There is a direct link between maternal (mothers) health and the long term health of her baby. Both mothers who are obese and mothers who are severely underweight increase the risk of complications both during pregnancy as well as post birth. A mother that enters a pregnancy with chronic obesity is at a high risk of developing diabetes as well as having a baby that is extra big for his gestational age.
As the study from Pittsburg university points out, the link between infant death and the mother’s weight is correlated to some degree. Other similar studies have called this the 1000 day metabolic set up. This means that in the first 1000 days of a child's life - conception to the end of the toddler years will establish a child's metabolism as well as predisposition for developing lifestyle diseases later on in life like type two diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
So here are four golden rules to ensure you give your child the best start in life:
1. Prior to conception aim to reach a healthy body mass index (relationship of weight to height)! Do this by:
Choosing real, unprocessed foods, lots of fresh vegetables, raw fresh seasonal fruit and nuts, and seeds.
Choose high quality organic protein foods, eggs, chicken, fish and lean red meats are all good options
Incorporate healthy fats like avocado, coconut fats and olive oils.
Drink fresh water and herbal teas
Limit sugar intake and treats to once a week.
2. Relaxation and time out. Life is so busy and fast. Take some planned time out from the rush of life. Switch off cell phones and social media.
3. Get enough sleep - aim at 7-10 hours per night. Everyone is different and has different sleep requirements, whatever yours are you will know you have had enough when you wake up feeling rested.
4. Spend time in nature and being creative. This goes a long way to a healthy and happy mind and soul.
Points 3-5 are not directly nutrition related but research shows that people that have these in place tend to choose healthier, more natural foods. When we manage our stress, the body decreases the secretion of adrenalin and thus less insulin is produced which helps lower risk of metabolic syndrome (a leading cause of obesity, diabetes and infertility)
To conclude, pregnancy is no longer a license to eat for two but rather an awakening of and desiring to nurture and love one’s body by choosing healthy, natural and unprocessed foods. '
Kath Megaw - paediatric dietician and co-author of Feeding Sense
This may seem a little odd, but your pregnancy journey actually begins two weeks before your baby is even conceived. The main reason for this? It’s very difficult to determine exactly when your egg becomes fertilized, so the date of your last period provides the most accurate starting point. This stage is called the Gestational Age.
There’s no baby yet, but during ovulation your body is prepping itself to welcome an embryo into the womb, and all the sperm are swimming their hearts out to reach the finish line so they can be the one who fertilizes the egg. Your uterus is in overdrive preparing for the potential arrival of a fertilized egg.
You may have already started tracking your ovulation calendar so that intercourse can take place at the best time during the ovulation period. This is usually two weeks after your period begins. This means that your baby’s Fetal Age, which starts when the egg is fertilized, will be two weeks less than the Gestational Age.
Keep track of your menstrual cycle and monitor your ovulation dates so that you and your partner can have fun beneath the sheets at the best baby making time. Check out the Ovulation calendar here and pinpoint your dates.
Ovulation tests can also help determine when you’re ovulating, so stock up on a few so you have them on hand when needed.
Now would also be a good time to quit smoking and avoid excessive drinking. Do a stock take of what’s in your pantry and start investing in healthy fruit and vegetables that’ll provide you and your growing baby with all the right nutrition.
This is a big week for your body: you’ve ovulated and conceived, and now your little miracle has started its very early stages of development. Here’s where they start changing from a single cell into either a baby boy or girl. This all takes place once the fastest swimming sperm crosses the finish line and makes its way through the outer layer of the egg. The now single-cell, fertilized egg, also known as a zygote, quickly forms a protective barrier to prevent other swimmers from entering. Sorry sperm, there’s only room for one champion!
This week is all about fertilization and implantation. Your little sprog will make the big journey from your fallopian tube to your uterus – a journey that takes up to six days. Once it has arrived at the destination, it’ll settle into your uterus wall, and cosy up for the next nine months. Did you know that by now, the gender, eye and hair colour have already been determined?
At this stage you’ll probably won’t know that you’re pregnant, but your body is already working tirelessly around the clock to create a little human. You may notice a bit of spotting at the end of this week. This is known as implantation spotting, and it’s due to the egg nestling its way into the uterine. But the spotting will be very mild and most women don’t experience any at all.
Whilst most women won’t feel a significant change to their bodies at this stage, there are some signs that may begin to show, such as a rise in your body temperature or a heightened sense of smell.
Go out and buy a few early detection pregnancy tests. We always advise more than one as you’re bound to want to test yourself a few times before you can quite believe the news J.
For best results, do the test first thing in the morning.
