A Short guide for Hong Kong Mums
In the lead up to Mothers Day, I wanted to write something dedicated to Mothers-to-be in Hong Kong.
To start with the obvious, a Mother’s health and wellness have a direct influence on a child’s health during pregnancy. I’ll cover the factors that affect a mother’s overall health during pregnancy such as diet and lifestyle, and also touch on factors such as chronic stress, toxin exposure, alcohol, smoking and nutrient deficiencies.
Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet
The growth and development of a baby require a large amount of energy and nutrition. So it is important to consume a nutrient-dense diet throughout pregnancy. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet also supports weight management, energy levels and hormonal health throughout and following pregnancy.
Eating a variety of clean foods will help provide the body with the nutrients you require to feel your best. Dietary patterns associated with poor maternal and fetal health include sweetened foods and beverages, foods high in saturated fats, red/processed meats and refined grains.(1)
Equally important is establishing solid habits and routines around consuming a healthy diet.
For example – it’s a lot easier to keep a well-balanced diet when you have the right foods available in the fridge. It’s a lot easier with simple and easy recipes that you enjoy creating at home ready. Now is the perfect time to develop healthy habits to nurture your overall health and wellbeing.
- Include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in every meal
- Eat a variety of vegetables
- Include high-quality proteins with each meal
- Choose quality healthy fats high in essential fatty acids
- Swap simple carbohydrates for complex carbohydrates
- Include high fibre foods to support gut bacteria and a healthy bowel
- Plan your meals, make a list and prep for the week
The emotional and physical benefits of engaging in regular physical activity throughout your pregnancy will help improve overall fitness as well as provide a number of physical and mental benefits like increasing your energy and managing your stress.(2)
Exercise during pregnancy has shown to:
- Increase ability to cope with physical demands of pregnancy and motherhood
- Faster recuperation after pregnancy
- High energy levels
- Stress relief
- Weight management
- Aim for 30 mins of movement each day
- Include low-intensity exercises such as walking and swimming
- Include stretching and gentle pregnancy yoga or pilates
- Listen to your body when you are unsure
Supplementing to support a healthy pregnancy
The nutrition status of a woman before and during pregnancy plays a key role in the overall health and wellness of the mother.(3)
A number of women who enter pregnancy are already nutrient-depleted, as a result of a poor diet or confusion around available supplementation. Nutrient availability during pregnancy can significantly influence maternal health (e.g. energy levels) and affect the growth and development of the baby and recovery after birth.
The increase in nutrient requirements during pregnancy might catch you unawares, which might result in fatigue, brain fog, digestive disturbances. Supplementing alongside adequate dietary intake helps to support nutrient levels and prevent nutrient deficiencies. There are some OTC supplements that are popular but they are not always the best option to support your body. There are some over the counter formulas that do not contain certain nutrients that are essential to pregnancy or contain nutrients in forms that may be difficult to absorb.
Specific nutrient needs throughout the phases of pregnancy differ and relying on diet alone may be difficult to meet the needs of both the mother and baby. That’s why the right supplementation is highly important.
The following nutrients are important to support the health of the mother and child.
Supports DNA and genes and may reduce the risk of birth defects affecting the brain and spinal cord. Chose folate in the form of folinic acid or 5-MTHF, not the synthetic version – folic acid.
Supports foetal brain development and maternal thyroid health and energy levels throughout pregnancy.
Supports a healthy pregnancy, foetal central nervous system – brain health and cognitive function. For example – some over the counter formulas do not contain this important nutrient.
Supports vision and nervous system development – helps to protect the brain
Omega 3 essential fatty acids
DHA supports healthy foetal brain development and nervous system development as well as eye structure and function.
Supports calcium absorption, foetal bone development, healthy birth weight and immune function.
Iron supports maternal blood volume as it increases throughout pregnancy, energy levels and foetal brain development.
Supports normal cell division, hormone metabolism, gene expression, protein synthesis and immune function and foetal growth and development.
Specific probiotic strains help to maintain maternal glucose balance, gastrointestinal health and immune function and support foetal microbiome development. (Note: you will not find probiotics in pregnancy formulas)
Tip: Make sure you talk to a healthcare professional about your own individualised needs to support you throughout preconception, pregnancy and after birth.
Manage your stress
Chronic stress can impact your overall wellbeing. It can leave you feeling flat, exhausted, drained and affect your overall physical and mental wellbeing. It’s important to be aware of what triggers stress in your life and learn the best ways to help you manage it and de-stress. Note: this is different for everyone.
If you are consuming caffeine throughout the stages of your pregnancy be aware that overconsumption may elevate cortisol levels and contribute to your overall stress.
During pregnancy, it is recommended to limit your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams a day – one shot of espresso coffee has approximately 100mg of caffeine.(4)
- Yoga and meditation
- Breathing exercises
- Ground yourself in nature
- Rest and sleep
- Enjoy herbal teas
- Speak regularly to your support group