By Dr Anita Star
So as a pregnancy and paediatric dietitian is not all cooing and smiling and congratulating. Sometimes there is the really hard stuff too, the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss, is one of those hard areas. Its little bit taboo to talk about these issues in our society, but it affects so many couples.
There is a lot we do know about nutrition to achieve fertility and a healthy pregnancy. For example:
- How to nourish your body adequately with the right amounts of vitamins and minerals important for healthy pregnancies
- Avoiding alcohol, too much caffeine, drugs, smoking cigarettes, and many medications that can affect fertility and pregnancy outcomes
- Avoiding certain types of foods, and certain things in the environment (cat poo), due to their higher risk of infectious diseases such as listeriosis, salmonella or toxoplasmosis
- Working toward a healthy pre-pregnancy weight, which is not too heavy or light, and getting assistance from a professional with this process, to ensure you are still nourishing your body adequately for fertility and pregnancy (crash diets are a bad idea).
- Avoiding high mercury fish, but still eating small amounts of fish regularly (see http://www.drstar.com.au/love-fish-in-pregnancy/ )
- Eating certain patterns of foods and eating across all food groups, for a healthy pregnancy (for example see here http://www.drstar.com.au/6715-2/ )
- Doing a healthy amount of exercise, not too much, or too little, talk to your doctor about the right level for you.
- And of course fertility and obstetric doctors can help with hormonal and other medical issues that can affect fertility and pregnancy outcomes.
But unfortunately even if you are doing everything in your control to be healthy and well for fertility and pregnancy, it can still go wrong. Miscarriage is extremely common in the first trimester. One in 5 women, or 20% of women who know that they are pregnant will have a miscarriage in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. This often happens before 12 weeks. The majority of miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities and poorly developing embryo (early baby cells) from the very start of conception. It is most often completely random with no known cause. Most women will go onto have healthy pregnancies, however, if you have multiple miscarriages you should discuss with a fertility doctor, as there may be a cause that can be eliminated.
It’s a heart breaking experience, to have pregnancy loss, or have that difficulty getting pregnant in the first instance. Once you work through that understandable emotional turmoil, you can keep trying. Although it was likely completely random, there is also absolutely no harm, in doing everything you can to prepare your body nutritionally, for what is hopefully a healthy pregnancy in the future. A dietitian with expertise in pregnancy, may be one of the many professionals you come and talk with about this.