If you are planning to have a baby soon and need to know what needs to be taken care off before conception, then this is a must read for you. The health of the mother has a direct impact on the weight and health of the baby. So, it's time to gear and work on yourself before entering motherhood.

Pre-conception diet and lifestyle is vital part for preparing yourself for pregnancy as it directly influences the health of the foetus.

Pre-pregnancy weight
The weight status has a direct impact on the baby’s birth weight. Women who are underweight are likely to give birth to small babies and overweight women are at a higher risk of having gestational diabetes or high blood pressure.

Pre-pregnancy nutrition needs
Having a balanced diet is important to maintain the level of micronutrients in the body.

Grains/ Cereals -Inclusion of whole grain cereals and grains like rice, oats, barley should be included instead of refined carbohydrates.

Vegetables - Eat a variety of coloured vegetables including dark green leafy vegetables , purple, orange and red coloured vegetables. Avoid canned vegetables.

Fruits - Any seasonal fruit or 100% fruit juice with pulp and fibre should be consumed. Eg pomegranate, kiwis, mangoes and watermelon etc. It is important to note that green papaya should not be taken.

Dairy - Milk and milk products are considered a part of the food group and low fat products should be used. eg paneer, curd and buttermilk.

Protein - Eat lean meats, chicken, eggs and fish. Among vegetarians consumption of legumes, nuts, seeds peas and beans.

Nutrients of special consideration

Folic acid
Women need 400 micrograms (0.4mg) of folic acid each day which is present in green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, and some vitamin supplements.

It is of most importance during the first 28 days after conception, as it is the most critical time when it is needed the most.

It is important to have enough iron stores as it helps supply oxygen and performs various functions. Meats such as lamb, liver and other organ meats, poultry such as chicken, turkey ,leafy greens, legumes , jaggery, dates and iron enriched breads.

Calcium and vitamin D

If there is not enough calcium in the pregnancy diet, then foetus may need to draw calcium from the mothers bones and this can put her at the risk for osteoporosis. Rich sources of calcium includes milk and milk products, sesame seeds and soybean.

Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium and promotes overall health and well-being.

Omega 3 fatty acids
These act as antioxidants and help reduce oxidative stress in the body and takes care of joints as well. It is naturally present in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna or else fish oil supplements and other sources are nuts and seeds.

Vitamin B 12

It is important for proper energy metabolism and nerve, tissue and brain or cognitive function. The health and birth weight of the baby depends upon the nutritional status of the mother, heredity etc.

Thus, in order to avoid birth defects and other complications, it is important for a mother to prepare herself for pregnancy and a healthy start leads to a healthy outcome.

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