Women are told to live a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy to benefit their growing baby, but should dads be paying attention to their diet, too?
If you’re expecting a baby, you might be wondering what lifestyle changes the dad-to-be should make in preparation for the new arrival. Can the partner’s preconception lifestyle changes negatively affect their future baby?
Does a dad-to-be’s diet affect the growing baby in utero? How can you maximize your chances of welcoming a healthy baby? Keep reading to find out what the experts say.
Partner’s diet during pregnancy affects future health of baby, study finds
Research published in Nutrition & Dietetics Journal found that the partner’s diet during pregnancy has a long-lasting impact on the future health of a child. The Queensland-based researchers looked at the diets of almost 200 couples during the prenatal period.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers found that women were most likely to meet their recommended daily dietary guidelines if their partners did, too. So never underestimate the importance of good support during pregnancy.
Research Professor Vicki Clifton said: ‘Healthy eating during pregnancy provides the unborn child with an important foundation for future good health, but many pregnant women aren’t meeting the recommended Australian Dietary Guidelines’.
The professor also added, ‘ … the research suggests better education and support for partners could help improve the eating habits of expectant mums, which in turn will make the fetus healthier, and the future risk of disease’.
Shelley Wilkinson, the study’s lead author, said: ‘While it’s known that education, income, and Body Mass Index influence how women eat in pregnancy, this study addresses the gap in knowledge in how a partner’s eating habits influence mums-to-be’.
Researchers found only a low proportion of participants met the five core food group intake recommendations. For example, only 41.4% of women met daily fruit intake recommendations and 28.4% met vegetable intake recommendations, compared with around 31% and 15% of their partners.
Poor diet is associated with poor health. Clearly, work needs to be done to help expectant families meet their daily recommended intakes and ensure the best start for their unborn baby.
How partners can ensure adequate nutrition during pregnancy
If you want to ensure your baby’s health gets off on the right foot, you need to ensure you and your partner make healthy choices during the pregnancy.
Making lifestyle changes together is a great way to prepare for parenthood. You will face lots of challenges together as parents, and this is a good place to start. Make positive lifestyle changes for your future baby today.
Here are some easy ways you can protect your developing baby’s health during pregnancy:
If you want the mama-to-be to eat well during pregnancy, you need to make sure you do. As we can see from the research above, your food choices can help your partner eat a healthy balanced diet during pregnancy. It’s often easier to make lifestyle changes when you have support. Be sure to enjoy healthy, nutritious meals together each day.
Look for easy ways to improve your diet; you don’t need a drastic overhaul from day one. Start small and make manageable lasting changes to your diet. As well as adding healthy fresh foods to your diet, try eliminating the bad stuff, too.
If you want to reduce your intake of unhealthy snacks, don’t buy them. Kitchen cupboards filled with junk food are a recipe for disaster. Instead, switch out your usual unhealthy snacks for healthier alternatives. Hunger is your enemy, so make sure there are quick and easy healthy snacks you can reach for in a hurry.
Not sure where to start? For inspiration, take a look at Healthy Pregnancy Snacks – 25 Ideas.
Keep your kitchen well stocked with healthy and appealing foods. Make sure you have plenty of fresh fruit, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains.
Be the chef
If you want to ensure everybody in the house eats a healthy meal, cook them one. Unfortunately, some women find cooking smells difficult to be around during the first trimester, and pregnancy nausea, in general, can put women off cooking.
If your partner is suffering from pregnancy nausea, finding things they can eat might be challenging. Bland foods and smaller, more frequent meals are recommended during this time.
Pregnancy fatigue can make cooking seem like a daunting task, and many women find they are too exhausted by the end of the day. Taking on more than your fair share of cooking is a great way to support a healthy diet for the whole family.
When trying to eat healthily, it’s usually opting for convenience that gets in the way. Perhaps you grab fast food to eat on the go, or order takeout after a late night in the office.
Plan ahead to prevent these slip-ups. Have portions of healthy home-cooked foods in the freezer to eat healthy without the hassle. If you’re eating on the go, take a packed lunch or opt for the healthiest option on the menu.
Staying active and improving your overall health might encourage you both to make healthy food choices. Add a brisk walk to your daily routine for an easy way to improve your fitness as a couple. Spending time together in nature can help to lift your mood, too.
For more great ways to support your partner during pregnancy, please look at 15 Great Ways To Support Her During Pregnancy.
Preconception diet is important too
In 2018, The Lancet published a series looking at the importance of pre-conception health. They stated: ‘Health and nutrition of both men and women before conception is important not only for pregnancy outcomes but also for the lifelong health of their children and even the next generation’.
Diet affects sperm health, so it’s a good idea to eat a healthy diet in the months before you start trying for a baby. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy, balanced diet are essential for good sperm health. It’s also a good idea to quit smoking, reduce your alcohol consumption and make other positive lifestyle changes before you embark on parenthood.
A study from the National Institutes of Health found a link between caffeine intake – for either parent – and miscarriage risk.
Germaine Buck Louis, Ph.D., Director of the Division of Intramural Population Health Research at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said:
‘Our findings provide useful information for couples who are planning a pregnancy and who would like to minimize their risk for early pregnancy loss’.
Dr. Buck Louis went on to say, ‘Our findings also indicate that the male partner matters, too. Male preconception consumption of caffeinated beverages was just as strongly associated with pregnancy loss as females’.
Why is a preconception diet important?
It’s essential to eat a healthy, balanced preconception diet from the very moment you fall pregnant. By the time of your missed period, you might already be four weeks pregnant. For women with irregular periods, the pregnancy could be further along.
Paying attention to your pre-conception health reduces the risk of nutritional deficiencies and other potential risk factors during the early stages of pregnancy. Women should start taking a prenatal vitamin before they fall pregnant to ensure they have enough folic acid. Folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects.
The Preconception Diet Quality Is Associated with Birth Weight for Gestational Age Among Women in the Hispanic Community Health Study found that the quality of maternal pre-conception diet directly affected the birth weight of their babies.
The food you eat before pregnancy can play an essential role in protecting your baby’s health.
If you’re thinking of trying for a baby soon, check out our Preconception Checklist – How To Prepare For Pregnancy.