For most mothers-to-be, pregnancy is the time when they begin to eat a balanced and nutritious diet. Few women realise that it is important to prepare their bodies before planning a pregnancy. Being well-nourished and of a healthy weight at the time of conception is one way of helping to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Grossly underweight or overweight men and women have reduced fertility and higher miscarriage rates. Obese women have problems with ovulation while massively obese men have reduced sperm count.
Under-nutrition at the time of conception is also associated with a higher rate of perinatal mortality and low birth weight. Nutritional imbalances during the early stage of pregnancy could have an adverse effect on early foetal development. This nutritional vulnerability will be present even before the pregnancy is suspected, which highlights the importance of planning ahead.
Pre-conception nutrition counselling by a dietitian can help to ensure that healthy eating habits are adopted by the time conception occurs. Pre-conception nutrition care is especially important for the following groups of women:
While planning a pregnancy, it is also advisable to stop smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs inappropriately as important stages in your baby's development start right after conception.
Lastly, women who are planning a pregnancy should not make drastic changes to their diets or take over-the-counter nutrient supplements without their doctor's or dietitian's advice.