Why track your pregnancy diet?

One of the most confusing aspects of pregnancy is how to adjust your eating habits to ensure that you and your baby are getting all the nutrients you both need.

Each country has a set of guidelines describing the optimal amount of vitamins and minerals for a healthy pregnancy. Though let’s be honest - how many of us know exactly how much iron, calcium or folic acid we consumed in the past week? 

Alarming statistics show that many women fail to meet the recommended guidelines for a healthy pregnancy lifestyle, putting themselves and their babies at risk of serious health complications. The suppression of the immune system during pregnancy makes pregnant women more susceptible to foodborne illnesses that can be transmitted to the fetus, highlighting the importance of food safety and being aware of what foods you should avoid.

The good news is that research shows that women who monitor their diet during pregnancy reduce their risk of complications like hypertension, diabetes and are more likely to meet the guideline recommendations for gestational weight gain. 

This is why tracking your nutrition with Velmio is so important, so that you can monitor your nutritional intake and set goals to track your progress towards a healthy pregnancy lifestyle.

Healthy diet for healthy weight gain

Eating for two comes with a need to gain weight during pregnancy. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) provides guidelines for recommended gestational weight gain to help women understand the requirements and reduce their risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes (which you can read more about here).

However, a study of more than 1 million pregnancies by an international team of researchers found that 47% of pregnant women gained more weight during pregnancy than the guidelines recommended. A further 23% had a gestational weight gain that was less than the recommended amount. 

Why does this matter? Any weight gain not meeting the guideline recommendations is associated with higher risk of adverse maternal and infant outcomes. Weight gain less than the recommended amount is known to be associated with a higher risk of preterm birth and newborns with a small birth weight. On the other hand, weight gain exceeding the recommended amount puts pregnancies at higher risk of cesarean delivery and newborns with a high birth weight. This can lead to a more complex delivery, making labor long and difficult and potentially causing injury to the baby. Healthcare professionals may advise a cesarean delivery for larger babies, which carries its own set of risks. 

Healthy diet for supporting your baby’s development

Your diet needs to provide a number of vitamins and minerals to your baby that are critical to their development: 

  • Folic acid prevents fetal neural tube defects and reduces the occurrence of anomalies such as spina bifida
  • Your body needs iron to make red-blood cells and provide oxygen to your baby. Iron deficiency causes anemia, which is why it’s important to increase your intake of iron-rich foods
  • There’s an increased requirement for iodine to support thyroid functionality. Iodine deficiency may put your baby at risk of irreversible brain and nervous system defects
  • Calcium is essential for building healthy bones and teeth. Some studies show that calcium is useful in decreasing preeclampsia risk
  • Protein is crucial for supporting your baby’s growth
  • Fiber aids your digestive system, which slows down during pregnancy as a result of hormonal changes and a growing uterus

Even if you already had a well-balanced diet pre-pregnancy, you will need to adjust for these elevated requirements of certain vitamins and minerals during pregnancy.

It’s also important to consult your healthcare professional before taking any nutrition supplements. Experts warn that certain vitamin supplements, such as vitamin A, C or E, are not known to be of any benefit during pregnancy and may even cause harm. Iron supplements also have some unpleasant side effects, so it’s best to try and source these nutrients from your diet first if possible.

Other dietary considerations

A few other things you need to be aware of during pregnancy:

  • Increase the amount of water you drink: During pregnancy, the total fluid requirement increases to support intrauterine circulation, amniotic fluid, and greater blood volume. Guidelines recommend drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day during pregnancy
  • Decrease the amount of caffeine you consume: The release of caffeine from the mother’s blood slows down during pregnancy, which leads to increased excitation of the nervous system. Experts recommend limiting caffeine intake to less than 300mg a day to reduce the risk of pregnancy loss and low birth weight of the baby
  • Zero alcohol is best during pregnancy: No study has established a safe limit of alcohol during pregnancy, which is why experts emphasize that pregnant women should completely avoid alcohol to reduce the risk of causing long-term harm to the baby. Your baby’s liver is not well developed enough to process alcohol properly so the more you drink, the greater the risk of seriously affecting your baby’s development

Navigating healthy eating with the challenges of pregnancy

If you are currently pregnant you might be thinking that healthy eating sounds nice in theory but is not easy in practice. If like most pregnant women you experience physiological symptoms like severe morning sickness and aversions to the smell or taste of certain foods, it can certainly be challenging to adhere to nutrition advice.

It is well known that food cravings can change during pregnancy (probably as a result of hormonal fluctuations). One study of pregnant women found that 26% reported aversion to meats during pregnancy and 36% had increased cravings for sweet foods. 

Interestingly, these cravings often represent nutrients your body lacks. For example, cravings for desserts like ice cream are commonly reported among pregnant women. Ice cream is a good source of calcium (around 60g per half cup), but tofu has around the same calcium content for the same serving size and is a much healthier alternative.

It is ok to give in to the occasional unhealthy food craving, as long as you’re getting the nutrients you need most of the time through a balanced diet. If your physiological symptoms are so severe that you are unable to get the recommended amount of certain nutrients from food alone, talk to your healthcare professional about an appropriate nutrition supplement.

How Velmio can help

When it comes to pregnancy nutrition there is a lot of information to digest! Navigating healthy eating during pregnancy doesn’t need to be difficult, which is why we’ve created a series of tools to help make your life easier:

  • Simplified nutrition tracking: The Velmio app uses an artificial intelligence-based system to make diet tracking effortless. Simply take a photo of your meal and the app will scan it and automatically record its nutrition content. Our system gives the full breakdown of macro- and micro-nutrients, meaning that you’ll always know exactly how much of each nutrient you’re consuming. Velmio logs this data directly to your Apple Health App, so you’ve always got access to a full breakdown of your nutrition
  • Personalized nutrition insights: Velmio analyzes the nutrition data you log via the app to generate your personalized “insights feed” of pregnancy health advice. Based on the symptoms you log and other factors, Velmio will automatically adjust this advice to ensure that it is most accurate for your individual circumstances. Velmio lets you set “actionable insights” as goals, to help you monitor your progress towards reaching targets for a healthy pregnancy diet in accordance with the pregnancy health guidelines