Q. Why is managing one’s health so important when preparing for pregnancy?
AT: “Many of our current lifestyles – what we eat, our work-life balance and our environment – are creating disease within ourselves.
Health management is important not only from an overall health perspective - to live longer, healthier and happier lives - but also to help improve fertility. Lifestyle choices can affect the quality of eggs and sperm, the ability to get pregnant and the ability to carry a pregnancy to full term."
Q. What recurring mistakes do women make when preparing for pregnancy?
AT: “I wouldn’t call them mistakes, but rather bad habits related to lifestyle or lack of information. For example, regularly eating pre-made meals is convenient, but these often lack vital nutrients. Our bodies need to work extra hard and use a lot of energy to find the nutrients in processed foods.
Some women don’t receive the right information, such as the importance of taking folic acid supplements when trying to get pregnant.
For a woman, going to the doctor as soon as you plan to get pregnant is key. That way, the right advice can be provided, such as what supplements to take, and other ways to look after yourself.
Then there's also the problem of people not “following up”. Once a woman gets pregnant, she might not realise that she may benefit from extra support. Getting the right information at the right time and attending all your midwife appointments, to make sure that everything goes as best as it can go.”
Q. Many people find it difficult to follow a diet. When it comes to nutrition, how do you advise couples who find a nutritional plan restrictive?
AT: “As a nurse, I recognise that when we tell patients that they need to change their eating habits, it's generally not the lack of knowledge that makes them continue to eat unhealthily. It's the challenge of changing eating habits which have built up over many years. It's so hard to break those habits!
To tackle this, we start by talking about the difference between dieting and nutrition.
A diet is usually seen as something that is restrictive, that lasts only a couple of weeks. A diet is something that you're not able to maintain for a long period of time.
We encourage a focus on good nutrition - nourishing the body - and forming new habits that you will be able to retain, not only now, but hopefully for the long run. Improving your own health helps to ensure your child is also healthy and gets the best possible start in life.
So how do we tackle bad eating habits? One way is to start with a food diary. Couples begin by completing a food diary – of what they are eating - for the whole week. Then we talk about the food that is actually nourishing for their body; the things that they are doing right, the things that could be better managed. So, we never call it a diet, we call it a food diary.”