Nutritional Health During Reproductive Years
a time of excitement and change; a time when most women make a special
effort to eat well and take care of themselves. But, preparing for
a pregnancy should start long before conception. While balanced
nutrition, regular exercise and a healthy weight range should be
a priority for all women, this advice takes on new importance for
women who wish to become, or have recently become, mothers.
helps a woman's body prepare for motherhood. The complex processes
that occur during pregnancy and lactation require a rich supply
of protein, vitamins and minerals for both mother and child. If
the mother's body has built stores of nutrients over months and
years before conception, the added demands of pregnancy and lactation
can be met with modest adjustments to mother's diet. If, however,
nutrient stores are low at the start of pregnancy, women run a greater
risk of nutrition-related problems such as anemia or pregnancy difficulties.
weight range is an important factor in a healthy, uncomplicated
pregnancy. Women who enter pregnancy with weights at or near the
normal range tend to have easier pregnancies and healthier babies.
This is not to say dieting to lose weight prior to pregnancy is
always a healthy measure. Pre-pregnancy weight loss diets should
be carefully planned to include all key nutrients needed for a healthy
pregnancy start. Improper dieting or rapid weight loss can interfere
with the menstrual cycle and reduce fertility. If pregnancy does
occur while a woman is following an overly-restrictive diet, the
early weeks of pregnancy can be effected. This is because women
often don't know they are pregnant until 6-8 weeks into the pregnancy.
By the time a poor diet is corrected, early development of the embryo
can be well underway.
eating behaviors in place before conception helps to assure that
key nutrients are available for the embryo during its early weeks
of life. As the pregnancy advances into the second and third trimesters,
the fetus grows quickly in size and form. During these months, the
pregnancy requires women to eat more calories, protein, key vitamins
and several important minerals in order to "keep up" with
the baby's growth.
Once the baby
is delivered, breastfeeding mothers will find meeting nutritional
needs is important for their health, energy and milk production.
Women who cannot or choose not to breastfeed will want to build
back nutrient stores, health and energy while modifying calories
to facilitate a gradual return to a healthy weight range. And, for
some, preparation of their body for the next pregnancy may begin.
Nutrition for You, Nutrition for Two, is designed to help you prepare
for and nurture a healthful pregnancy. The basic guidelines to assist
your diet planning and food selection patterns are provided in the
Guidelines for good health and the Food
Guide Pyramid. The additional tools, articles and references
are designed to help you satisfy your body's nutritional requirements
and establish good health practices during these very important