Next week (12 – 18 Feb 2012) is National Pregnancy Week in South Africa and to highlight this I will be featuring a few guest articles about Optimum Nutrition in Pregnancy over the next few days….
Optimal nutrition during pregnancy is critical for women’s and children’s long-term health
Pregnant women should focus on adopting and adhering to healthy eating plans that promote optimal nutrition in terms of the quality and quantity of the foods during their pregnancy. This is according to the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), which is using the upcoming Pregnancy Week (12-18 February 2012) to raise awareness of the importance of nutrition during pregnancy.
Many women don’t realise that nutrition during pregnancy has short and long-term effects on the health of their baby and on their own health too. Dietary quality from the first weeks of pregnancy exerts a strong influence on the development of the baby and the placenta; this in turn has an impact on the growth of the baby and on maternal wellbeing.
In the short term, poor quality eating puts mother and baby at risk for complications during delivery, excessive bleeding, weaker immune systems and poor post-natal recovery. Long term, inadequate nutrient balance during pregnancy as a result of poor eating plans can affect the health and development of the child for the rest of its life.
“Maternal and infant undernutrition increases the child’s risk of developing chronic diseases as an adult. The period from conception to 24 months of age is a crucial window of opportunity to achieve optimum nutrition. Failure to do so will have irreversible long-term consequences,” warns Berna Harmse, ADSA president.
“The lifestyle changes experienced when women are about to become mothers often result in many women making positive food choice adaptations,” explains Harmse. “But these changes should focus on the foods they should be eating and not only on the foods they should be limiting or avoiding. In this way these changes would help set the precedent for lifelong healthy family eating patterns.”
Healthy eating plans before, during and after pregnancy are vitally important for the health of the woman and for the development of her unborn child. Such plans should include the right amount of the foods needed to provide essential nutrients, including starchy foods, vegetables, fruit, legumes, lean chicken and meat, fish and low fat milk products.
Women who are pregnant or planning to fall pregnant should consult a registered dietitian for advice and eating plans tailored to their needs.
Visit www.nutritionweek.co.za for further information.