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28.02.2007 Feature Article

Healthy diet in pregnancy and lactation non negotiable - Feature

Healthy diet in pregnancy and lactation non negotiable - Feature

Motherhood is a precious moment that should be cherished by everyone and women should not be left alone to go through the difficulties of childbirth.

Society expects women to bear healthy children, honour them for their role as mothers. Yet pregnancy and childbirth are perilous journeys sometimes of no return.

People celebrate the birth of a newborn baby but at several stages of the voyage through pregnancy, and child birth, women go through several difficulties.

Whilst some may vomit right from day one till they deliver, others will go through it for the first trimester. Another uncomfortable and unpleasant situation is spiting either for the first trimester, second trimester or till they hear the cry of the baby.

Pregnant women with such conditions are always seen with containers either in their hands or hidden in their handbags, probably with a disinfectant to control the unbearable stench.

Diet is another important component of ensuring healthy pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby but most often some pregnant women suffer a “no appetite” syndrome which makes it difficult for them to take in well balanced meals.

Either they turn to hate the nutritious meal or they turn to eat whatever they set eyes on, be it nutritious or otherwise. These practices render some of them under-nourished, thus putting the unborn baby at risk of suffering some deficiencies as well as potential health damages.

While babies born under such conditions may seem healthy at birth, they grow and strive during infancy whilst their full potential for physical, mental and intellectual development may never be reached if the mother was undernourished during pregnancy.

Healthy diet is very crucial during pre-conception period, pregnancy and lactation since it helps not only to give a healthy, well-formed child but also makes the child enjoy the highest level of physical and mental well-being.

Food is made of nutrients which may either be a micronutrient or macronutrient. Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are needed in small quantities while macronutrients, such as carbohydrates and protein on the other hand, are needed in large quantities.

Fat, though a macronutrient, is a form of energy and should be eaten in small quantities. The body cannot work properly if one ore more nutrients are missing and that could be a dysfunction.

The Ministry of Health with its responsibility of ensuring a healthy population has developed a new health policy that emphasizes health promotion and prevention with the aim of improving the health status of Ghanaians through promoting healthy lifestyles with emphasis on nutrition.

The Ministry is therefore embarking on a project to improve the health and nutritional status in children and ensure that their physical and mental development lays the foundation for a more productive nation in the future.

The project, “Regenerative Health and Nutrition”, is being done on pilot basis throughout the country under the theme “Renew Your Strength: Prevent Disease”.

It is supported by the African Hebrew Development Agency (AHDA) from Dimona in Israel and admonishes that non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other related mortality are on the increase due the unhealthy lifestyles of the people.

A document made available to the Ghana News Agency that recommends some dietary intake for women during pregnancy and during lactation. Since Ghanaian diets are largely carbohydrate based, it is important to increase the amount of protein foods like cowpeas, soya beans, groundnuts, agushie and others as much as possible.

It also recommends increased intake in the quantity of fruits and vegetables to supply the minerals and vitamins needed by the body since it contains fiber that helps eliminate waste from the body thereby contributing to maintain good health and prevent degenerative diseases.

Ms Zvenah E. Elahsuv, Nutritional Specialist of AHDA, in an interview with the GNA, says the benefits for adhering to a nutritionally adequate diet during pre-conception period, pregnancy and lactation were very crucial.

She explains that for breakfast, cereal porridge like koko, rice water, weanimix, and oats together with bread, kose, roasted groundnuts or groundnut paste were recommended.

“Fruit is something that should not be ignored at all after every meal and any of these- two oranges, four medium size banana, medium size pawpaw or mango should be taken after breakfast.”

For lunch, Ms Elahsuv recommends fufu, rice, wakye, ampesi, kenkey, touzaafi or banku should be served with generous amounts of soups, stews and boiled legumes like cowpea, bean stew, soya chuncts to accompany it. Fruits should also be served after this.

“An extra meal or two snacks is recommended for the pregnant woman whilst any complete adult meal could be eaten and at least three glasses of soya milk could be taken in a day together with whole bread sandwich,” Ms Elahsuv said.

Lactation is another very important period for both the mother and the baby that should not be taken lightly. Though it is not different from pregnant women, the only difference is that the lactating mother should take two additional complete meals to give her more milk for the baby.

It is also important for the lactating mother to engage in light exercises such as walking in the morning and having adequate rest during the day. She should as much as possible drink enough water, about 10 glasses in a day.

Regenerative diet promotes the use of plant-based foods and is not processed. These include a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals (brown rice) and natural food supplements such as parsley, brewer's yeast, soy and soy products, wheat germ, molasses and many others.

As much as we need healthy children to lead the nation in the future we also need our pregnant women to also eat healthy diets to ensure their good health as well their unborn babies.

Ghana has in abundance some of the nutritional required foods like the legumes, fruits and vegetables which are cheap in their season. It is sad to see vegetables and fruits in the markets rotting away in their season.

To ensure a healthy mother, healthy baby and a healthy nation, we need to change our lifestyles and adopt a healthy dietary pattern. Husbands should help their pregnant wives to ensure that they have healthy diets for themselves as well as the entire family.

Linda Asante Agyei
Linda Asante Agyei, © 2007

This author has authored 1 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: LindaAsanteAgyei

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