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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How long should I be focusing on my diet for before getting pregnant?


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    Melanie McGrice is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian, one of the few dietitians in Australia to achieve that status. Her success has made her an … View Profile

    In an ideal world, it is recommended to start focusing on dietary changes 12 months before trying to conceive as you need time to improve the health of your eggs and build up your nutrient stores. However, it’s a case of ‘better late than never’ and there’s a lot that we can do in just a few weeks.

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    Amanda Benham

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    I am an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist specialising in plant-based nutrition for optimal human health and sustainable ethical eating. www.humanherbivore.comMy specialty is helping … View Profile

    In an ideal world we would all eating well, achieving optimal and a healthy wieght all the time. Unfortunately this isn't the case, so planning ahead and improving out diets well before trying to become pregnant is definitely recommended.  I'd suggest 6 months ahead as a minimum, if possible.

    Good nutrition is important for a healthy pregnancy and foetal health, and these are the strategies I recommend for women planning a pregnancy:

    1. Make your diet more nutrient dense by focussing on minimally processed plant foods (whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds) and minimising your intake of "empty calories" from foods that are high in calories but not in nutrients - such as fried foods, oils, butter/margarine, sugary drinks/foods, refined grains (such as white flour products) and alcohol. 

    2. Aim to be in the "healthy weight range" for your height, as this can reduce risk of health problems during pregnancy.

    3. Getting enough of all essential nutrients is important, and nutrients that I recommend paying particular attention to include:

    Folate, vitamin B12, iodine, vitamin D, iron and the omega 3's DHA and EPA.

    For people on plant-based diets (my area of specialisation) I recommend they boost their intake of these nutrients with a prenatal multivitamin supplement, plus additional vitamin B12 (as this vitamin is not always well-absorbed from a multivitamin) and an algal-derived DHA/EPA supplement.  

    I tailor the brand and dose of each of these to suit the individual, depending on their diet, the results of blood tests and particular health needs.

    I definitely recommend anyone considering a pregnancy consults an Accredited Practising Dietitian for dietary advice before tyring to conceive.

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