Consultant Paediatrician and Chief Medical Officer
for EmbryoCare, Dr W John Fysh
Pregnancy is one of the few times your doctor will recommend that you take a supplement, even if you have a healthy diet. Nutrition in pregnancy is extremely important – you only need to type this into a search engine to be greeted with page upon page of nutrition, health and wellbeing advice. Some advice – such as the need to increase your intake of folic acid prior to, and during, pregnancy – is well documented. Other advice – like the myth surrounding ‘eating for two’ – is less so.
Vitamins and mineral supplements are recommended for the benefit of both the mother and the foetus. They help to avoid osteoporosis in the mother in later life and optimise growth, bone and dental growth and the healthy formation of tissues in the baby. Once you have your baby you should continue to take a supplement, particularly if you’re breastfeeding.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that not all nutrients are beneficial to your health. For example, vitamin A is an important part of our diet but taking too much has been linked to birth defects. For this reason, you should avoid standard multivitamins, which will contain vitamin A in various amounts, and instead opt for supplements that are formulated specifically for pregnancy. There is no need to pay over the odds for supplements from high-end online retailers; supermarket or pharmacy brands are just as effective.
I would not advise dramatically changing your diet without consulting your doctor first; if you are eating a well-balanced diet already, and exercise moderately, then you stand yourself in good stead throughout pregnancy with just a few minor additions or adjustments to make. My key advice to expectant mothers would be to quit smoking, avoid overeating, and stop taking any non-prescription drugs. They are damaging habits that affect both mother and child. Speak to your doctor for support and advice if you are struggling with any of the aforementioned habits.
It is common for expectant mothers to experience morning sickness and nausea at some point in their pregnancy. For some it can be mild, for others it can have a big impact on their appetite. If you’re experiencing a spell of morning sickness, don’t pile added pressure on yourself to eat specific healthy meals if they leave you feeling ill. It’s important to nourish yourself rather than forego food. If temporarily you can stomach nothing but mashed potato, crisps or toast, have these things – and start to introduce the nutritionally packed food when your appetite improves. Listen to what your body needs and what it can tolerate.
Despite the well-known phrase ‘I’m eating for two’, you should actually be aiming for around 200 extra calories per day only – certainly not doubling up your portions or increasing your intake of unhealthy high calorie foods.
Lastly, knowledge is power – speak to your doctor or source information from the NHS about what foods are on the ‘banned’ list. They include – but are not limited to – uncooked fish, unpasteurised cheese, eggs and liver pâté. Be conscious of your alcohol intake and avoid it altogether in the first trimester. Again, the NHS guidelines on this can be found online.
There is a wealth of information available nowadays and it is easy to become overwhelmed by it all; simply remember to be kind to yourself, eat well with nutrition in mind, and enjoy your pregnancy.
EmbryoCare Future Family Insurance is a unique policy that provides expectant mothers with added assurance from the 20 week scan* through to their child’s second birthday. EmbryoCare aims to ease the financial impact of unforeseen costs that can result from 14 covered conditions.
EmbryoCare Limited is an Appointed Representative of Pulse Insurance Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
*EmbryoCare’s policy can be accessed following a clear 20-week scan.