Deciding to have a baby is exciting, but inevitably comes with a lot of questions! What foods should I eat? How can I improve my chances of conceiving? Is there anything I can do now to make sure I have a healthy pregnancy? Here are our top 5 tips for conception to set the foundation for a healthy pregnancy!
#1 Take Your Vitamins
Most people have heard about the important role nutrition plays during pregnancy, but did you know nutrition can impact conception? It’s true! Nutrition before conception can greatly impact pregnancy outcomes and fetus health. Case and point—folate and folic acid. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. Folate is a B vitamin that is naturally found in many foods including asparagus, brussels sprouts, and leafy greens. Low folate and folic acid can lead to abnormalities like neural tube defects. Surprisingly, the body absorbs folic acid better than the naturally occurring folate in foods. It’s recommended to supplement with 400mcg of folic acid before conception and during pregnancy (1).
If you’re using supplements be mindful of the amounts of each nutrient. While it is unlikely to get unsafe levels of vitamins and minerals from food, it is possible with supplements. For example fat soluble vitamins can negatively affect fetus health if consumed in excess leading to birth defects and macrosomia (2).
#2 Include Omega Fatty Acids
Including unsaturated fats in the diet is important in everyday health, but also for conception. These include Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 fatty acids. Focusing your fat intake on the Omega fatty acids supports fetal brain development, cell membrane structures, growth, and development. Aim for a ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 between 1 to 1 and 1 to 4 (3). Wondering how can you include them in your diet? Here are a few options for each:
Omega-3 Food Sources
Oily fish, nuts, and seeds
Omega-6 Food Sources
Vegetable oils like soybean oil, nuts, and seeds
Omega-9 Food Sources
Produced in the body and found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils like olive oil
#3 Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for conception and a healthy pregnancy. BMI is the standard indicator for weight status. A normal BMI is 18.5-24.9. Having a high BMI interferes with conception by preventing ovulation and delaying pregnancy. It can also increase the risk of miscarriage, birth defects, impair growth, or lead to the baby being larger than normal (4). Regular physical activity and a nutritious diet can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
#4 Abstain from alcohol and smoking
Smoking and alcohol consumption can both make it harder to conceive. Smoking has been shown to damage sperm and eggs (5), and alcohol increases the risk of miscarriage. There are also dangers once conception happens. Unfortunately, alcohol can pass through the placenta to the fetus which can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, small birth size, and stillbirth (9). Abstaining from alcohol and smoking is recommended to prevent harmful consequences for the baby. Instead, go for a walk, pick up a hobby, or enjoy a mocktail!
#5 Manage & Prevent
When we talk about conception and pregnancy it is important to mention management and prevention. Managing conditions like diabetes is highly recommended when trying to conceive. Research has shown a link between high maternal glucose and high rates of spontaneous abortions and malformations in newborns (8). Working with a team of healthcare professionals and properly managing conditions will help with conception, prevent complications, and ultimately lead to a healthy pregnancy. Below are a few common problems of pregnancy, what they are, and how to prevent them.
What it is: Preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy and is a sudden increase in blood pressure and protein in the urine (6).
Prevention: maintaining a healthy weight, managing preexisting conditions, and good nutrition.
What it is: A condition that occurs when you only have high blood pressure during pregnancy. It is normally diagnosed after 20 weeks and typically goes away after you give birth (6).
Prevention: managing preexisting conditions, exercise, good nutrition, and early identification.
What it is: Diabetes diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy
Prevention: Exercise, good nutrition, maintaining a healthy weight, and appropriate weight gain during pregnancy (7).
These 5 tips are the starting point to prepare for a healthy and wonderful pregnancy. Make an appointment today to create an individualized plan, get all your nutrition questions answered, and feel confident you’re getting the nourishment you need!
- National Institutes of Health. (2020, June). Office of dietary supplements – folate. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/
- Chen, H., Qian, N., Yan, L., & Jiang, H. (2018). Role of serum vitamin A and E in pregnancy. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 16(6), 5185-5189. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/10.3892/etm.2018.6830
- Balić, A., Vlašić, D., Žužul, K., Marinović, B., & Bukvić Mokos, Z. (2020). Omega-3 Versus Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in the Prevention and Treatment of Inflammatory Skin Diseases. International journal of molecular sciences, 21(3), 741. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21030741
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, March 21). Pregnancy and obesity: Know the risks. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-and-obesity/art-20044409
- Milanowski, A. (2020, September 02). How stopping smoking boosts your fertility naturally. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-stopping-smoking-boosts-your-fertility-naturally/
- CDC. (2020, January 28). High blood pressure during pregnancy. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/pregnancy.htm
- Assaf-Balut, C., Garcia de la Torre, N., Durán, A., Fuentes, M., Bordiú, E., Del Valle, L., Valerio, J., Familiar, C., Jiménez, I., Herraiz, M. A., Izquierdo, N., Torrejón, M. J., Runkle, I., de Miguel, M. P., Moraga, I., Montañez, M. C., Barabash, A., Cuesta, M., Rubio, M. A., & Calle-Pascual, A. L. (2018). Medical nutrition therapy for gestational diabetes mellitus based on Mediterranean Diet principles: a subanalysis of the St Carlos GDM Prevention Study. BMJ open diabetes research & care, 6(1), e000550. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjdrc-2018-000550
- Preconception care of women with diabetes. (2003). Diabetes Care, 26(Supplement 1), s91-s93. doi:10.2337/diacare.26.2007.s91
- CDC. (2020, October 08). Alcohol use in pregnancy. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcohol-use.html