Discussing Gestational Nutrition Deficiencies and How to Combat Them
Nutrition during pregnancy is a critical consideration since it is important for your own good health and the growth and development of the baby. The baby's nutrition is derived from the mother’s dietary intake, so mothers have high chances of developing nutritional deficiencies if due care is not taken. This can have a reverse effect on the baby and lead to complications.
As a matter that affects so many important things, it's important that we discuss different pregnancy-related nutritional deficiencies, how they can interrupt your baby's growth, and what you can do to prevent them.
Nutritional Recommendations for Expecting Mothers
Proper nutrition and rest are critical to the well-being of both mother and child during pregnancy. With so many changes happening to the mother's body and the growing developmental requirements of the baby, nutrition needs to be carefully monitored for gaps that could hinder either process.
The FDA has issued National Dietary Guidelines specifically for the nutrition of expecting mothers. According to the guidelines, two specific nutrients are very important: folic acid, also called folate and iron. We have discussed the importance of these two nutrients for the mother and child in another part of this article.
Many expecting mothers face a lack of proper guidance in terms of nutrition during their pregnancy. This is the primary cause of poor pregnancy diets. Science-backed diet plans that give recommendations on foods to include or avoid and the right portion sizes are important for an expecting mother.
Health Risks Associated with Poor Nutrition During Pregnancy
A mother's body is in a very fragile state during pregnancy. There is a lot of stress associated with each stage of pregnancy as the body adjusts and gears up to help support, grow, and birth a child. At the same time, the growing child is also in a very delicate state and requires every support from the mother. The importance of proper nutrition for the mother and the child cannot be stressed enough. In fact, a mother who does not take in adequate nutrition is in danger of the following risks:
- Gestational stress, hypertension, and anemia
- Increased risk of miscarriages or premature birth
- Maternal morbidity
The baby in the womb faces even greater dangers if the mother is not receiving enough nutrition, including:
- Poor internal organ development
- Low birth weight
- Weak immune system
- Disorders in body systems like the circulatory, digestive, or neurological systems
- Improper development challenges including lower intelligence, inattention, and abnormal behavioural patterns
Combating the Ill Effects of Micro-nutrient Deficiencies
Most often, a pregnant mother takes care enough to eat well during pregnancy. But due to a lack of proper nutritional guidance, there will sometimes be deficiencies in certain vital nutrients in the diet that are required for the baby's development. This condition is called a micro-nutrient deficiency, and it can be a dangerous situation to be in. In this section, let's look at a few vital micro-nutrients, their role, and the ill effects of their absence in the diet.
1. Vitamin B12
- Function: Supports neural tube development and prevents neural tube abnormalities.
- Deficiency Risk: Increases risk of neural tube defects by five times.
- Deficiency Symptoms: Mouth ulcers, cracked skin at the corners of the mouth, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, irritability, inflamed tongue.
- Function: Controls oxygen and blood supply to the baby, vital for the baby's life and development.
- Deficiency Risk: Increased risk of premature delivery and low-weight baby, anemia-related fatigue, difficulty or lowering of breast-milk production can cause post-natal depression.
- Deficiency Symptoms: Fatigue/weakness, decreased performance in normal duties, tongue inflammation, or frequent illnesses.
- Function: Neural tube development in the foetus.
- Deficiency Risk: Poor neural, spinal, brain or skull development, even the child's death.
- Deficiency Symptoms: excessive fatigue, feelings of lethargy, paleness, shortness of breath, irritability.
4. Vitamin K
- Function: Prevents blood clots or excessive bleeding.
- Deficiency Risk: High-risk pregnancy since there could be massive blood loss during birthing.
- Deficiency Symptoms: Easy bruising or bleeding into the skin, frequent episodes of nose bleeds, or evidence of blood in stool or urine.
5. Vitamin D
- Function: Regulates calcium and phosphate levels in the body of mother and child.
- Deficiency Risk: Preeclampsia during labour, caused by high blood pressure, weakened and fragile bones and conditions like rickets in the newborn.
