I am thinking of having another baby and being the second time, I would like to do things differently from last time. When I had my first born five years ago, I was distracted by the many horror labour ward stories, the ailments that I was sure were going to kill me and living up to the expectations of the many people who surrounded me advising me on different issues.
During the hullabaloo, important matters such as nutrition took a back seat as I concentrated on my cravings such as mutura (African sausages) and two-litres of soda every day! As long as I had those, I was okay.
The many ailments that accompany pregnancy also caused me to just settle for apples to avoid throwing up, especially at work. The result was a small baby and I really had to work hard for her health to pick up. The fact that I did not have much milk also compounded the problems that I had at the beginning.
According to the research that I have been carrying out, my baby was lucky because undernourished women and adolescent mothers who are still growing, often give birth to preterm babies or low birth weight babies.
Poor nutrition during pregnancy could also result in problems with foetal development and growth which can lead to pregnancy loss, birth defects (such as spina bifida) and long-term metabolic disturbances. Those are very serious issues and I now realize just how much I could have affected my daughter by not taking care of what I ate.
I do not wish to gamble with the health of my second born child and I would like to ensure that I follow through with all the key components of a healthy pregnancy. When it comes to eating and lifestyle these include:
- Eating a variety of nutritious food – energy requirements increase by about 12 percent during pregnancy.
- Taking the right essential vitamin and mineral (micronutrient) supplements.
- Drinking enough (6-8 glasses) clean, safe water.
- Ensuring food is safely prepared and stored.
- Good antenatal care (at least 4 visits during a healthy pregnancy).
- Managing a suitable weight gain – not too much and not too little.
- Keeping active.
- Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours a night).
- Taking no alcohol, tobacco, or other harmful substances. This includes restricting caffeine intake from coffee, energy drinks and even some medicines.
- Protecting against malaria.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are needed by the body in very small quantities but are essential for normal functioning, growth and development. During pregnancy, women need more micronutrients to ensure a healthy pregnancy and support the growth and development of the baby; not getting them has a negative effect on both mum and baby
Despite my good intentions, it is not lost on me that I may undergo the same ailments I had during my first pregnancy. These may negatively impact on my food intake and to also affect my baby’s need for vital nutrients that support growth, development and health throughout life.
I’ve learnt that what my baby receives from me during my pregnancy can impact on the diseases they may suffer from when they are an adult.
Most women endure three common ailments during pregnancy: nausea, heartburn and constipation. If you are taking this journey as a first-timer or, you are adding one more baby to your beautiful family, these few tips can help alleviate your symptoms.
Nausea affects about 70% of women and usually occurs around weeks 9-10, becoming milder and often stopping around weeks 16-20.
- Eat little and often – every 2 hours is quite acceptable.
- Eat dry toast, crackers and breakfast cereals.
- Cold foods like fruit and vegetable salads are often better tolerated.
- Avoid strong smelling foods.
- Avoid fatty and sugary foods.
- Ginger helps alleviate nausea – try ginger biscuits and grate fresh ginger into hot water.
- Vomiting causes dehydration – drink little and often.
Heartburn affects 30-50% of pregnant women and usually gets worse as the pregnancy progresses.
- East small and regular meals and snacks.
- Avoid chocolate, fatty foods, alcohol and mint – they relax oesophageal muscle so that acid from the stomach regurgitates up into the oesophagus more easily.
- Avoid acidic and spicy foods that may irritate mucosa (tomato, citrus fruits and juices, vinegar, hot pepper, curry, etc.).
- Eat slowly.
- Drink between meals rather than with meals.
- Don’t eat near bedtime.
- Sleep well propped up, not flat.
- Consult your doctor before taking antacid medications – some antacids can bind iron in foods, making it unavailable for absorption.
Constipation affects 35-40% of pregnant women.
- Drink plenty of fluids which should include 6-8 glasses of clean, safe water a day.
- Increase intake of foods rich in fibre (wholewheat bread, brown rice, wholegrain cereals, fresh and dried vegetables and fruits, especially prunes and figs).
- Consult your doctor about iron supplements as they can cause or aggravate constipation.
- Exercise regularly.
I now realise that it is only after I have thought about proper nutrition for me and my baby, that I can start thinking about other issues such as what to call her /him. Well… who am I kidding as l already have the names I want in mind – they are just subject to discussion. The only problem is that I have to discuss them with the father and, grandparents on both sides who am sure will have their favourites.
But no matter what name we choose, I will ensure that this is a healthy pregnancy and good nutrition will be at the core of my planning.