Planning Pregnancy and Pre-Pregnancy Diet

Planning Pregnancy and Pre-Pregnancy Diet

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 6 Jun 2013 - 09:10

Why should one plan the pregnancy?

Even before a woman notices that she is pregnant, not only the fetus but also the fetal brain would be well formed and other tissues are in full growth phase. The growing fetus requires many nutrients for its growth. So, diet plays a major role in the outcomes of good pregnancy. However in developing countries like India, very few people talk about pregnancy planning. Unplanned pregnancies often lead to still births, maternal deaths, frequent abortions, fetal abnormalities and low birth weights.

To support the growth phase of the baby, first the mother should be well nourished and be physically fit. So, pregnancy planning is very important. Women who plan their pregnancies well and take good nutritional supplements and do adequate exercise before and during pregnancy are known to give birth to healthy babies with good birth weight.

The nutritional requirements of all the macro and micro nutrients are quiet higher before and during pregnancy to promote the best growth of the implanted fetus.


How to plan the pregnancy

Woman’s over all health status is very important before one plan for pregnancy. Factors to be considered include:

  • Body weight: Women planning for pregnancy must maintain their BMI at normal level. This is because conditions like obesity/ over weight often increases the risk of metabolic diseases like insulin resistance, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and decreases the rate of conception.


  • Nutritional supplements: Even women with low weight often suffer with miscarriages, as they cannot provide sufficient nutrients to the growing fetus in their womb. Hence low weight women should take good nutrient supplements (including good calories, vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fat) and improve their body weight and BMI before planning for pregnancy.


  • Physical activity: It is very important to maintain your body physically fit to bear the child. For this purpose a regular (daily) physical activity like walking at least 2kms/ yoga/ any other exercises will help you to put yourself physically healthy.


  • In case if you are diabetic, better to consult your physician and put your blood glucose levels under control.
  • If you are suffering with Polycystic ovarian disease (cysts in ovary), first consult your gynecologist to avoid miscarriages.
  • Healthy men too get certain health check ups done before planning for pregnancy. This is not only to avoid communicable diseases but also to be cautious in following a good lifestyle and reducing stress which normally affects male fertility.
  • Avoid eating uncooked meat to avoid entry of parasites into the body.
  • Avoid both active and passive smoking. Strictly say no to alcohol consumption. Avoid drugs which are not prescribed by the doctor.
  • Avoid exposure to chemicals like lead, mercury and other toxicants
  • Also check if you are vaccinated for certain microbes like Rubella and Chicken pox as these often result in birth defects and miscarriages
  • Keep yourself away from stress as it increases the risk during pregnancy.


Pre-pregnancy diet

  • Take adequate calories. Women planning for pregnancy should increase her calorie intake. Eat adequate grains like rice, brown rice, wheat, whole wheat, barley, oats, corn meal etc.
  • Take good protein diet. Proteins are very useful for making your body physically ready to bear the child. It helps in body growth and repair mechanisms. Good protein diets include nuts, beans, peas, seeds, eggs, milk and fish. Although non-vegetarian foods like poultry and meat are a good source of protein, taking them in lesser quantities is advisable as they are rich in saturated fat. Meat should be well cooked.


  • Take healthy fats in the diet that are good sources of essential fatty acids. These normally include safflower oil, sunflower oil, rice bran oil etc. Avoid fats in the form of junk foods and fast foods. Avoid oil reheating. Use fresh oils for cooking.


  • Folic acid and B complex vitamins (especially B12) are very important for the neural tube formation and healthy nervous system of the growing fetus. Their role in the growth of the fetus start as early as 1st week of pregnancy and play a significant role in brain and neural tube formation/ closure by 28th day of conception. Their deficiency results in neural tube defects in children. Hence these micronutrients should be taken as supplements before planning for pregnancy. 400 micro grams of folic acid supplementation and 2.8 micrograms of vitamin B12 are recommended each day.


  • Foods rich in folic acid include green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, and liver. Non vegetarian foods alone are good sources of vitamin B12. In case if you are a vegetarian, better take vitamin B12 supplements.


  • In adult women regular menstruation often results in low iron stores in the body and many women especially in developing countries like India are anemic. However, for providing good respiration to your growing fetus, first mother should have sufficient hemoglobin levels. Good dietary sources of iron include green leafy vegetables, broccoli, turnips, green peas, dry beans, organ meats such as beef, lamb & liver, poultry such as chicken, duck, turkey etc., iron enriched white bread, wheat, pasta, rice and cereals.


  • Vitamin C increases the bioavailability of iron and is also very much useful for healthy bones and teeth. It is abundantly present in citrus fruits like lemon & oranges, amla, tomatoes, guava and banana.


  • For planning healthy pregnancy, women should consume at least 1000mg of calcium daily through diet. An additional 400mg of calcium is required during pregnancy. Calcium deficiency during pregnancy forces the fetus to take up calcium from mother’s bones that result in osteoporosis in mothers in their later life.


  • Eat all vegetables and fruits in plenty. This will satisfy multiple micronutrient needs of the body.


In conclusion, it is always recommended to plan pregnancy before hand to avoid the risks for both the mother and the child. It is advised to take healthy balanced diet with good physical activity and maintain a positive mental state, to give birth to a healthy child.