How Diet Can Make a Difference
- During pregnancy your body adjusted its metabolism to ensure that your baby was top priority. Nutrients were directed to your baby where needed to ensure your baby’s optimum development.
- If a nutrient was not readily available then your stores would be left depleted – this leaves women very susceptible to nutrient inadequacies after birth, particularly when breastfeeding and after multiple births. Nutrient stores at highest risk are iron, folate, iodine, vitamin B12 and calcium. Vitamin D may also be a problem if sun-exposure is low.
- Nutrient inadequacies are more common than you would think especially in people who consume a typical western diet (high in sugary, high-fat, processed foods and low in fruit and vegetables).
- To replenish your nutrient stores and keep you healthy as a new mother eat a large variety of healthy foods and make an effort to regularly consume foods rich in iron, folate, iodine, vitamin B12 and calcium (vitamin D from exposure to sunlight will allow calcium absorption from your gut).
- Your energy comes from what you eat (protein, carbohydrate and fat), as well as from the breakdown of carbohydrate and fat stored in your body
- The Glycaemic index (GI) (external) is a useful indicator of the rate of conversion of carbohydrates in food to glucose for use as energy. High GI foods provide quick energy but the slower energy release of low GI foods is more beneficial to general health.
- A variety of nutrients such as B group vitamins and iron are needed to maximise your body’s production and use of energy.
- Eat regular meals and snacks to maintain your body stores of ready energy. This is particularly important if you are breastfeeding because of increased energy needs.
- You will feel more energetic when you eat healthy foods. Choose a variety of foods, such as wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables, dairy foods, meat, fish, chicken and legumes. . These will provide all of the nutrients that you need to maximise your body’s production and use of energy. See postnatal healthy eating guide
- Foods high in carbohydrate such as wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables, dairy foods and legumes are an important source of energy. Choose those with a low to medium Glycaemic index (GI) for longer lasting energy
- Mood and levels of energy are affected by fluctuations in blood sugar levels, associated in turn with what and how often we eat.
- Levels of important brain neurotransmitter chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine are affected by protein and carbohydrate in our diets. These brain chemicals affect the way we think, feel and behave.
- Strong research evidence links adequate vitamin and mineral intake, particularly folate, B vitamins (thiamine, niacin and vitamin B12), calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, with improved mental health and mood. These nutrients are important for chemical reactions in the brain and other nerve tissue.
- Omega-3 fatty acids have an important role in brain function but levels are low in critical parts of the brain of people with depression. Whilst current research is inconclusive about the value of omega-3 supplements in prevention and treatment of depression, new evidence shows that an imbalance with omega-6 fatty acids may be important.
- Food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances can cause mood and behaviour changes in some individuals.
- Consuming a variety of healthy foods each day is sufficient to
ensure adequate intake of nutrients that improve mood.
About healthy eating after pregnancy.
- Eating regular meals can help avoid mood swings.
- Omega-3 is found mainly in oily fish, nuts and seeds
- Consuming a variety of healthy foods each day is sufficient to ensure adequate intake of nutrients that improve mood. About healthy eating after pregnancy.
- Many nutrients help to maintain the immune system, so a varied, balanced diet is important to help readjust your immune system after pregnancy (some elements are suppressed and others are boosted due to hormone changes during pregnancy).
- Loss of blood during the delivery, the demands of breastfeeding and fatigue from interrupted sleep and care of a newborn place extra stress on the immune system.
- Eat the recommended amounts of each of the milk, protein, cereal, fruit and vegetable food groups in the healthy eating guide.
- Choose a variety of fruit and vegetables every day for the different vitamins and minerals needed to help combat sickness See managing healthy eating.
- Pain from birth trauma, sutures and codeine-based pain relief medication can lead to constipation soon after birth
- Breastfeeding increases requirements for fluid to be used in milk production. Insufficient fluid intake by nursing mothers can cause hard dehydrated stools that are difficult to pass
- Iron supplements and some medicines may slow down bowel activity
- Fibre increases the water-content of stools making them easier to pass
- Physical activity promotes gut movement and therefore regular bowel movements
To reduce constipation:
- Increase your fibre intake. Foods high in fibre include fruit, vegetables, legumes, wholemeal and grainy bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta and wholegrain cereals.
- Drink plenty of water throughout each day as fibre needs fluid to have its beneficial effect. On average, breastfeeding mothers need an extra litre per day. Drink a cup of fluid each time you feed your baby
- Exercise regularly as it promotes gut movement and therefore regular bowel movements. More about physical activity
- If you are taking an iron supplement and having problems with constipation, try switching to a liquid form – discuss this with your health care professional
- Weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy and most women are heavier than their pre-pregnancy weight after having the baby
- Whilst weight loss is not a high priority in the first few months after your baby is born, a healthy diet and regular physical activity to maintain good health and energy will help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight.
- Rates of type 2 diabetes linked to unhealthy diet and lifestyle are increasing and at a younger age.
- Women who experience gestational diabetes (diabetes that starts in pregnancy) have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
- A healthy diet, healthy weight and regular physical activity can reduce the risk of diabetes for everyone.
- Your weight is important - the more fat tissue you have the more insulin resistant and prone to diabetes you will be.
- Reducing fat intake and managing the type, frequency and amount of carbohydrate are key dietary steps towards preventing both gestational and type 2 diabetes
- Review your diet to reduce intake of fat and unhealthy carbohydrates. See the diet tips in the gestational diabetes. The same principles apply after birth.
- To find out how much weight is healthy for you after pregnancy see the weight section.
- Keeping physically active helps your insulin work more effectively, thereby warding off diabetes. More about Physical activity
- Undetected diabetes can cause serious health problems and regular testing is recommended for those with a family history, following gestational diabetes and when planning another pregnancy. See more about life after gestational diabetes (external)
- Having gestational diabetes may also mean an increased genetic risk of developing type 2 diabetes for your children. This makes a healthy lifestyle for you and your family even more important.
Ngala Books & DVDs
For families of babies and
young children who reside or work in W.A.,
if you need further assistance contact the Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or Country Access 1800 111 546
8am to 8pm 7 days a week or
or get support online via the My Ngala Forums
When: 30 Mar, 9:30am
Birth to 4 months: A 5-week series of workshops for parents with a newborn baby. Each workshop covers a wide range of topics about you and your new baby and provides the opportunity to meet and connect with other new parents in your local area.