depending on the results you might not need a high dose of iron supplementation but it would be sufficient to get your extra iron intake through a prenatal or multivitamin supplement, which contains also iron. What you can do however in order to increase iron absorption from iron rich foods like leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals or red meat, is to combine it with citrus fruits (1). Add some fresh lemon juice to your leafy green veggies, like broccoli or kale, which will increase iron absorption.
During pregnancy on top of the iron and folic acid supplements it is also good to take a multivitamin supplement to ensure that you and the baby get all the necessary nutrients. When choosing a multivitamin supplement, check however that the amounts of the single vitamins and minerals, meet the needs during pregnancy.
During pregnancy and lactation the need for water and fluid intake is increased. This is due to a higher blood volume and to support fetal circulation and the amniotic fluid (4). Have a bottle of water always close by to not forget to drink throughout the day. This will prevent you from having some light headaches during the day.
The WHO in their maternal health guidelines is additionally recommending staying physically active during pregnancy in order to feel healthier and to avoid excessive weight gain. (3) This doesn`t mean that you suddenly need to start training intensively, and hit the gym a few times per week. This will not even be good and safe for the baby, if you are haven`t had such an intensive workout routine before your pregnancy. What you can do and easily implement in your daily routine, is to go more often by bicycle to work rather than using the car or bus, going for a brisk walk during your lunch break as well as going for a swim or joining a prenatal yoga class once or twice a week. Like this you will have a good mix of light cardio and strength training and it is safe for your baby.
Limit Exposure to Toxic Substances
BPA is used in plastic bottles and containers, as well as, a variety of food packaging. According to some different research papers, BPA has shown to be related to “obesity and neurological disorders such as ADHD, anxiety and depression” (5). Rather than buying bottled water, buy a water bottle out of glass, which you can just refill with tap water, at the office or at home, presumed the tap water is safe to drink in your area. When taking your lunch from home, rather than using plastic containers, bring your food to work in a resealable glass container. Making this a habit can already reduce your overall exposure to BPA in plastic packaging and food containers to a certain degree.
When buying personal care products like body creams, shower gel etc., try to avoid products that are filled with synthetic chemicals and perfume as well as phthalates and parabens. According to a research study approximately 3,000 of such chemicals are found in personal care products in the US, with them being passed on from the mother to the child via the placenta or breast milk (8,9). Try to substitute such products with biological skin products. For the belly to keep the skin soft and moisturized, as well as to avoid stretch marks, use natural body oil, rather than a perfumed body cream that might be filled with a variety of additives and chemicals.
1. Smolin, Grossvenor, Gurfinkel; Nutrition Science and Applications; 577 – 580
2. Simple Carbohydrates vs. Complex Carbohydrates; https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/simple-carbohydrates-complex-carbohydrates#complex-carbs
3. WHO recommendations on Maternal Health Guidelines approved by the WHO guidelines review committee; Updated May 2017; World Health Organization; 3 https://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/documents/maternal-health-recommendations/en/
4. Kristen S. Montgomery, PhD, RN; An Update on water needs during pregnancy and beyond; The Journal of Perinatal Education; Vol. 11, No. 3; 2002
5. H. Danielewicz1 & G. Myszczyszyn2 & A. Dębińska1 & A. Myszkal2 & A. Boznański 1 & Hirnle; Diet in pregnancy—more than food; Eur J Pediatr; 2017 176; 1573–1579
6. Susanna D. Mitro, MPH1, Tyiesha Johnson, MPH1, and Ami R. Zota, ScD, MS; Cumulative Chemical Exposures During Pregnancy and Early Development; Curr Environ Health Rep.; 2015 December ; 2(4): 367–378.
7. Carbohydrates and Blood sugar; Harvard T.H. Chan School of public health; https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/
8. Aylward LL, Hays SM, Kirman CR, et al.; Relationships of chemical concentrations in maternal
and cord blood: a review of available data; J Toxicol Env Heal B.; 2014; 17:175–203.
9. Mondal D, Lopez-Espinosa MJ, Armstrong B, et al.; Relationships of perfluorooctanoate and
perfluorooctane sulfonate serum concentrations between mother-child pairs in a population with
perfluorooctanoate exposure from drinking water; Environ Health Persp.; 2012; 120:752–757.