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve probably just found out that you are pregnant (or are about to find out). This could be a moment of complete joy or utter surprise but either way, take this time to process what it all means and share the news with your partner (but don’t post it all over Facebook just yet). This is the embryonic period – from now until 10 weeks, all of your baby’s organs will begin to develop and, amazingly, some will even begin to function. At this stage you should still be feeling little, or no symptoms at all, since most pregnancy signs have not kicked in just yet; but we still recommend booking an appointment with your gynecologist or doctor to confirm your pregnancy. Also, take the time to discuss suitable supplements you should be taking to give your baby the best start in life.
Your baby, now known as a blastocyst, is still teeny tiny, and no bigger than the size of a poppy seed. But important developments are already starting to take place as they nestle into their new home, your uterus. The ball of cells then splits into two, with one half becoming the placenta, the other becoming your embryo.
Whilst most pregnancy symptoms are not obvious now, you may be one of the ‘lucky’ few who are already experiencing the early signs of pregnancy. Symptoms can include breast tenderness, moodiness, and a heightened sensitivity to smell. Bouts of nausea may also be hitting you in your near future, and bloating may soon be a common occurrence thanks to the pregnancy hormone progesterone.
Book your first prenatal visit with your GP or gynaecologist to confirm your pregnancy.
Buy a good prenatal vitamin that includes folic acid.
Calculate your due date
By now a large majority of expectant moms will have found out they’re pregnant. You’ve missed your period, and as early as five weeks you should be experiencing the first telltale signs of pregnancy due to those wonderful pregnancy hormone levels playing havoc on your body.
Your little cherub, now the size of an apple seed and measuring a tiny 3mm, is growing at an alarming rate, and will double in size over the next week.
This is the stage where your embryo looks like a tadpole, with a basic head and tail. Your embryo is now made up of 3 layers – the ectoderm, the mesoderm, and the endoderm – these layers work together in the upcoming weeks to form all of the necessary organs and tissues. At just five weeks, your baby is already starting to develop major organs: the heart, stomach, kidney and liver.
Your body is starting to go through the most dramatic internal changes, and you might start to feel the side effects. Symptoms vary from woman to woman, but common signs include sore breasts, fatigue, frequent urination and bouts of nausea, often referred to as morning sickness. These symptoms are just the start of the changes your body is about to go through. But remember that it’ll all be worth it in the end, so hang in there. Fortunately for most, some of these pregnancy symptoms subside after the first trimester, which is often referred to as the toughest. So be kind and gentle on yourself by getting plenty of rest – it’s hard work creating a human.
It’s important to stay fit and healthy throughout your pregnancy, so if you’re not already active, start following a gentle exercise routine that you can maintain throughout.
Take the time to read about what foods to avoid during pregnancy and stock your pantry with healthy snacks that’ll nourish both you and your little one.
By now your body is in full baby production mode, and you’re probably experiencing all those symptoms that moms complain about. But don’t despair! It’s not for nothing. All those hormones that are making you feel queasy, tired and bloated are also helping to develop your baby. At just six weeks, crucial organs are being developed, including the ability to circulate blood through their tiny but sophisticated circulatory system.
This week your baby is the size of a small sweet pea and measuring a tiny 6.3mm. Some major developments are starting to take place and incredibly, as early as six weeks they’re starting to grow eyes, a nose, ears, chin and cheeks, which will eventually form that beautiful little face you’re so excited to see in person, and that you’ll smother with kisses on their future birthdays. They may even be wiggling their little limbs already. Their heart is starting to beat at around 100 to 160 times a minute, which is almost twice as fast as yours and if you’re lucky, you may just be able to detect it on an ultrasound examination.
You may not be noticing much on the outside, but internally your body is undergoing rapid changes and making room for the new guest. If you can’t find your partner, look under the bed or in the cupboard – they’re probably petrified and hiding from your sudden mood swings. Moodiness is normal. The emotional rollercoaster is caused by your fluctuating hormones, and the simple fact that your body is undergoing big changes. This is bound to affect even the toughest of cookies. Other ongoing symptoms this trimester may include fatigue, sore breasts, frequent urination, bloating and nausea.
Start writing down a list of questions for your first prenatal checkup – Dr ‘Google’ doesn’t have all the answers, so rather seek advice from a professional you know and trust.
Take time to look into some of the things you should avoid doing while pregnant, whether it’s lifting heavy objects or cleaning out the cat litter. We don’t want you to become paranoid about being pregnant, but just be aware of the general do’s and don’ts whilst enjoying this little miracle growing inside of you.
You’re now in the thick of your first trimester, and your hormones are flying everywhere. Things are progressing rapidly, and by now you’ve probably had time to soak up the enormity of what’s happening inside your belly – in less than nine months you are about to become a mom! Your baby is growing daily, and while it’s still tiny, it’s already a remarkable 10 000 times bigger than four weeks ago and has doubled in size from last week.
