Health Tips
Stay healthy by reading wellness advice from our top specialists.

Pregnancy is a very sensitive period of time that plays an important role in not just your newborn's physical but also mental health. The nourishment that a mother gets is transmitted to the baby and so are negative effects of certain habits like smoking, drinking alcohol and taking too much stress. While some believe that you must completely avoid alcohol and also smoking cigarettes during pregnancy, some say that an occasional drink may be alright. But a new study, conducted by researchers from King’s College London and the University of Bristol, clearly indicates that consumption of alcohol, smoking cigarettes and exposure to stress can cause certain epigenetic changes at birth that can make the child more prone to aggressive behaviour.

Epigenetic changes refer to external modifications to the DNA that turn the genes ‘on’ or ‘off’. According to researchers, these can leas to conduct problems in children later in life such as fighting, lying and stealing. The team believes that children who show early-onset of conduct problems are much more likely to turn aggressive and indulge in antisocial behaviour as adults.

The researchers explain that kids who develop conduct problems before the age of 10 are at a much higher risk of severe and chronic antisocial behaviour and it is believed that genetic factors that can play an important role in influencing the degree of risk. The team used data from Bristol’s Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to examine the link between DNA methylation at birth and conduct problems from the ages of four to 13. DNA methylation is an epigenetic process that regulates how genes are ‘switched on and off’.

In addition to this, they also measured the role of environmental factors that have been previously linked to early onset of conduct problems such as maternal diet, smoking, alcohol use and exposure to stressful life events. The results showed that epigenetic changes at birth in seven sites of the DNA were different for those who developed early-onset of conduct problems in comparison to those who did not. Further, it was found that some of these epigenetic differences were also linked to smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy.

Previous studies have shown that exposure to maternal smoking and alcohol is associated with developmental problems in children, but this study established that it can also increase the risk if conduct problems. Therefore, it is best to avoid alcohol and smoking during pregnancy for the safety of the child and the mother.

Pregnancy is an extremely crucial phase in a woman's life. A host of complications can get triggered even on slightest of slip-ups. Proper, well-balanced diet is of the utmost importance along with regular physical exercising and adequate rest. Preeclamsia is a condition wherein a pregnant woman experiences elevated blood pressure late in her pregnancy - usually after 20 weeks or so. Although the condition is known to have no definite cause, experts link it with poor nutrition, high body fat or inadequate blood supply to the uterus. Women who have a history of high blood pressure or preeclamsia, those suffering ailments like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or obesity are more susceptible to the condition. Some of the most common symptoms would include headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, weight gain among others.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, apart from associated medication, proper nutrition and a well-balanced diet may help treat the condition better. The following points must be kept in mind.

1. Since the condition is primarily associated with high blood pressure it is better to keep a check on your salt intake and regulate it.

2. Hydration is important. Drink plenty of water along with other natural fluids like coconut water.

3. Fried and junk food should be off limits.

4. Caffeine intake must be monitored.

5. Avoid smoking or alcohol consumption completely.

6. Rest properly and get regular physical activity.

A recently published study has happened to have established a link between aspirin consumption with significantly decreased risk of developing preeclampsia. "The results show that aspirin can prevent preeclampsia in high risk pregnancies. We hope that this will alter clinical practice and improve pregnancy outcomes for mothers and their babies," added David Wright, Professor at University of Exeter.

Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure, swollen feet, ankles and face and severe headaches. The findings showed that women who took low-dose aspirin (150 mg) in their first trimester of pregnancy showed a 62% decrease in the rate of pre-term preeclampsia that results in delivery before 37 weeks.

According to the World Health Organization, low-dose aspirin may help prevent preeclampsia in women at high risk and should be started before 20 weeks of pregnancy.

You may often find yourself in a tough spot when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet. With the easy access to junk food and our super busy lives, it is tough to strike a balance and maintain a healthy diet at all times. Now, imagine sharing the great responsibility for two people instead of one! Maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy is very crucial. In this special phase, a woman's body needs additional nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Missing out on any key nutrients may negatively affect the baby's development. Poor eating habits during pregnancy may also result in birth complications.

