Support growing baby’s brain development during pregnancy

Growing baby’s brain development begins early in the first trimester. Here are a few things you can do to support it during your pregnancy.

What you eat during pregnancy is very important, as the mother’s diet affects the fetal organ formation. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that you eat well for your growing baby’s needs.

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

Eat Right

A healthy diet, including a variety of vegetables and fruits, protein-rich foods which include milk, beans, whole grains and nuts, combined with appropriate prenatal supplements will help support your pregnancy and help ensure your developing baby gets a balanced nutrient intake crucial for his or her overall development, including his/her brain. A rapidly developing baby’s brain needs many nutrients for proper growth and development, for example folate and DHA. So if you are planning to get pregnant or already have a baby on the way, you can start including foods rich in folates and DHA. Avocado, broccoli, oranges and leafy greens are great additions to a pregnant woman’s diet. In addition, include in diet fish like salmon and sardine to get your DHA supply. Don’t forget to take doctor’s recommended prenatal supplements that should include iron and folic acid.

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

Also read about the supplements your doctor may prescribe for you and your growing baby’s development.

[MJ_1article_Pregnancy supplements what you need to know]

Avoid harmful substances

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

Avoid alcoholic beverages as they could damage growing your baby’s brain. Also, avoid undercooked or uncooked meat, fish and egg, soft cheeses that can contain bacteria or parasites that could harm your growing baby.ii Choose fish that are known to be low in mercury.iii

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 your to take during pregnancy.

Exercise in moderation

Exercise has multiple effects on the body – whether pregnant or otherwise. During pregnancy, exercise can help you stay in shape. It can also help prepare you for labor and delivery. It can help reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling, boost your mood and energy levels, help you sleep better and prevent excess weight gain; It might also reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.iv Make sure you seek your healthcare provider’s advice before embarking on any form of exercise.

You don’t have to lift weights or exert yourself very much. Just avoid being sedentary and try to take walks whenever you can.

Stimulate the growing baby’s senses

According to research, growing babies can hear and learn to recognize sounds and words while in the womb.v There’s no harm in engaging your growing baby and it will even aid in brain development.

Similarly, playing music will have a soothing or a stimulating effect, depending on the genre. Research has found that exposure to music while in the womb has beneficial effect on growing baby’s behavioural development.vi So talk to, play music for, as well as sing to the growing baby as often as you can.

Engaging with your growing baby while he or she is still in your womb will serve as a bonding mechanism even before making his or her appearance. It will also reduce your stress - something that you need to do anyway, as too much stress could affect your developing babyvii. Remember that his or her emotional development starts even before his or her birth, so maintain a happy disposition!

 

 

References:

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

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

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

ivPregnancy 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...

vBabies Learn to Recognize Words in the Womb. Retrieved 2 June 2017 from, http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2013/08/babies-learn-recognize-words-womb

viArya, R., Chansoria, M., Konanki, R., & Tiwari, D. K. (2012). Maternal Music Exposure during Pregnancy Influences Neonatal Behaviour: An Open-Label Randomized Controlled Trial. International Journal of Pediatrics, 901812.

viiLeft-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