Your little one is now the size of a blueberry and measures around 13mm. At seven weeks most of your baby’s growth takes place in the head. New brain cells are being generated at a rapid rate – 100 new brain cells every minute. Another exciting development is the hand and feet buds begin to sprout (and before you know it, those little buds will be fully fledged limbs that will be punching and kicking you later in the pregnancy to remind you that they’re there). Their little mouth and tongue are also starting to form, and very soon their permanent set of kidneys will be up and running.
Nausea may be in full force, your saliva production may have increased, and frequent trips to the bathroom have become standard practice. This is because your uterus has doubled in size, putting pressure on your bladder. Your kidneys have kicked into overdrive to clean out your system, and the Hcg hormone triggers an increase in blood flow to the pelvic area – which causes you to produce more urine. A bout of ‘teenage’ acne may also be rearing its ugly head, which probably won’t do anything to help your already emotional state – just blame the hormones. Although your bump isn’t really showing yet, your breasts are probably starting to give your secret away. By now they could have grown a full cup size in just seven weeks. They may also be incredibly tender and itchy as the skin stretches to accommodate the larger size. You may also notice that your areolas have already gotten darker and larger – all in preparation for breastfeeding.
Now would be a good time to give your medical aid a call to see what they cover during pregnancy and labour.
Take some time to review both you and your partners family medical history, as your caregiver will ask about any genetic or chromosomal disorders within the family. This just helps guide them during prenatal tests.
You’ve reached the two month mark already (just 32 weeks to go) and by now your body has gone through all sorts of incredible changes. Although your bump may not be visible, your womb has already doubled in size, so those perfectly fitting pants may be starting to feel a bit snug around the waist, and those favourite comfy bra’s of yours might be digging into your skin due to your ever-expanding breasts.
Your baby is the size of a raspberry and weighs in at 1 gram and measures 16mm. Your little one is growing about a millimeter a day this week and is slowly starting to look less like a tadpole and a little more like a baby. Webbed hands and feet are starting to develop and they are starting to move their limbs up and down frantically. Their tail is just about gone too. Although the sex of your child was determined during conception, it’s still too early to tell if it’s a boy or girl. At this early stage, your baby is already developing taste buds.
Your hormones are still freaking out, and a heightened sense of smell will be one of the many pregnancy symptoms you may encounter at this stage. This probably doesn’t help the already queasy feeling you might be experiencing throughout the day. You may also find that you suddenly can’t stand the sight and smell of your favourite treats and have an absurd craving for food that previously had you running for the hills. Also, don’t be alarmed if you’re having bizarre dreams, it’s a common occurrence during this stage. Your body has kicked into overdrive, so if you’re feeling extra fatigued or extremely hungry it’s primarily because your hormones and body are still trying to adjust to the rapid changes taking place inside of you. If you’re feeling absolutely exhausted, make sure you take time to rest.
By now you should have booked your appointment with your gynae (which should be coming up soon).
Go out and purchase a few comfortable items of clothing, including one or two bras. Don’t go too crazy on the shopping spree though, not because we don’t think you deserve it, but your rapid change in body shape will be sending you back to the shops in a few weeks time.
Your baby has reached a milestone as it officially leaves the embryo status and moves up the ranks to become a fetus. This means your baby is developing into a proper little person. On another happy note, you only have four weeks left to go before the first trimester comes to an end, and those pesky pregnancy symptoms that have most likely caused you to break down and cry a couple of times will now begin to subside. Your trip to the gynae should also be an exciting one as you’ll most likely be able to hear the heartbeat, which will make everything seem a bit more real.
At nine weeks, your new housemate is the size of a grape and roughly 25mm long. All their essential body parts are intact but still require plenty of fine-tuning. At this stage your baby’s head has straightened out and is much more developed. New organs such as the liver, spleen and gallbladder are forming too. With each passing day, your baby is starting to look more human. Their fingers, toes and knees have developed, and hair follicles are also starting to form.
Don’t be alarmed if the scale is slowly starting to creep upwards. View it as a positive sign that your little one is growing nicely. You should be gaining anywhere between 500g – 2kg. Sadly frequent trips to the toilet, fatigue, nausea, nasal congestion and headaches are all still very much part of your daily routine thanks to your pregnancy friends: your hormones.
Most couples decide to make their exciting news public after the 12-week mark, so start thinking of some fun ways to make the announcement to friends, family and colleagues.
Now would also be a good time to find out what the company policy is around maternity leave as well as discuss with your partner how to budget for the little one’s arrival. It may seem too early to think about finances, but eight months will be up before you know it.
Decide whether you want to know the sex of your baby. The scan is coming up soon and they might just be able to tell what you’re having (if baby behaves on the day).