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Baby love

How can you improve your chances of conception and then give your baby the best start in life? Rude Health asks health store experts for their advice

Trying for a baby

“If a customer came in looking for pregnancy and fertility advice, the first thing I would do is look at their diet, lifestyle and family history,” says Sally Smith of Open Sesame in Ennis, Co Clare. “If the lady was overweight I would delicately ask about exercise etc. I would also discuss the potential father’s health – it’s amazing how often this gets forgotten.”

“I would advise them to make their lifestyle and diet as healthy as possible,” says Sian Morgan of Healing Harvest in Kinvara, Co Galway. “Obvious things are cutting out smoking and alcohol but also trying to eat a healthy diet, including lots of fresh produce, good quality protein and plenty of good fats which are vital for hormonal transit in the body. The mental/emotional sphere is also important and, in particular, reducing stress as much as they can. If they are finding this hard, we would recommend yoga, t’ai chi or mindfulness.”

Fertility support

“If there is any reason that the woman is finding it hard to conceive, there are several fertility supplements available on the market, usually with one blend aimed at the woman and another at the man,” says Sian Morgan. “As a general rule, and if they are eating a balanced diet, there is probably no need to start one of these, unless fertility has become an issue.”

“I would recommend a fish oil and probiotic for generally improved health,” says Sally Smith. “And there are a number of pre-conception supplements available for both women and men with additional zinc, arginine, carnitine and COQ10.”

Vegetarian mums-to-be

“Most women do not become vegetarian or vegan just at the point of planning a pregnancy and, as such, tend to have a good handle on eating a balanced diet to provide for their needs,” according to Sian Morgan. “It is perfectly possible to grow a healthy baby without meat or animal products in the diet. Complete proteins can be achieved by eating a balance of pulses, nuts and wholegrains and eating a good variety of vegetables can provide a great source of vitamins and minerals. Those women wishing to supplement can try one of the many multivitamins for pregnancy or could think about using a green superfood with spirulina, chlorella or wheatgrass and barleygrass.”

“It’s important to ensure you are getting sufficient protein,” says Sally Smith. “So if, for example, you have cut out meat, fish, eggs and dairy you will need to substitute with seeds, nuts and grains. For vegans meals take a bit more planning – quinoa, for example, is a high protein food.”

Pregnancy support

Other than folic acid should you take a pregnancy supplement? “I think this has to be a question which is addressed by each individual,” says Sian Morgan. “Some women are not able to stomach particular foods due to morning sickness and a supplement could be a great idea. Others may be able to access all they need through their diet. There are multivitamins aimed at pregnancy but a woman may have a particular area with which she needs help, for example iron or vitamin D. There are several brands who offer these vitamins and minerals specifically for pregnant women.”

“Yes!” says Sally Smith. “Your need for good nutrition has never been as high and if you’re feeling sick your appetite isn’t always good. Number one is folic acid and also DHA, ideally from fish oil. Fish oil is clinically proven to improve babies’ brain-eye coordination, and prevent dry skin conditions in both mother and baby. Finally it is legal and legitimate to recommend fish oil during pregnancy. Look for formulations that clearly state they are for use during pregnancy.”

Folic acid

“It is important for a pregnant mother to have sufficient folate in her diet for the healthy growth of the foetus and for the prevention of neural tube defects,” says Sian Morgan. “Folate is present in a wide variety of foods from spinach to liver. The HSE currently recommends the consumption of 400ug folic acid for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.”

Health store help

“Health stores stock a wide variety of supplements from fertility multivitamins to blends for pregnancy, nutritional oils, individual vitamins and minerals,” says Sian Morgan. “Also food products which can support the pregnant woman, such as tahini, figs and almonds for calcium, quinoa or spirulina for a good source of protein and blackstrap molasses or nettle for iron intake, to name but a few. There are also body products available such as oils and creams for the prevention of stretchmarks and many products for the new baby when he or she arrives.”

“Health stores are where to go for probiotics to prevent constipation and non-constipating iron formulas,” says Sally Smith.

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