Did you know? Fetal brain development begins early in the first trimester. Yes, your developing baby is growing rapidly, and what you do during your pregnancy — from your diet, to your habits, to how much you exercise — has an effect on their development. Here are a few things you can do to support it during your pregnancy.

Among the most important things is what you eat during pregnancy, as the mother’s diet affects fetal organ formation. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that you eat well for your growing child’s needs.

What’s more, the nervous system, which includes the brain, is one of the first systems that starts developing after your growing baby is conceived.1 There are a few things that you can do to support your growing child’s brain development during – and even before – pregnancy.

Fetal Brain Development Tips: Eat Right

A healthy diet will help support your pregnancy and ensure your developing baby gets a balanced nutrient intake. This is crucial for their overall development, including their brain development. Include a wide variety of vegetables and fruits in your diet, as well as protein-rich foods such as milk, beans, whole grains and nuts.

A developing baby’s brain needs many nutrients for proper growth and development — in particular, folate and DHA. So if you are planning to get pregnant or are already on the way, it’s a good idea to start including foods rich in folate and DHA to your diet.

DHA is one of the important nutrients that your growing baby’s brain needs. This omega -3 fatty acid is an important component of developing brains. It helps in the structural and functional development of the brain, the control centre of your growing baby’s skills.2

Avocado, broccoli, oranges and leafy greens are great additions to a pregnant woman’s diet. In addition, fish like salmon and sardines are crucial to get your DHA supply.

Finally, don’t forget to take your doctor’s recommended prenatal supplements, which should include iron and folic acid. Read about the supplements your doctor may prescribe for you and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Child Brain Development Tips: Avoid Harmful Substances

Toxins, or harmful chemicals, are found everywhere, including our food and the environment. These may be harmful to a developing fetus’ development and must be avoided.

  • Alcohol. Avoid alcoholic beverages as they could cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities.3

  • Raw meat, fish or eggs. Also avoid undercooked or uncooked meat, fish and eggs

  • Soft cheeses. Soft cheeses may contain bacteria or parasites.4

  • Some fish. Fish are a great source of DHA, but some fish are high in mercury, which is poisonous. Choose fish that are known to be low in mercury.2

  • If you need to take any form of medicine, always confirm with your health care provider if it’s safe. Even over-the-counter medicines may not be safe for you to take during pregnancy.

Exercise in Moderation

Exercise has multiple effects on the body – whether you’re pregnant or otherwise. During pregnancy, exercise can help you stay in shape. It can also help to prepare you for labor and delivery. Exercise can:

  • reduce backaches,

  • prevent constipation, bloating and swelling,

  • boost your mood and energy levels,

  • help you sleep better,

  • prevent excess weight gain,

  • and it may reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.5

Moderate exercise is enough, especially when you are pregnant. You don’t have to lift weights or exert yourself very much. Just avoid being sedentary and try to take walks whenever you can.

Make sure you seek your healthcare provider’s advice before embarking on any form of exercise.

Stimulate Your Growing Child’s Senses

There’s no harm in engaging your growing child in your belly. So talk to your child or sing a song - who knows it may even play a role in their brain development. Research has found that exposure to music while in the womb has a beneficial effect on a growing child’s behavioural development.6 Playing music will have a soothing or a stimulating effect, depending on the genre.

Engaging with your growing child while he or she is still in your womb will serve as a bonding mechanism. It will also reduce your stress — an important thing that you need to do, as too much stress could negatively affect your developing baby.7 Remember that their emotional development starts from pregnancy, so maintain a happy disposition!

 

REFERENCES:

1. Fetal development: The 1st trimester. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2017, from:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-de

2. Eating Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know. Retrieved 2 June 2017 from:
https://www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/metals/ucm393070.html

3. Alcohol Use in Pregnancy, Retrieved 10 August 2020 from:
https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcohol-use.html

4. Why should I avoid some foods during pregnancy? Retrieved 2 June 2017 from:
http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/917.aspx?CategoryID=54

5. Pregnancy and exercise: Baby, let's move! (2016, June 09). Retrieved February 22, 2017, from:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-de...

6. Jenkins, The Mozart Effect. Retrieved 9 October 2020, from:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1281386/#:~:text=In%201993%20Rauscher%20et%20al.&text=made%20the%20surprising%20claim%20that,lower%20blood%20pressure%20or%20silence

7. Left-handed fetuses could show effects of maternal stress on unborn babies. (2014, June 3). Retrieved February 22, 2017, from:
https://www.dur.ac.uk/news/newsitem/?itemno=21328