Dr. Lela Emad of the Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group discusses the latest findings on diet and nutrition among women and offers some guidelines for women planning for pregnancy.
A new study by the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences uncovers a national trend toward a less than optimal diet among women prior to pregnancy. “This information is particularly concerning for women who intend to conceive,” says Dr. Lela Emad of the Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group of Santa Rosa. “It’s imperative that prior to pregnancy, women follow a higher standard of nutrition for several reasons; to ensure healthy growth of the fetus, to reduce risks associated with premature birth, and to avoid the possibility of preeclampsia and maternal obesity – both of which carry added risks to the mother and baby.”
The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, assessed more than 7,500 women participants using the Healthy Eating Index-2010, measuring quality of diet including the intake for key food groups, while also measuring the consumption of less desirable aspects of a typical American diet such as refined grains, salt and calories from solid fats and sugars from food as well as from alcohol consumption.
Ultimately, more than a third of the calories the women in the study consumed came from ‘empty calories’ from such things as;
- sugar-sweetened beverages,
- pasta dishes
- grain desserts
- beer, wine and spirits
“This list consists of just about everything we would recommend a woman who was in a preconception phase to avoid,” Dr. Emad points out. “A healthy diet goes a long way toward ensuring a healthy pregnancy, and planning ahead for pregnancy by participating in a Preconception Healthcare Plan is one of the best things a woman can do both for her baby and for herself.”
What is Preconception Healthcare
Preconception healthcare describes medical care provided to a woman that is designed to increase the chances of having a positive pregnancy experience and a healthy baby. Preconception healthcare is uniquely designed for every individual, customized for personal needs and circumstances. It typically offers an introduction to guidelines for a healthy diet as part of the overall education and planning process.
“We encourage parents – that is, both parents – to begin making healthy lifestyle changes up to one full year prior to trying to get pregnant,” explains Dr. Emad. “This process improves a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant and prepares her body so it can provide the best environment for her infant.” During a preconception care visit, the OB/GYN healthcare provider will focus on lifestyle, medical and family history, previous pregnancies and currently prescribed medications. In addition to diet and exercise, topics may include alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use; recreational drug use, birth control, family histories, genetics as well as health issues and other concerns (diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, obesity, etc.)
Healthy Diet and Supplements
“We also encourage our patients and their families to adopt a nutrient rich and calorie conscious diet prior to and during pregnancy. This is the best way to prevent excessive weight gain and cut the potential risk of obstetric complications,” says Dr. Emad. “Planning ahead and taking steps to ensure optimal pre-pregnancy health is a great way to create a healthy family.”
Learning how to make smart food choices as well as being mindful about food preparation is important, as is knowing which foods to avoid or limit during pregnancy. Foods that contain sources of folic acid (vitamin B9) are important nutritional elements to incorporate into both the preconception and pregnancy diet. Folic acid helps to prevent some birth defects – particularly those affecting the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid is best taken before pregnancy and in the very early stages of pregnancy.
Although the bulk of nutrients should ideally come from eating fresh healthy foods, it is generally recommended that women start taking a prenatal vitamin supplement before pregnancy. Prenatal vitamin supplements are specifically formulated to contain all the recommended daily vitamins and minerals needed before and during pregnancy.
About Women’s OBGYN Medical Group
The Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group strives to better the lives of all women with a holistic approach to women’s health. To learn more about these fine physicians and the many services provided by the Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group visit the website. Call for an appointment at (707) 579-1102.