Category Archives: Prenatal nutrition

The history of prenatal stimulation

Prenatal stimulation and the effects that external factors such as music could have in maternity have been studied about for years. Chinese culture and several philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Confucius spoke about prenatal responsiveness, its relation with fetal environment and behavior, as well as the fetus’ cerebral function.

According to several studies done since the 1920’s, babies are able to perceive and react to outside stimulation. Therefore, prenatal stimulation can help develop the senses even before birth. Some of these studies are:

• Albrecht Peiper, a doctor from Leipzig University, he used a speaker to stimulate a baby’s hearing in the womb and found fetal reaction
• Psychologists David Escanda and Donal Hebb affirmed that early stimulation changes the brain, after stimulating the fetus’ hearing and seeing a sensorial reaction
• Rene Van de Carr developed a method of prenatal stimulation after watching fetal reactions to abdominal touch

On the other hand, Dr. Brent Logan, headmaster of the Prenatal Institute in Seattle, and Dr. Thomas Verny, founder of the North American Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology Association, have dedicated their lives to investigate the effect that external environmental factors have on the fetus and prenatal stimulation. They both have published and designed methods to stimulate the baby’s development from the womb.

Nowadays, and thanks to technology and scientific research, we know that a baby is able to react to a wide range of outside stimulation. It’s recommended that you use some stimulation techniques to help your baby before {he/she} is born.

Caffeine intake and its risks

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), caffeine intake must be limited to less than 200 mg per day, and ideally cut out completely. Caffeine trespasses through the placenta, meaning your baby is completely exposed to it. Besides, it takes your baby much longer to process it, so {he/she} is exposed to its effects much longer than you. Studies have shown that consuming over 400 mg of caffeine per day during pregnancy are associated with cleft palate, low birth weight, and preterm birth. Consuming it in smaller doses is associated with increased heart rate and increased activity; it’s also associated with lower calcium and iron levels, which are already low during pregnancy.

On the other hand, reducing your caffeine intake will also help you avoid insomnia, headaches, and heartburn. The longer you’ve been pregnant, the longer it will take for your system to process it, which means that the effects of caffeine will be stronger than usual.

Some caffeinated foods or beverages include tea, coffee, sodas, energy drinks, chocolate, and desserts. To guarantee your baby’s healthy development lower the intake of any caffeinated food and beverages. If you’re big on tea or coffee, you could start reducing your intake or try decaf. Remember that sometimes there’s caffeine in the food you’re not expecting to contain it, so it’s better to double check and keep track of your daily caffeine intake.

Weight gain during pregnancy

Your ideal weight during pregnancy is given by your Body Mass Index (BMI), which comes from your height and weight. Your weight gain should depend on how much you used to weigh before getting pregnant. For example, if you were underweight before being pregnant, you’ll gain around 12 and 18 kilograms. On the other hand, if you were above your ideal weight, you’ll gain around 7 to 12 kilograms. It’s estimated that around 50% of women gain more weight than recommended. This could be due to anxiety or cravings, which are very common during pregnancy. A bit of extra weight will do no harm, but gaining more than recommended could result in your baby being too big, which could complicate the birthing process.

In order to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy, it’s recommended to watch what you eat, and exercise according to your physical abilities. It’s important to know that your baby’s healthy development does not depend on how much you eat; it depends on how well you eat. So, remember to consume lots of fruits, veggies, and proteins during pregnancy. If you have cravings you can create some delicious and nutritious treats that satisfy your sweet tooth while adding a nutritious punch. For example, if you’re craving chocolate, why not prepare some strawberries dipped in chocolate. This way you can quench your desire while eating food that will benefit for your baby. Remember that eating twice as much is not necessary. Instead, aim for healthier nutrient-filled meals,  that boost your baby’s development.

Risks of alcohol during pregnancy

According to WHO (World Health Organization), around 276.000 newborns die each year due to some birth defect. The birth defects could be an effect from the environment, genetics, or an infection. Although it’s hard to pinpoint a specific reason for the anomaly, alcohol consumption is the main cause that could have been prevented.

The consequences that come from alcohol consumption are also known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FAFB). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAFB) is the gravest and it embodies a series of physical, learning and behavioral issues. Some symptoms or signs of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are: facial and hearing abnormalities, heart, bone and kidney issues, intellectual disability, low birth weight, small head and short height,  vision impairment, and language delays.

There’s no cure for this syndrome, however, early treatment and intervention could reduce the fatalities and enhance the baby’s development. For example, behavioral therapy, special education, early diagnosis (before the baby is 6 years old), a stable and peaceful environment, and parents who are trained to deal with this issue could all make a huge difference on the baby’s future development.

If you’re pregnant, remember that alcohol consumption isn’t safe at any stage. Alcohol must be completely cut through your whole pregnancy.

Fluid retention

Why do we retain fluids during pregnancy and how can we prevent it?

Swelling is common during the third trimester given that you carry a larger quantity of liquids in your body. But, why does your body retain so much liquid? One of the reasons is that your uterus keeps growing and places pressure on your blood vessels. These blood vessels are important to get the blood from your limbs to your heart and since blood gets a harder time flowing, your body retains more liquid. For this reason, you might experience swollen ankles and edemas.

Swelling due to liquid retention should not be alarming, but you should pay attention: if it’s accompanied by headaches, high blood pressure, or an alteration in your vision and these could indicate preeclampsia. You should go to your doctor as soon as possible since it can be risky if not attended on time.