Health Practitioner and Macobiotic Nutritionist Shilpa Arora ND tells us, "It is especially important to load up on nutrients and micro-nutrients during pregnancy like calcium and iron for strength and energy, vitamin D for bone health. Protein from lentils and eggs, and fibre you find in complex grains like ragi, jowar and amaranth, are also required. It is also important to nourish yourself with healthy fats you find in nuts and seeds. Loading up on fruits and a variety of veggies is especially important to derive micro-nutrients. Keep yourself hydrated at all times, be it with water, coconut water, or chaach."
Consultant Nutritionist Dr. Rupali Dutta shares, "Starting with total calories, the first trimester does not require any additional intake and so the RDA of 1900 calories is adequate (for a sedentary woman). From the second trimester, an additional 350 calories are recommended to be consumed. To achieve this goal, intake of nutrient dense foods like whole grains, millets should be promoted. Oils are a concentrated source of energy; additional calories from healthy fats can be included from natural sources like nuts and seeds." Here are some foods that you can include in your pregnancy diet.
1. Lean meat

Proteins are often known as the 'builder nutrients'. They are essential for the baby's organ development. Proteins are essential not only for the baby's growth and development, but also for the mother's body requirements and the wear and tear happening within. Low fat meat comprises of good quality protein, other good protein sources include eggs, nuts and milk.

meat
Low fat meat and chicken are good sources of protein


2. Salmon

Fish is a good source of protein and calcium. Salmon also contains a decent amount of Omega-3 fatty acids which are good for your baby's brain and eyes along with lots of protein.

salmon
Salmon is a powerhouse of nutrients for pregnant women


3. Lentils and legumes

Vegetarians can achieve their protein targets by a combination of lentils like moong, bengal gram, black gram, green gram and red gram which are also rich sources of folic acid. Rajma, soya bean are also good sources of protein.

pulses and rice
Lentils and legumes are a good source of protein for pregnant women


4. Amaranth

Amaranth is rich in folate and iron. Folate or folic acid is a B-group vitamin essential for the healthy development of the fetus in early stage of pregnancy. It also plays a crucial role in the brain development of the baby and helps support the placenta.

amaranth flour
Amaranth is rich in folate and iron


5.Green leafy vegetables

Green vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, kale and spinach, include fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium, which are amongst the most vital nutrients needed by a pregnant women. They are also rich in iron. Both the mother and the child need iron to enable red blood cell formation. .

broccoli


6. Whole Grains and Flour

Whole-grain breads and cereals are fortified with folic acid, iron and fibre. Opt for whole grain breads, whole wheat pasta or brown rice over their refined counterparts. Ragi, Jowar and Bengal gram flour should be used instead of maida or all-purpose flour.
flour


7. Dairy Products

A calcium-rich diet is highly recommended for expecting mothers. Calcium is essential for maintaining the health of the mother's bones and to ensure proper bone and teeth development of the baby. Milk and milk products are the best sources of bio-available calcium. Low-fat yogurt and paneer are full of good quality calcium and proteins. Milk is a rich source of calcium and proteins

milkshakes

The care and nurture of a child begins months before he or she steps into the world. These dietary advises are sure to go a long way to ensure you and your child is getting the best nutrition.

Pregnancy demands good nourishment for the health of the baby and mother. Well planned meals made with fresh ingredients provide all the nutrients required. The basic principles of a healthy diet remain the same, which means each meal should provide macro nutrients like - Proteins, Carbohydrates, and fats and micronutrients including vitamins and minerals in adequate amounts.

Some of the definite must haves for a healthy pregnancy are:

1. Proteins: Proteins are essential for the healthy growth of the foetus and to maintain the mother’s health. Proteins form the building blocks for blood, bones, organs, muscles and tissues. Inadequate protein intake can lead to severe malnourishment. Your daily diet should have an additional 0.5g of proteins in the first trimester, 6.9g in the second and 22.7g in the third trimester. So you need about 78g of proteins in the third trimester.

2. Folic acid or Folate: Folic Acid is very essential for preventing neural tube defect, serious abnormalities of the spinal cord and brain. It is also helpful in increasing birth weight, synthesis of haemoglobin and reducing the incidence of pre-mature births. The recommended allowance is 500micro g/day

3. Iron: In the form of haemoglobin, Iron is essential to carry oxygen in our blood. During pregnancy the body needs to increase the blood volume to meet the demands of the growing foetus, hence more Iron in the diet is essential. Anemia is one of the leading causes of premature birth and low birth weight. Indian women need 35mg/d of Iron during pregnancy.

