Preconception nutrition and diet is all about the things you can do before and between pregnancies to increase your chances of having a healthy baby. While we hear a lot about pregnancy nutrition, it’s easy to forget about that all-important time just before conception.

There is a rising tide of scientific evidence showing that optimal nutritional status is important both to increase your chances of falling pregnant and for the future genetic health of the fetus. As the research into epigenetics grows, we now know the health status of both the mother and father at the time of conception can impact the future baby’s health later on in life.

Preconception guidelines recommend women eat from the five food groups, however there are other nutrition issues to address besides merely eating a healthy and varied diet full of whole foods. Here’s the basic rundown of key nutrition issues to consider when you’re trying to conceive.

Folic Acid is key to preconception nutrition

Folic Acid is the key nutrient that women must add to their diet – with a supplement – before they conceive. Folic Acid is important in the fusion of the fetal neural tube, which later develops to become the baby’s spine. Women deficient in Folic Acid are more likely to have a baby with a neural tube defect. As the neural tube closes within the first few weeks of pregnancy, it is vital that there is enough Folic Acid in the mother’s diet before conception. Women are recommended to take at least 400 μg of Folic Acid at least a month prior to and three months after conception. MamaCare provides 500 μg Folic Acid as well as 25 other essential nutrients for pregnancy, in a tasty vanilla shake that’s easy to prepare.

Popular diets may leave you missing out on key nutrients

A Mediterranean-style eating pattern that includes all five food groups is a great way to eat while you’re trying to conceive. Make sure you eat plenty of different vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and cook with extra virgin olive oil to follow a Mediterranean diet.

Other popular diets like paleo or vegan diets can exclude or minimise various food groups which will leave nutritional gaps for you and your future baby. For example, the boom in plant-based diets is wonderful for bringing more fibre and whole foods into the diet, but excluding meat and other animal products can leave you lower in crucial nutrients such as Iron, Zinc and Vitamin B12. Including a supplement like MamaCare can help fill any nutritional gaps before conception.

Limit caffeine during preconception

While there is no unified answer as to how much caffeine is ok before pregnancy, it’s generally accepted that large amounts of caffeine can affect fertility. During preconception, it’s best to follow the pregnancy guidelines of no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day, which is just one barista-made coffee, two cups of instant coffee or four cups of black tea.  By all means continue to enjoy your daily coffee should you wish, but you may want to add low-caffeine options like   green tea or no-caffeine options like herbal tea or decaf coffee to fill the coffee-shaped void.

Alcohol should be avoided during preconception

While the guidelines for abstaining from alcohol in pregnancy are well known, not all women know that alcohol should also be avoided during the preconception period. As some women may not know they are pregnant until many weeks into their pregnancy, drinking alcohol while you’re planning to conceive a baby can risk Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders or impaired development. Check out our post for surviving the party period <insert link> which will give you some ideas for how to manage not drinking in social situations.

It’s important to remember that dietary guidelines are general in nature. If you want nutrition information tailored to your unique circumstances, it’s best to see a medical professional or an Accredited Practising Dietitian.