The time in your life where you decide to try for a baby can lead to a huge mix of emotions, excitement, nervousness, confusion, and uncertainty. Obtaining the right information regarding diet and health at this time can also be overwhelming. It can be even more confusing when you add diabetes on top of it all, so it’s important to ensure you seek out information from your experienced diabetes team. Here are some tips to consider before falling pregnant.
The most important recommendation prior to falling pregnant is to ensure you’ve had a full health check-up, including a visit to your diabetes team and dietitian. Your diabetes team will help ensure your blood glucose levels are as controlled as possible - which will increase your chances of falling pregnant and delivering a healthy baby with a lower risk of complications.
Pregnancy is a period of rapid growth and development for the foetus, as well as maternal physiological change. During this time, suitable nutrition, including adequate intake of micronutrients and macronutrients, is essential during pregnancy to help with the growth and development phase (Effect of Women’s Nutrition before and during Early Pregnancy in Maternal and Infant Outcomes: A Systematic Review). Likewise, undernutrition and overnutrition during pregnancy are associated with adverse outcomes, where it can result in an increased risk of diseases diagnosed in childhood and into adulthood. It’s just as important to have adequate nutrition prior to conceiving.
Prior to pregnancy, it’s important to choose foods that are nutrient dense but not energy dense. Choosing a wide variety of foods from each group will help you to meet your increased nutrient needs. It may be necessary for you to eat more food during pregnancy, however keep in mind that good nutrition in pregnancy is about the quality of the food that you eat, not the quantity. Nutrient-dense foods include:
During your check-up with your doctor, ask them to also check your vitamin B12, iron, and vitamin D levels before you start trying for a baby, as it’s important to correct any deficiencies. You may be required to take a pregnancy multivitamin if you are unable to get enough nutrients through your diet. Pregnancy multivitamins can provide a top up of calcium, B12, vitamin D, folate, iodine and calcium, but if you are deficient prior to pregnancy this might not be enough.
If you drink alcohol it’s also important to reduce this below risky levels well before conception. Less than 1 standard drink a day and 2 alcohol-free days a week is recommended by most government health authorities for adults. While there is no recognised safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, alcohol can cause malformations to embryos as it impacts foetal growth and development across all stages of pregnancy (Alcohol Use and Pregnancy Consensus Clinical Guidelines). Abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy can help to eliminate the risk of alcohol-related birth defects and development disabilities, for example Fetal Alcohol Sprectrum Disorders. So, once you begin trying for a baby it’s recommended that you abstain from alcohol entirely.
It’s also important to be as close to a healthy weight as possible prior to conception. Have a chat to your doctor or dietitian about a healthy weight for you, as just a few kilograms can make a huge difference in the ease of falling pregnant, risk of complications in pregnancy, and the long-term health risks for both mum and bub.