Non vegetarian sources are considered better as the iron absorption is more enhanced. To improve iron absorption from vegetarian sources, adding a Vitamin C source helps. So squeezing some lemon on the food, or adding a tomato salad or just an amla improves absorption.

4. Calcium: Calcium is needed to build healthy bones and teeth of the baby and for the production of calcium rich breast milk and prevention of osteoporosis in the mother. ICMR has listed the daily Calcium requirement for pregnant women at 1200mg. An important factor in choosing the source of calcium is its bioavailability- Milk is one of the best sources of biologically available calcium.

5. Vitamin A is required for healthy vision, immune function and foetal growth and development. Mothers are susceptible to Vitamin A deficiency particularly in the third trimester because of rapid foetal development and an increase in the blood volume. Including Vitamin A containing foods like animal sources such as milk, butter, egg and fish or Beta carotene rich vegetarian sources in daily diet can help achieve the daily requirement of 800µg of Vitamin A or 6400µg of beta carotene.

Pregnancy could prove to be an overwhelming time for some. It is natural to be confused understanding your body's demands during this time. If it is your first time, it gets all the more baffling. Your diet is suddenly under the radar. When it comes to pregnancy, everyone seems to have a tip or two. It is very essential to be able to tell myths from facts and pay heed to advices only from trustworthy sources. Eating a balanced diet that's rich in vitamins and minerals is the best way to support a growing baby say experts. Healthy breakfasts are a must too; make sure it is a good mix of protein, vitamins and fibre. Folate, or folic acid, is a B-group vitamin essential for the healthy development of the foetus in early stage of pregnancy.

Experts say that a pregnant woman need not make drastic changes to her diet in the first trimester; no additional intake is particularly advised. From the second trimester onwards, an additional 350 calories are recommended to be consumed. Nutrient dense foods like whole grains and millets are good to be included in decent quantities around this time; leafy greens veggies and antioxidant rich fruits are also a must. Pregnant women should steer clear of junk and oily food; they are concentrated sources of unhealthy fat, which may cause gastric problems and nausea.

Pregnant women need to be very mindful of the nutrients they are taking. Health Practitioner and Macrobiotic Nutritionist, Shilpa Arora ND tells us, "It is important to load up on nutrients and micro-nutrients during pregnancy like calcium and iron for strength and energy, vitamin D for bone health. Protein from lentils and eggs, and fibre from complex grains like ragi, jowar and amaranth are also required. It is also important to nourish yourself with healthy fats you find in nuts and seeds. Loading up on fruits and a variety of veggies is important to derive micro-nutrients. Keep yourself hydrated at all times, be it with water, coconut water or chaach. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol are also not very advisable."

Dr. Mohita Goyal, Consultant - Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Motherhood Hospital, Pune, also hands out some dietary dos and don'ts to ensure during pregnancy:


Dos That Every Pregnant Woman Must Ensure

1. Have frequent and small portions in meals. Make sure your small meals are filled with ample nutrients.
2. Eat fibre-rich diet like whole cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables to avoid constipation.
3. Consume extra protein and calcium-rich foods like dairy products, legumes, egg, sweet potato etc.
4. Drink plenty of water to wash away the toxins and prevent urinary tract infections.


Don'ts That Every Pregnant Woman Must Ensure

1. Avoid foods that are high on fats/sugar/salt/oil.
2. Avoid alcohol/lots of caffeine.
3. Avoid high mercury fish, under cooked meat, raw sprouts and raw eggs.
4. Avoid unpasteurised milk, cheese and fruit juice.

Dr. Anu Sridhar, MBBS, MD (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) Consultant Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road says, "Even after birth, a mother's diet is equally important. A good nutritional diet helps a mother in her body recovery phase and gives her the energy she needs to take care of her baby. To ensure that the baby is well nourished, it is important for the mother to drink an adequate amount of fluids and eat a balanced normal diet."

Lean meat, lentils, amaranth, brown rice and whole grains are some foods that pregnant women are often advised to include in their diet. However, every mother's body is different. If something is not suiting you or is causing even a minor discomfort, you must consult your gynaecologist.

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