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Preconception Nutrition

Preconception Nutrition refers to physical and psychological interventions for a woman and a couple before conception happens. The goal is to reduce actions and environmental patterns that lead to poor maternal and child health outcomes and improve their well-being.

It is essential to take care of nutrition throughout one's life, from infancy to childhood, and adolescence. #Preconception Nutrition is a part of the continuous process with special focus on period before pregnancy to help prepare a woman's body in a better way for pregnancy as it can significantly enhance pregnancy and child health outcomes.

How #PreconceptionNutrition is a continuous process?

#Gametes refer to the reproductive cells of an organism. Female gametes are called ova, aka eggs, which are formed in the foetal stage and remain dormant until puberty. These ova are immature eggs, in which one of the eggs fully mature during the 1st ten days of the menstrual cycle and becomes a mature egg. This mature egg flows in to the fallopian tube. The mature egg contains food and mitochondria, in addition to DNA. Male gametes are called sperms. Since the storage of food can hinder their fast movement, the sperms contain only the required DNA and ‘energy stores’ to swim for up to 5 days. During fertilization, sperm and matured egg fuse together and form a zygote in the fallopian tube. The zygote, then gets transferred to the uterus. There, zygote develops into an embryo. The formation of an embryo, does not take any energy from the mother’s body, as it entirely takes food from mature egg. Thus, a woman’s health plays a pivotal role in the development of healthy baby.

Preconception period:

The preconception period refers to the 3 months before conception. It is calculated until the egg goes through its maturity, and becomes embryo.

  • In this crucial phase, a mother’s diet directly impacts an infant’s brain, organs and tissues

  • Smoking and drinking during this phase and pregnancy leads to health problems during pregnancy and also increases the chances of preterm birth, infant mortality and birth defects

The nutritional remedies are particularly important for women who are in their reproductive age range, in the period of 2 years before their pregnancy and also in the gap between two pregnancies.

What makes preconception care important?

  • Preconception period serves an opportunity to provide remedial measures and prepare woman’s body for conception

  • Embryo develops as a foetus based on the nutritional status of the mother

  • Nutritional diet along with folic acid and multivitamin supplements during this period, avoid critical defects in the child

  • Underweight in this period leads to low brain development, preterm birth and Small for gestational age (SGA) babies.

  • Overweight in this period can cause #Preeclampsia (high blood pressure disorder during pregnancy), Gestation Diabetes Mellitus (#GDM) and caesarean section

Positive impacts of preconception care:

  • Decrease in Maternal and Infant Mortality rates

  • Prevention in the incidence of unintended pregnancies

  • Instances of #stillbirth, #pretermbirth, and low birth weight(#LBW) are minimized

  • Less Occurrence of birth defects and #NeonatalInfection

  • Reduction in the prevalence of underweight and stunted children

  • Reduction the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disorders in children at adulthood

Factors that cause nutrition risks in preconception:

  • Maternal age

  • Micronutrient deficiencies

  • Malnutrition

Maternal age:

Maternal age can severely affect in 2 ways, such as underage pregnancy and overage pregnancy

Adolescent Pregnancy:
  • Adolescent pregnancy carries higher risks of #eclampsia and postpartum infections

  • 50% higher likelihood of stillbirths and preterm births

Advanced Maternal Age:
  • Reduced quality of eggs, as the egg count in a female baby is at 1 million at the time of birth and it becomes 30,000 at puberty due to natural processes and reaches 25,000 by 37 years of age

  • Increased risk of foetal death by 44% during the perinatal period (between 20th-28th week of pregnancy to 2-4 weeks after childbirth) and preterm birth by 29%

  • Increases the risk of #DownSyndrome in the child

Micronutrient deficiencies:

Iron deficiency Anaemia is a condition where the body lacks enough iron to produce haemoglobin and is linked with an increased risk of foetal growth retardation (#FGR). Severe anaemia leads to more severity in FGR as per Mid pregnancy studies published in the Journal of Nutritional Disorders and Therapy

Folate deficiency Anaemia is the lack of folate (also known as vitamin B9) in the body and it is associated with neural tube defects such as #anencephaly where the brain is not fully developed), #spinabifida (where the spinal cord is not fully formed)

Multivitamin Deficiency is the lack of essential vitamins and minerals in the body and can lead to a variety of health problems including anaemia, weakened immune system, poor bone health, and impaired cognitive function


Malnutrition refers to both undernutrition and overnutrition. Acute malnutrition is a decrease in nutritional levels for a short period. If malnutrition, continues to exist after a short period, it leads to Chronic malnutrition.

1. Underweight- increases likelihood of preterm birth by 32%
2. Overweight - increases occurrence of #pre-eclampsia and #GDM by 2.17 and 3.67 times, respectively

Nutritional goals for women in the preconception period:

  • Obtaining an optimum weight

  • Assessing anaemic conditions through blood tests and taking appropriate treatments

  • Consumption of folate and micronutrients

  • Standard level of physical activity

  • Withdrawing from alcohol and tobacco consumption

Nutritional interventions to be focused during the preconception period:

  • Every day consumption of minimum 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid to avoid neural tube defects

  • Counselling on nutrition and information about lifestyle modifications

  • Nutritional status assessment to find whether the required quantities of vitamins and minerals are present in the body

  • Nutritional diet rich in micronutrients

  • Test for Diabetes and its treatments if found

  • Treatments for any other health issues

  • Physical activities to improve fertility

  • Iodised salt consumption to avoid thyroid problems and improve the brain development of the foetus

  • Treatments for any specific health condition present during preconception period

Recommended interventions for Nutritional status:

  • Assessment of weight to verify whether the BMI is Ideal or not

  • Tests for anaemia deficiencies

  • Nutritional value and adequacy of diet

Recommended interventions for Underweight and Anaemia:

  • Counselling on nutrient-rich and well-balanced diet

  • Consumption of iron rich foods such as whole grains, dates, spinach and fruits and folic acid-rich foods such as beetroot, banana, green beans, fortified cereals and nuts.

  • Provision of foods with wholesome nutrients

  • Supplementation of #Iron-FolicAcid (IFA) for anaemic women as per recommendation

  • Supplementation of micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals

Contact our team of experts to know more about supplementation

In essence

A female child is born with all the eggs required for reproduction in her adulthood, which is a primary cause for intergenerational health cycles. The poor health of woman leads to poor health in her children and subsequent generations.
The preconception measures should be implemented for every woman of reproductive age before 2 years of conception and in between pregnancies.
Sufficient nutrition before Pregnancy and early Pregnancy (i.e., less than 12 weeks of pregnancy) is necessary to augment essential periods of foetal development. Health interventions has to be combined with sexual and reproductive health services including family planning to improve healthy spacing in between pregnancies and also with comprehensive women empowerment practices targeted on overall improvement of women.



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