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Why good maternal nutrition is the best kick-start to life

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With all attention focused on nutrition during Poshan Maah, Dr Jaideep Malhotra, Past President – Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) and MD, ART-Rainbow IVF & Global Rainbow Healthcare explains why good maternal nutrition is the best kick-start to life. She believes that the nine months of pregnancy is a good window of opportunity to optimise many parameters as no other period of her life a woman comes under constant medical supervision and this time should be utilised as a strategic time for proper knowledge dissemination for health promotion and disease prevention

“You are what your mother eats”

No other better time, than today, did we understand this, as extensive research defines molecular basis to explain to us the links between mother’s nutrition and food practices and a child’s growth and future health.

Foundation of health and many adult diseases are laid in utero and with India marching ahead to be the most populous country in the world, adding over 26 million births every year. These humongous numbers make us contribute largely towards most of diabetes, obesity, malnourished, anaemic mothers and preterm births of the world.

Our age old traditional practices of antenatal care are replaced by the modern know how and lifestyles. So much so that today, over 50 per cent pregnant mothers are anaemic, 25 per cent are malnourished, 10 per cent are obese, diabetic, and hypertensive. These not only affect the mother, but are influencing the outcomes of our future generations too.

This has led to a strong belief that nutritional interventions at the right time can have very effective and prolonged benefits on protecting and promoting health. We can very easily say that good maternal nutrition is best to kick-start life.

Pregnancy is one of the most wonderful experience in a woman’s life, yet it is crucial and dynamic too, with intense foetal growth and development, as well as maternal physiological changes, all taking place at the same time. We need to emphasise on the nutritional status, not only during pregnancy, but more importantly in the preconception period which adds a lot of value to the health of both mother and child.

Ideally women trying to conceive should come for a health and readiness for pregnancy assessment at least three months before starting to plan. This gives enough time to assess, counsel and start required nutritional supplementation. Nine months of pregnancy is a good window of opportunity to optimise many parameters as no other period of her life a woman comes under constant medical supervision and this time should be utilised as a strategic time for proper knowledge dissemination for health promotion and disease prevention.

On one hand we have evidence that maternal nutrition has effects on the babies, apart from foetal growth retardation, preterm births, and metabolic syndrome in later life, what we still have not been able to find is, conclusive evidence for the beneficial effects of specific nutritional supplements for women of reproductive age.

Needless to say, come whatever may, most of the women gain excess weight and precipitation of gestational diabetes and hypertension lays the foundation of many epigenetic changes and long-term health implications. It becomes mandatory that correct nutritional and lifestyle guidance should be provided to all pregnant women in order to avoid, long-term health repercussions on both mother and child.

We do understand that optimal nutrition during pregnancy must include apart from proteins, carbohydrates, fats, all micronutrients essential vitamins and minerals, with special emphasis on folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin C, including eight to 12 glasses of water.

It is also important that the pregnant woman is aware, from which food she would get all these essential nutrients. Diversification of her daily diet with consumption of minimum of five different food groups would provide all those essential nutrients for the appropriate growth of the foetus.

Clear instructions on what to be included and what to be excluded from diet of pregnant women is most important like avoiding alcohol, endocrine disrupting foods, toxins, pollutants and ensuring proper food safety practices to avoid food borne illnesses and their long-term effects

Many adverse symptoms during pregnancy can be taken care of by simple dietary modulations, like nausea, vomiting, bloating, heartburn and enema. Sky is the limit for the choices available for foods and tackling aversions, no longer one has to succumb to unhealthy food cravings and food supplementations. Recipes and nutritional value of everything one eats are available on the click of a button on your phone.

Today many apps are available which can provide a day to day guidance on almost every information required and one such app “Nutrimeter App” which provides is a distinctive tool developed to provide quantification for measurement of the dietary intake by pregnant women and provide guidance and the other is “IMumz” that has recently been awarded second position in the Aatmanirbhar Bharat App contest. The aim of this app is quite clear, to provide knowledge and guidance on holistic approach towards pregnancy and is a useful companion for any pregnant woman.

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