To ease fluid retention, follow the tips below:
•Get moving! Make sure to get some physical activity that requires legwork for at least 20 minutes
•Keep your legs high for at least 20 minutes twice a day. You could do this while you watch TV
•Avoid sun and heat
•Don’t use heels that are too high or socks that are too tight
•Sleep on your side
•Eat potassium, since it helps reduce liquid
•Limit sodium intake and excessive amounts of salt in your food

Remember that liquid retention and swelling is completely normal during pregnancy, but could be reduced with the above tips. Just remember if you experience swelling along with other symptoms, this could be a sign of preeclampsia, so consult your doctor right away if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above.

Fighting indigestion

Your body goes through a wide range of changes during pregnancy, including hormonal fluctuation. This causes your body and digestive system to relax, which is why indigestion is so common during pregnancy, accompanied by abdominal distention, reflux, and heartburn.

The further you are in your pregnancy, the bigger the chance of suffering from indigestion. Symptoms tend to intensify during the third trimester. The following tips could help keep these pesky symptoms at bay.

As fake as it might seem, constipation does have a bright side. While it could be inconvenient, your baby takes this opportunity to get even more nutrients, since your digestive system becomes slower to process food. So, you could try some alternatives to feel better and manage the symptoms.

1. Avoid caloric food and overeating. Be mindful of your weight during the first trimester, since gaining too much of it could worsen your stomach ache as your belly grows
2. Try keeping your feet elevated, or taking a walk after eating instead of lying down right away. This will let your body work on your digestion
3. Wait for at least two hours after dinner before going to sleep, and make sure to eat a light dinner
4. Avoid carbonated drinks and food that is slow to process (like fried food and cake)

The benefits and risks of fish

It’s recommended that pregnant women eat food rich in omega 3, bit it’s also important to avoid seafood with high levels of mercury. So, the question is: Should you or should you not eat fish during pregnancy?

According to the FDA, a pregnant woman should eat about 8 to 12 ounces of fish per week, given its wide range of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, protein, and omega 3. These nutrients are key for your baby’s brain development. However, there’s seafood that contains high levels of mercury, which could have a negative effect on your baby’s development. The important thing is to be able to tell the difference between fish high mercury and fish that doesn’t.

Why be careful?
It has been proven that food with high levels of mercury is related to a baby’s delay in development. Also, remember to eliminate consumption of raw seafood since it could contain harmful bacteria. This is why it’s key that you pay attention to your seafood consumption during pregnancy.

Here’s a list of fish that you can consume due to their wide range of nutrients and low mercury levels:

•Mackerel
•Clams
•Haddock fish
•Wild salmon
•Ostrich
•Crab
•Trout
•Tilapia fish
•Squid

Don’t forget to avoid raw fish and eat a maximum of 12 ounces of fish per week!

Foods to avoid

When it comes to your diet during pregnancy it’s recommended to eat certain foods and eliminate others, since their consumption could have repercussions on your baby’s development. It’s important that during your pregnancy you pay close attention to the food you eat or plan on eating.

Some questions you could ask yourself as a cautionary measure are: Is this food prepared with clean hands and instruments? Is it well cooked? Is it in good condition? Is it expired? Does it contain too much caffeine? Do these fish contain high mercury levels?

Here’s a listing of things you should AVOID eating or drinking during pregnancy:

•Raw fish or meat, fish or meat that has been exposed to high mercury levels, or that is unpasteurized
•Raw meat or raw poultry, for example, sausage, salami, pork sausage, cured ham and turkey
•Unpasteurized cheese or milk
•Raw egg (be it cake batter, mayo, homemade salsa or any other food that contains raw egg)
•More than 200mg of caffeine a day
•Alcohol
•Unpasteurized fruit juice
•Pre-cooked salads and foods (they could contain an expired ingredient)

Don’t forget to talk to your doctor if you have any questions!

Portion control

Minding quantity and quality of the food you eat during pregnancy is important. Calculating portions could be tricky if you don’t have a measuring cup at hand, however, you could use your own hand to measure food portions. Here you’ll find a list of equivalents in measurements and quantities.

Your hand will be the measurement instrument; you’ll get portions and even calculate calories! Your fist is equivalent to a cup so every food that needs this measurement will be one portion. This measurement is useful to calculate carbs such as rice and pasta. Likewise, it could be useful to estimate portions of fruits and vegetables.

If you open your hand you’ll be able to calculate meat portions. With your hand stretched open to focus on your fingertips. The tip of your thumb equals a teaspoon, which is useful for sugar and fats such as oil and butter. Two index fingers are equivalent to a portion of cheese, or processed meats such as ham.

Close your hand again. Every fistful is equivalent to an ounce. This is useful for nuts, grains, dry fruit, and chips. When it comes to bread and tortillas, you must remember that your hand is only useful for length, not thickness. Your portion should not exceed your hand and in the case of bread, it shouldn’t be thicker than your pinky finger.

Getting a hang of portions should be way easier now that you know measurements. Mind the packaging information when it comes to chips and precooked meals, or use small bowls to measure them.

When and how do I consume folic acid

The importance of consuming enough vitamin B9 (folic acid) is widely known. However, there’s little information as to when it’s appropriate to begin its consumption. Every good habit requires discipline, planning, and follow-up. Folic acid is no exception. When it comes to taking folic acid you should plan ahead, and start taking it months before getting pregnant so that when the baby needs the nutrients, the mother’s organism is prepared.

On the other hand, people who are already pregnant must begin taking folic acid as soon as possible. Time is of the essence! Several studies have shown that consuming it a few weeks before and after conception is key to the baby’s health since {his/her} nervous system starts developing very early in gestation.

Consumption of food that is rich in vitamin B9, such as cereals, veggies, green peas, beans, and citric fruits will benefit your baby’s development.