The human body goes through some incredible changes during pregnancy, creating vital organs to foster the growth and development of both mum and baby – including the placenta. Placental health is extremely important for both mother and baby. So, what can we do to maintain a healthy placenta throughout pregnancy? The answer could lie in your diet and lifestyle.

What to eat for a healthy placenta? 

Maintaining a healthy placenta is key for foetal development and a healthy pregnancy. One simple change that mothers can adopt during pregnancy for a healthy placenta is to change their diet. But what exactly should we be eating, and why?

What we eat is crucial to placenta function as the food we ingest converts into different forms of energy that help our body and baby develop. The mother must ensure a daily intake of various nutrients and an increase of roughly 300 calories per day to provide a healthy pregnancy and complete foetal development.

It is important for mums-to-be to eat ‘nutrient-rich calories’ rather than ‘empty calories’. But what does this mean?

Empty calories have little nutritional value, providing the body with solid fats and added sugars, which can result in nutritional deficiencies. Whilst they may provide a lot of energy, they will not provide what is needed for your body and baby to thrive. Foods containing empty calories include many foods that are processed, such as packaged cakes, biscuits, cheese, and fast foods.

Instead, mums need to consume nutrient-rich calories, which contain a large number of nourishing vitamins and minerals that are essential for placental health. This includes lots of iron-rich foods as the baby absorbs large amounts of iron from the maternal blood.

Consuming nutrient-rich calories and iron rich foods will help to sustain a healthy placenta and prevent conditions such as iron-deficiency anaemia.

Here are 5 good foods to eat for a healthy placenta…

1) Eggs

Boiled, scrambled, poached or fried – eggs are an extremely versatile and delicious snack for pregnant women. Not only are they tasty, but they are protein rich and a good source of iron and choline for the placenta, which are vital to foetal brain development.

2) Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are one of the best things you can eat for a healthy placenta. They are a healthy carb which is full of fibre, potassium, iron and vitamin A. The supply of vitamin A to the placenta is crucial for the development of the baby’s eyes, bones and skin.

3) Nuts

Nuts serve as a delicious snack, providing the placenta with healthy fats, protein, and fibre. Nuts are also rich in magnesium, which is vital to a healthy placenta. High levels of magnesium reduces the risks of premature labour whilst also helping the development of the baby’s nervous system.

4) Green vegetables 

The recommended intake of iron almost doubles during pregnancy. As such, iron rich foods such as spinach, broccoli and kale are crucial during pregnancy. Low levels of iron could result in a deficiency and hinder the transfer of oxygen and nutrients to the placenta.

5) Yoghurt

As a rich source of calcium and zinc, yoghurt provides many benefits for a healthy placenta. In particular, Greek yoghurt is full of protein and calcium, and serves as a great superfood to maintain a healthy placenta.

Many people say that behind every healthy baby is a healthy placenta. Placental health is extremely important yet is often overlooked. There are several things you can do to work towards a healthy placenta and an overall healthy pregnancy.

What you eat is an important consideration when maintaining a healthy placenta. Regular low-impact exercise alongside a healthy, balanced diet will ensure that your placenta is healthy, and your baby is fully nourished.

What does the placenta do? 

The function of the placenta is fundamental for baby’s growth. It forms an important connection between mother and baby, providing essential nutrients throughout pregnancy and passing oxygen and vitamins through the umbilical cord to the placenta. It also removes waste products from baby to prevent any harmful infections. The placenta plays a crucial part in hormone production too, including the production of progesterone, oestrogen and the HCG hormone, which all help to sustain a healthy pregnancy.

When does the placenta form? 

The placenta begins to form in the early weeks of pregnancy, when the fertilised egg attaches itself to a tiny yolk sack in the uterus. This sack provides nourishment to the baby until the placenta is fully formed a few weeks later. By week 18-20 of pregnancy, the placenta is fully developed and takes over the transfer of oxygen and nutrients to the fertilised egg, ensuring that the foetus is fully nourished.

This is good news for mums-to-be! During this time, many mothers experience reduced morning sickness and increased energy levels once the placenta takes over, which makes life a bit easier for expectant mums. A healthy placenta continues to grow throughout the pregnancy period and is then delivered after birth – normally between 5 and 30 minutes after the baby.

What can I do with my placenta once I have given birth?

Your placenta nourishes your baby throughout your pregnancy. However, its usefulness does not have to stop at birth. Your placenta contains Amnion and Placental Cells, which are being used in a range of therapies to push the boundaries of conventional medicine.

Amnion has already been used to heal serious burns and diabetic ulcers, as well as to regenerate infected wounds. Both Amnion and Placental Cells are the subject of a growing body of very promising clinical trials for cardiovascular conditions, brain injury, arthritis and many more.

By banking placental tissue with Cells4Life, you can make sure your child has access to as many of the latest regenerative therapies as possible, as they become available. To find out more about placenta banking, click here.

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References

The Physiological Society, ‘Keep your placenta healthy by exercising while pregnant.’ ScienceDaily, accessed 1st November 2020, available at:
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190523091250.htm

NHS, ‘What is the placenta’, accessed 1st November 2020, available at:
https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/what-is-the-placenta/

Kofinas Perinatal, ‘Effect of fetal developmental adaptive programming on adult health: part II’, accessed 1st November 2020, available at:
https://www.kofinasperinatal.org/nutrition-placenta-fetal-adult-health/

Health Direct, ‘Pregnancy – 0 to 8 weeks’, Pregnancy Birth & Baby, accessed 1st November 2020, available at:
https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/pregnancy-0-to-8-weeks

Parents, ’10 Best Pregnancy Food Combos to Boost Your Prenatal Diet’, accessed 1st November 2020, available at:
https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/nutrition/super-foods-smart-advice-the-best-prenatal-diet/

Tanya Tantry, ‘What Is a Placenta and How Do You Keep It Healthy? Flo’s Guide’, Flo,  accessed 1st November 2020, available at:
https://flo.health/pregnancy/giving-birth/labor-and-delivery/what-is-a-placenta

Kristin Koch, ‘10 Superfoods to Eat During Pregnancy’, The Bump, accessed 1st November 2020, available at:
https://www.thebump.com/a/10-pregnancy-foods-to-eat-for-baby

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