Preeclampsia is a condition that usually develops in the later stages of pregnancy and is marked by high maternal blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling of the hands and feet. Fetal complications can include low birth weight, premature birth, and stillbirth. The only definite treatment for preeclampsia is delivery.
Avoiding preeclampsia is not the only reason to get serious about good nutrition prior to pregnancy. Experts agree that developing good eating habits and establishing appropriate levels of vitamins and minerals in the body before becoming pregnant is just as important as what is eaten during pregnancy. Aside from the overall benefits of good nutrition, developing better eating habits before becoming pregnant makes it easier to eat healthfully during pregnancy. Furthermore, many women may become pregnant without realizing it right away.
Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight, or underweight, can directly affect a babys birth weight and increase the risk of complications during pregnancy. Underweight women tend to have a higher risk of giving birth to a low-birth weight baby, while overweight women are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, complications during delivery, and have overweight children.
FACT: Up to 38% of pregnancies occur in women who are overweight at conception.
There are three key nutrients that are especially important to get enough of before and during pregnancy.
Important for: Development of the fetus (especially the brain and spinal cord) during the first months of pregnancy. Adequate folic acid intake has been shown to prevent neural tube birth defects.
How much? Women of childbearing age should consume 400 µg per day of folic acid from fortified foods, supplements, or both, in addition to folate contained in a varied diet. Almost all prenatal vitamins contain at least the minimum recommended amount of folic acid.
Where to find it: Folate is found naturally is green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits as well as fortified cereals and other fortified foods.
Important for: Keeping bones healthy before and during pregnancy. It is important to build up bone mineral density before becoming pregnant to compensate for the added stress and calcium requirements during pregnancy.
How much? 1300 mg/day for women aged 14-18, and 1,000 mg/day for ages 19-54.
Where to find it: Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium as well as some vegetables like broccoli, and calcium fortified foods such as orange juice, soymilk, and many breakfast cereals.
Ideally women trying to conceive should start taking a prenatal multivitamin before they become pregnant. It is possible to get almost all the nutrients needed with a well planned diet, however many women do not meet this standard. Think of a multi as an insurance policy for your most precious possession!