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Nutrition in pregnancy and lactation

Nutrition in Pregnancy

and Breastfeeding

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Nutritional counseling is the cornerstone of women’s care before and during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This is because the nutritional habits and certain modifiable lifestyle-related parameters influence significantly not only the course and outcome of pregnancy, but also the health of the mother and the baby.

Before Conception

Good health and nutrition before conception are two key factors to a mother’s ability to meet the nutrient demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Moreover, they are necessary for the healthy development of the fetus and long-term health of the offspring. A large proportion of women are unaware of these effects, do not eat properly and end up experiencing nutritional deficiencies or insufficiencies, or even develop eating disorders when they decide to have a child.When malnutrition and excessive energy intake are combined with other unhealthy habits (smoking, alcohol and physical inactivity), the risk of facing problems becomes evident.

This particular lifestyle has another very significant impact: weight gain. Excessive weight and obesity before conception have significant impacts on both the course of pregnancy and the child’s future risk of developing obesity and non-contagious diseases.In fact, a disease is more likely to lead to the appearance of specific problems when it precedes conception than when it occurs during pregnancy. Among these, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension and the caesarean section are included for the mother. The adverse effects for the fetus include genetic abnormalities, stillbirth and abnormal growth and development.

When a woman is pregnant, no intervention can be good enough to prevent perinatal effects on her and the baby. Therefore, care should be taken in time to stabilize the weight within the normal range before conception to reduce the risk of these complications.

When a woman is pregnant, no intervention can be good enough to prevent perinatal effects on her and the baby. Therefore, care should be taken in time to stabilize the weight within the normal range before conception to reduce the risk of these complications.

Given the global increase in the proportion of overweight and obese women, proper planning of nutrients intake could help to eliminate intergenerational transmission of obesity and its serious health effects. Nowadays doctors place great emphasis on the body weight of reproductive-aged women and they recommend to maintain their ideal weight, by improving their diet and lifestyle as well as by increasing the physical activity levels.

Malnutrition is another problem that should not be neglected, as obese women are more likely to have deficiencies in important nutrients. Particular attention should be paid to the levels of certain micronutrients, such as folic acid (vitamin B9), which should be adequate to reduce the likelihood of congenital brain and spine malformations.Achieving normal levels of certain micronutrients may require supplementation with iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iodine, among others.

During Pregnancy

The physiological changes that occur in pregnancy (e.g. in the cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, hematological, respiratory and skeletal systems) happen in response to the development of the fetus and to prepare the woman to be healthy inchildbirth. These changes result in the variation of nutritional needs.

The first 2-8 weeks of pregnancy are fundamental in fetal growth, while the mother’s nutritional status plays also a crucial role in early fetal development, organogenesis and the development of the nervous system. During the second and the third trimester, the nutrients of the fetus are accumulated to be used after birth. It is therefore essential to consume adequate amounts of all essential nutrients.

During pregnancy, micronutrient needs are mainly elevated. However, when the intake exceeds significantly the needs, it may cause undesirable effects. On the other hand, not consuming sufficient amounts can lead to developmental deficiencies of the fetus.

This is why women with malabsorption problems require special attention and their diet should be monitored more closely. For example, women who have undergone bariatric surgery to lose excess weight, usually develop micro- and macronutrient deficiencies. Given the increased nutrient requirements during this particular period, nutritional deficiencies may be aggravated and cause problems to the infant.

When it comes to energy demands of pregnant women, during the first trimester they do not differ much from those of non-pregnant women. However, these needs are higher during the second trimester and even higher in third trimester of pregnancy. They depend significantly on age, Body Mass Index and level of physical activity. Adolescent pregnant women, those who perform hard physical work/ have high level of physical activity during this period and women who are pregnant with more than one baby have higher energy requirements.

 

Therefore, during pregnancy, future mothers should follow a healthy nutrition plan, always having in mind the lifelong effects of diet on their baby. Because diet can affect the possibility of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and other metabolic disorders later as their children grow up.

A nutrition plan during pregnancy should focus on adopting healthy nutritional habits, including foods rich in nutrients and avoiding excessive food intake. More specifically, pregnant women should only consume the necessary amounts of food to cover their energy needs and they should gain up to 8 kilos, which is actually the weight of the fetus, placenta, amniotic fluid and the maternal tissues (uterus, breast, blood volume). Aiming at minimal weight gain helps in avoiding the undesirable effects of obesity not only to the mother but also to the fetus.

Therefore, during pregnancy, future mothers should follow a healthy nutrition plan, always having in mind the lifelong effects of diet on their baby. Because diet can affect the possibility of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and other metabolic disorders later as their children grow up.

A nutrition plan during pregnancy should focus on adopting healthy nutritional habits, including foods rich in nutrients and avoiding excessive food intake. More specifically, pregnant women should only consume the necessary amounts of food to cover their energy needs and they should gain up to 8 kilos, which is actually the weight of the fetus, placenta, amniotic fluid and the maternal tissues (uterus, breast, blood volume). Aiming at minimal weight gain helps in avoiding the undesirable effects of obesity not only to the mother but also to the fetus.

During Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding and breast milk are the global standard for infant feeding. All the official global organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and breastfeeding at least through the first year of life.

Similarly to pregnancy, mothers have higher energy and nutritional needs.

In most women, during pregnancy the body gets ready to respond to lactation and stores an extra 19,000 to 48,000 kcal in tissue, mainly as fat. If women do not consume them, then the stores are used to maintain lactation and gradually lose the weight gained during pregnancy.

Weight loss during lactation does not usually affect the quantity or quality of breast milk, but maternal deficiencies in other micronutrients are possible, including magnesium, vitamin B6, folic acid, calcium and zinc.

The requirements for many micronutrients increase during lactation compared to pregnancy. Therefore, all women who follow the recommendations for breastfeeding should maintain a balanced diet, which offers them sufficient amounts of nutrients to enhance weight loss after childbirth.

Apart from the mother’s nutritional status and healthy body weight, a balanced diet during lactation favors the supply of nutrients to the infant through breast milk.

Development of Nutrition Plan

Ideally, the development of the nutrition plan starts from the time when a woman decides to become a mother and depends on various factors, such as nutritional preferences, socioeconomic status, cultural preferences for specific foods and Body Mass Index. Nevertheless, the main determinant is the recommendations of their physicians, especially when special adaptations are required because of complications, such as gestational diabetes.

At Myflex, Dimitris Oikonomakis and the scientists of our team are fully committed to building a long-term relationship of trust that will create the conditions for healthy children.