We usually lay a lot of emphasis on the pregnancy and postpartum diet, however, a new study suggests that a gene called VTRNA20-1 which is responsible for reducing the risk of future diseases for a developing baby is directly related to nutritional status of a mother before pregnancy.
A mother’s pre-pregnancy diet is directly related to the foetus’s genetic makeup and immunity. If a mother is nutritionally deficient before conception, it may lead to radical and permanent change in the unborn child’s genetic makeup responsible for immunity and future risk of cancer.
Factors That Determine The Health Of The Unborn Child
A mother’s environment, nutritional intake, and mental health status determines the long term health of the unborn child.
Few nutrients are said to be extremely essential for a healthy pregnancy and should be included in a women’s diet in the pre-pregnancy period. Some babies are born with spina bifida, brain defects, preterm births, or underweight babies which is directly related to a mother’s pre-pregnancy weight and nutritional adequacy.
As soon as the egg is fertilized, the embryo starts using the mother’s nutrient stores to support its growth. Essential nutrients like Zinc, Iron, Folic Acid are needed to support development and growth of the main body organs in the developing foetus.
How Does Good Nutrition Before Conception Help?
Let’s look at the role good nutrition and the lack of it play during pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and childbirth.
- Women in the higher BMI range have an increased risk for pregnancy induced diabetes or high blood pressure which can lead to improper foetal development. This could affect generations to come! It is extremely essential to monitor weight and be in a BMI range that is below 25.
- Folate or Vitamin B9 is a very important vitamin for the development of the brain and spinal cord of the baby. Deficiency of which can cause neural tube defects or Spina Bifida, where the backbone encasing the spinal cord doesn’t develop properly, exposing the spinal cord. This can lead to intellectual disability or paralysis which might be carried on to generations to come as a hereditary issue. Folic acid is a very essential nutrient found in nuts, legumes, orange and yellow fruits.
- Calcium is extremely important not only for the unborn child but also for the mother to maintain good nutritional status. As the embryo grows, it starts drawing minerals like calcium, zinc and magnesium from the mother’s body. Inadequacy of these nutrients might lead to poor bone development, poor muscle and nerve fibre expansion. In turn, the mother’s bones also weaken, putting them at risk of osteoarthritis in the future.
- Iron is required in good amounts in maternal stores to prepare the mother’s body for the needs of the foetus during pregnancy. Anaemia or iron deficiency is related to increased foetal morbidity. Affected mothers may experience breathlessness, fainting, tiredness, palpitations, and sleep difficulties. Most of the iron transfer to foetus happens in the third trimester and is the most important phase where iron reserves of the mother should be extremely good. A good iron reserve ensures that the blood supply in the developing baby is proper and any blood loss that happens during delivery doesn’t prove to be fatal for the new mother.
In short, if a mother’s diet and nutritional status are poor before conception, it might lead to a plethora of adverse outcomes that might continue for generations to come.
I hope this write-up helps to-be mothers lay more focus on correcting their nutrition before conceiving which helps them as well as their unborn babies to be at a lesser risk for any genetic or nutrition-induced life threatening outcomes!
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