Did you know that the best time to prepare for a healthy pregnancy is before you get pregnant?
#1 Important fetal developments happen before you find out you’re pregnant
Over half of pregnancies are unplanned. That means most women don’t find out they’re pregnant until they miss their period. By that time, your baby’s gestational age is already 4 or 5 weeks old, and a lot of your baby’s foundational development has already happened.
By 4 weeks old, your baby’s neural tube that becomes your baby’s brain and spinal cord has fused closed. Why does that matter? Well, remember that nutrient folate everyone talks about? A deficiency in folate before the neural tube fuses together, can lead to birth defects like spina bifida and other malformations of the brain and spine.
So, the best thing to do, if you’re of childbearing age and could get pregnant, is to take a good-quality prenatal supplement and eat a lot of folate-rich greens. Check out my article on folate to see why it’s important to get a good prenatal with folate in it and not folic acid.
Even if you don’t plan on becoming pregnant for a little while, I know women who take prenatal supplements just because they can see a difference in better skin, healthier hair and stronger nails – which are all good signs that your body is getting enough of the vitamins and minerals it needs.
I started taking prenatal supplements before I found out I was pregnant because I wanted to build up my nutritional stores. This was actually really fortunate because I WAS PREGNANT and didn’t even realize. I didn’t find out I was pregnant until Week 10 of my pregnancy because I didn’t think I could get pregnant (I only had one period that year).
I thought that the fatigue and nausea I was experiencing was “jet lag” because we had just flown back from Australia and I wasn’t feeling myself. I just put the extreme fatigue, nausea and irritability down to the fact that I was exhausted from travelling ;) I’m so grateful I had started prenatal supplements because my baby was already forming and growing inside of me without me even knowing…
#2 Morning sickness might prevent you from eating a well-balanced diet
Over two-thirds of women experience nausea and vomiting throughout the first trimester and sometimes, into their second or third trimester.
Some women feel so sick during the first trimester that they can’t hold down much food.
Other women (and myself included), crave only carbs in the first trimester. The sight of salad made me nauseous for the first half of my pregnancy, and my normal healthy diet saw an appearance of a lot more white bread, noodles and pasta for the first few weeks.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of whole wheat bread and pasta during pregnancy, but white bread and crackers aren’t going to provide optimal nutrition for your baby when your baby needs it most. That’s why building your nutritional stores before you get pregnant is invaluable, so you can be more relaxed if you can’t eat as healthily as you’d like in those first few weeks of your pregnancy, especially if you’re battling with morning sickness.
#3 You can build up your nutritional stores to sustain you throughout pregnancy
I like to think of nutrition before and during pregnancy as depositing into your nutritional “bank account”. Each healthy choice you make is depositing a bit more into that account, for your baby and you to withdraw from during pregnancy. If you, mama, don’t get enough certain nutrients, you yourself are more likely to experience certain pregnancy side-effects such hair loss, anemia, digestive issues, fatigue and a lower immune response.
You can start depositing into that account now, so you have adequate nutritional stores before your baby is conceived.
This is especially the case for fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E, K and minerals such as calcium, chromium and iron. These guys are stored in your body over a long period of time so you can boost your body’s nutritional stores of them to help you and your baby during pregnancy.
What if you didn’t get a chance to prepare?
If you didn’t get a chance to “prepare” for your pregnancy before you found out that you were expecting, don’t worry, it’s never too late! You’re so much better off making those changes now than never.
Wanting to change is the first and most important step to a healthy pregnancy.
It is not easy to start to unhealthy change eating habits you’ve had your whole life so I really congratulate you on your willingness to want to start making healthier choices…
Even one small change like getting more greens into your day, or cutting out soda, or replacing a white flour muffin with whole-wheat toast, makes a difference!
My health journey started years ago and it took me time to learn to make healthier choices. Slowly these changes became second-nature to the point that I now love making healthier choices… I couldn’t imagine any other way but I know how overwhelming it can be at times.
When I felt far away from a goal or something I wanted to achieve, this Chinese proverb really spoke to me:
Pregnancy and motherhood is a journey... and it’s better to take the step of being healthy for your baby and the mother you want to be, now than, never right?! ;)
You got this, bella mama!