Recently, Bridget Swinney MS, RD, LD, an expert on prenatal and child nutrition, gave a talk entitled, “ You Are What Your Mom Ate: The Prenatal Nutrition Environment and It’s Effect on Long Term Health.” I will relay much of the information presented during this talk via this blog post. She discussed some of the impacts that improper diet and environmental insults can have on the fetus. Women of child bearing age, especially those planning on eventually having children, should eat properly to ensure the health and well-being of any future offspring should they become pregnant. High risk pregnancies can result from improper nutrition and lifestyle choices (i.e. alcohol and or drug use, sedentary lifestyle) prior to the woman becoming pregnant during the first trimester. Visual and cognitive deficits can result from improper distribution of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in the diet as well as low levels of DHA. Additionally, preeclampsia may come about due to improper intake of Mg, Ca, Vit D, Zn, folate, and vitamins B6, B12, D. Inflammation and bone density are also the result of inadequate nutrient intake. Whether the woman is undernourished or excessively nourished, the unborn child has an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and future weight problems. She defined excessive nutrition as having the following four criteria: generally overweight prior to pregnancy, exhibiting excessive weight gain, high blood glucose and imbalance of a macronutrient. Overweight expectant mothers are more likely to have gestational diabetes, a 60% increased chance of having a child with autism, children with high body fat, among other health issues. Those woman who suffer type 1, type2 or gestational diabetes have an increased likelihood of giving birth to a child with macrosomia which also predisposes the child to health problems later on in life. The criteria used to define undernourished expectant mothers are as follows: being underweight, not able to gain adequate weight, nutritional deficits, and issues with delivering nutrients to the fetus. The undernourished expectant mother will have a smaller placenta which makes it more difficult to pass on nutrients to the fetus. Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals or EDC’s (i.e industrial chemicals, BPA, phthalates) can be harmful to the fetus. These chemicals can lead to low birth weight, obesity, reproductive issues, diabetes as well as cancer. High fat meats and skins of poultry and fish should be avoided as they store many of these industrial chemicals. Heavy metals in the environment can also lead to spontaneous abortions, birth defects and learning problems in children. The fathers diet and lifestyle choices also affect the health of the offspring. Environmental toxins, alcohol, drugs and inadequate antioxidant intake can all affect the quality of the sperm.
Having a diet high in fiber improves glucose tolerance and decreases the risk of gestational diabetes according to Ms. Bridget Swinney. She also encouraged lean beef, more specifically the “BOLD” diet or Beef in Optimal Lean Diet which encourages lean beef intake and plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans. She also notes that adequate dairy intake can increase placental weight and reduces the incidence of preeclampsia.
To summarize her recommendations, having a nutrient rich diet, obtaining protein from a variety of sources, having a proper balance of macronutrients in the diet, including dairy with probiotics in the diet, consuming healthy fats like DHA, and monitoring weight before and during pregnancy and exercising for at least 30minutes daily should benefit expectant mothers in their goal of having a happy and healthy pregnancy. Check out the link posted below detailing the Institute of Medicines guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy! http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2009/Weight-Gain-During-Pregnancy-Reexamining-the-Guidelines/Resource%20Page%20-%20Weight%20Gain%20During%20Pregnancy.pdf