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How To Optimize Your Diet During Your PCOS Pregnancy – Essential Nutrients For Baby's Development

Written by: Vivienne Wang, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Vivienne Wang

Pregnancy is filled with excitement and anticipation. However, comes with the responsibility to ensure that the body receives the proper nutrients for a baby's optimal development. 


Hands holding uterus, female reproductive system.

The recommended calorie intake for pregnant women can vary depending on factors such as age, weight, and physical activity level. On average, women are advised to consume an additional 300-450 calories per day during pregnancy, gradually increasing each trimester.


These extra calories should be used on nutrient-dense foods that contribute to you and your baby's health. 


Let's discuss which nutrients are essential for your baby's development to optimize your diet during pregnancy, especially for women with PCOS.


Pregnancy and PCOS: Importance of nutrition


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder affecting individuals of reproductive age, characterized by an imbalance in sex hormones. 


Women with PCOS experience irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, ovarian cysts, and elevated levels of androgens (male hormones). When pregnant, women with PCOS may face increased challenges. 


PCOS leads to a higher risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, high blood pressure, miscarriage, and premature birth. 


The hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance inherent in PCOS can complicate pregnancy, making it important for affected individuals to manage their condition through proper nutrition to ensure a healthy outcome for both the mother and the baby.


Essential nutrients for baby's development


1. Folic acid


Folic acid, a crucial B vitamin, is essential for the early development of the baby's neural tube, which is what forms the brain and spinal cord. Sufficient folic acid intake significantly reduces the risk of neural tube defects. 


Women with PCOS may have a higher risk of insulin resistance, and folic acid helps regulate insulin levels, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes.


Foods rich in folic acid include leafy fortified cereals, green vegetables, beans, and citrus fruits.


2. Iron


Iron is vital for the production of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells throughout the whole body.


Adequate iron intake is important for maintaining energy levels and ensuring oxygen is transported efficiently to both the mother and baby. 


During pregnancy, a woman's blood volume increases, requiring more iron to support the mother and the growing baby.


Iron is also needed for preventing anemia, a condition that women with PCOS may be more prone to due to irregular menstrual cycles. 


Good sources of iron include lean meats, tofu, fish, beans, and iron-fortified cereals.


3. Calcium


Calcium is necessary for the baby to develop strong bones and teeth. Calcium also affects nerve function and helps prevent conditions such as blood clotting and preeclampsia.


Women with PCOS are proven to have a higher risk of developing insulin resistance, and calcium has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.


Dairy products such as cheese, unpasteurized milk, and a variety of yogurts are excellent sources of calcium. For those who are lactose intolerant or prefer plant-based options, fortified plant milk, tofu, and leafy green vegetables can be alternative sources.


4. Omega-3 fatty acids


Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are essential for the development of the baby's brain and eyes.


Pregnant women with PCOS benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s, as inflammation is often associated with PCOS symptoms. 


Fatty fish like salmon, trout, and sardines are rich sources of omega-3s. Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts can offer a plant-based alternative for those who don't consume fish.


5. Protein


Protein is crucial for the growth and development of the baby's organs, muscles, and tissues. 


For women with PCOS, incorporating protein into their diet not only provides essential amino acids but also helps manage insulin levels, a key concern for those with PCOS.


Good protein sources are easy to find with foods such as dairy products, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and legumes.


6. Vitamin D


Vitamin D is what the body uses to absorb calcium and phosphorus, supporting the development of the baby's bones and teeth. 


Appropriate vitamin D levels are essential for women with PCOS, as research suggests a potential link between vitamin D deficiency and insulin resistance.


Sun exposure is a natural way to take in vitamin D, but supplementation and dietary sources including fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, and fatty fish are usually recommended during pregnancy.


Foods and drinks to avoid


While focusing on nutrient-rich foods is essential, it's equally important to be aware of foods and drinks that should be limited or avoided during pregnancy. 


  • Raw or undercooked seafood

  • Unpasteurized dairy products

  • Refined sugars

  • High glycemic index foods

  • Excessive caffeine

  • Any amount of alcohol


These are just some examples of substances that can pose risks to the developing baby and should be consumed in moderation or, in some cases, avoided altogether. 


Women with PCOS can struggle with insulin resistance that sugary and processed foods can exacerbate.


More tips for a healthy pregnancy with PCOS


Take into consideration the following tips to ensure a healthy pregnancy.


Regular Exercise: Exercise helps manage insulin resistance, a common issue associated with PCOS. It also promotes healthy weight management and helps lower the risk of gestational diabetes. 


Additionally, exercise improves mood, reduces stress, and enhances overall well-being.


Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is crucial for all pregnant women, but it holds added importance for those with PCOS as it also aids in managing insulin resistance.


Adequate hydration supports kidney function, helps prevent constipation (a common concern for pregnant women), and supports overall metabolic health. 


Balanced Carbohydrate Intake: Maintaining a balanced intake of carbohydrates is essential for managing blood sugar levels. Opt for complex carbs, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, instead of refined sugars and processed foods.

 

This approach helps reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and promotes stable energy throughout the day.


Mindful Stress Management: Incorporate stress-management techniques such as prenatal yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into your routine. Also, make it a goal to get seven to nine hours of sleep to reduce stress further.


These practices not only help manage stress but also promote a positive mindset during pregnancy.


Optimize your diet during your pregnancy


Optimizing your diet during pregnancy is a key aspect of ensuring the health and development of your baby.

 

By focusing on essential nutrients such as folic acid, iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamin D, you provide your body and your baby with the building blocks for a healthy future.


For individuals with PCOS, the guidance of a nutritionist specializing in PCOS can be invaluable in navigating the unique challenges associated with this condition. 


Start this exciting journey by nourishing your body with the proper nutrients and working towards a healthy, joyous pregnancy.


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Vivienne Wang Brainz Magazine
 

Vivienne Wang, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Vivienne Wang is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) specializing in PCOS, fertility, pregnancy, and eating disorders. Based in Melbourne, Australia, Vivienne works with clients worldwide via Telehealth. She is registered with Dietitian Australia, a Certified Fertility and Prenatal Dietitian through the Early Life Nutrition Alliance, and credentialed by the Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders. Her own experience with irregular periods, weight gain, and an eventual PCOS diagnosis as a teen led her to learn to manage her symptoms with lifestyle changes and nutrition. Her experiences are the driving force behind her desire to educate and help women with similar backgrounds. You can learn more about Vivienne’s custom nutritional approach and connect with her directly as your potential Pregnancy Nutritionist & Fertility Dietitian on her website.


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