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Nutrition, fertility, pregnancy, and health of offspring

Published: March 31, 2017

Fruit contains an array of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals
Fruit contains an array of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals

In recent years research has identified the importance of good nutrition prior to and during pregnancy.

However, many prospective parents give little thought to the food they eat and/or their nutritional status before pregnancy.
Research suggests that even when a pregnancy is planned women ignore pre-conception healthy eating advice, and few pregnant women follow health eating recommendations.
Advice to increase folic acid intake, reduce alcohol intake and cease smoking prior to and during pregnancy is often ignored.
Fertility, pregnancy outcomes, and future health of offspring can all be negatively affected by poor nutrition.
Common nutrient deficiencies in women of reproductive age include iron, folate, vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and iodine. These and other micronutrients are essential for metabolic processes concerning energy production, DNA metabolism, signal transduction, and functionality and viability of body cells.
Oocyte (female immature egg cell) production and pregnancy have high energy requirement which increases the need for a variety of nutrients.
Poor nutrition not only leads to micronutrient deficiencies, but also involves macronutrient consumption (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) which may lead to underweight, overweight, or obesity. Studies suggest that underweight, overweight, and obesity have a significant and negative effect on fertility, pregnancy outcomes, and long term health of off spring.
Bodyweight status is usually identified by body mass index (BMI), and although not a direct measure of body fat, can be an initial indicator of under or over body fat. Adequate body fat (20%-25%) is essential for conception and to support fetal growth and future health of off-spring.
Low body fat (17%) can significantly interfere with ovulation and regaining normal ovulation is not necessarily regained when body fat is increased. High body fat (obesity) also has negative effects on fertility and pregnancy outcomes.
Sources of folate
Sources of folate
Nutritional status of both parents affects reproductive outcomes and certain foods and nutrients have also been identified as having negative effects on pregnancy.
For instance, unpasteurized dairy products may contain the listeria bacterium.
In pregnant women, a listeria infection may cause miscarriage or birth defects. Alcohol consumption can adversely affect fertility and pregnancy outcomes.
Low folic acid status is associated with neural tube defects.
In addition to poor nutrition, lack of physical activity can also have a negative effect on pregnancy outcomes.
While people may know about the general negative effects of under or over nutrition, the association with reproduction and future health outcomes is not commonly understood. Link to the full article to learn more.


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