- Deficiency Symptoms: Muscle cramps, lethargy, decreased appetite, tingling or numbness in the fingers, heart anomalies, convulsions.
- Function: Thyroid hormone synthesis and neurological development of the child.
- Deficiency Risk: hypothyroidism in the mother, goitre in mother and child, cretinism, low psycho-motor development.
- Deficiency Symptoms: Weakness, tiredness, cold spells, goiter.
- Function: Normal growth, muscle development and repair, antibody, enzyme, and hormone production in the developing child.
- Deficiency Risk: Poor foetal muscle development, abnormalities in the bone, other congenital disabilities.
- Deficiency Symptoms: High levels of fluid retention, frequent illness or infections, fatigue in the muscles, unexplained weight loss.
The Pregnancy Diet Plan: Why Do You Need One?
Good nutrition is a daily necessity for any individual, but a pregnant woman has to think about her baby's development and the needs of her own body. So proper nutrition should be a high priority during pregnancy. A professionally generated nutrition plan helps you keep a constant check on your food intake and also provides these benefits:
- No stressing about whether you're eating right or enough.
- No fears about excessive or insufficient weight gain.
- Strengthened immunity and stabilised energy levels.
- Reduced risk of gestational diabetes, thyroid, and other pregnancy-related conditions.
Combating Gestational Nutritional Deficiencies Through Diet
The basics of nutrition remain the same during pregnancy: eat healthy and clean, include fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, lean protein, and whole grains, and keep yourself hydrated. But, some nutrient functions need to be highlighted during pregnancy because of how important they are for the child. Let's look at these in detail below:
- Moms-to-be require 1000 milligrams of calcium in their diet. Most vitamin supplements don't contain enough calcium in them, so calcium pills are often prescribed separately. Dietary sources of calcium include dairy or plant-based products like tofu, chia seeds, bok choy, canned salmon, black-eyed peas, turnip greens, broccoli and kale.
- Iron deficiency is another danger to look out for. Iron-fortified foods, dark-green leafy vegetables, lentils, nuts and seeds, tofu, lean meat, poultry and fish are great sources. Experts recommend boiled egg yolk and lemonade as a cure for iron deficiencies since Vitamin C is helpful in the absorption of iron into the blood. Supplement your diet with citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, peas, bell peppers, broccoli, and sprouted horse gram for a Vitamin C- iron combo.
- Oranges, tomatoes, green leaves, pulses, legumes, and beans can help you combat deficiencies in folate.
- Sources of protein include seafood, meat, poultry, and eggs. Nuts, seeds, soy products, peas, and beans are good supplements.
- Salmon is a fatty fish that is a great source of Vitamin D. Orange juice, fortified milk, and eggs also help in Vitamin D intake.
- Foods like apple juice, baked cod, iodine-enriched foods, plain low-fat yoghurt, seafood, dried prunes, raisin bran,creamed corn, eggs and cheddar cheese can fight iodine deficiency.
REAN HEALTHGURU: The Pregnant Mother's Friend
Mothers-to-be may find it difficult to keep track of their diets and monitor nutrient intake on their own. That's why we at the REAN Health Foundation have developed a technology-based solution called the REAN HEALTHGURU virtual care application.
If you are a preganant woman, here are some of the features you can look forward to:
- It helps you track your dietary intake to maintain nutritional requirements.
- It keeps track of your vitals like weight, blood sugar, and pressure.
- It allows to share your medical information with family and your medical team.
- It provides useful resources for mindfulness and positivity to keep you motivated during your pregnancy journey.
Expecting mothers face a tough battle to keep their nutrient intake on track and to stay away from overeating and undernutrition. Since the baby's health is directly related to your nutrition and good health, you need all the support you can get. REAN Health Foundation stands with you to support your nutritional requirements during pregnancy. Reach out to us for advice, resources, professional help, and more! We wish you a happy, healthy, and successful pregnancy!