By Christia S. Padolina, M.D.
The first 1,000 days of life, from conception until the age of two, help build a strong foundation for a child’s growth and development. As such, it is integral for expectant moms to put in full effort in creating a strong start for their babies during this crucial period.
The good news is that the simple choices moms-to-be make every day can have a big impact on their child. I listed three simple steps for pregnant women on how they can boost their babies’ brain growth and development.
The stress hormones in a mother’s body can negatively affect her baby. So when she experiences severe stress, the baby inside her womb may get exposed to unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which hinder baby’s brain development.
In fact, a newly developed scanning technique allowed a team of researchers from Wayne State University to examine the neural activity of 47 fetuses, between 30 and 37 weeks of gestation. They recruited the participating mothers from a low-resource and high-stress urban setting. Most of them are exposed to high levels of depression, anxiety, worry, and stress.
This study revealed that highly-stressed mothers had fetuses with reduced efficiency in how their neural functional systems are organized. It further confirmed a long-held theory claiming that stress is not good for the baby’s brain development while in the womb.
Contrary to popular belief, exercising during pregnancy is generally safe. In fact, pregnant women who were physically active before they got pregnant can remain active during gestation as long as it is comfortable and there are no other health conditions. In addition to helping expectant moms build their stamina during pregnancy, exercising is also said to support the baby’s brain development.
The University de Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine children’s hospital, conducted a random, controlled study on the effects of maternal exercise on a child’s brain development. The team of researchers randomly assigned pregnant women (during the start of their second trimester) either to an exercise group or to a sedentary group. Women in the exercise group performed at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times per week at a moderate intensity while those in the sedentary group did not exercise.
At eight to 12 days after birth, the babies of the women who participated in the study went through an electroencephalogram test, which records electrical activity in the brain using small, metal discs (electrodes) attached to the scalp. The EEG test revealed that babies born to mothers who were physically active had a more mature cerebral activation, suggesting that their brains developed more quickly.
Focus on the essential nutrients
It is essential for pregnant women to get the right balance of nutrients to provide for their babies’ growth and brain development. For instance, women are encouraged to take at least 400 micrograms (mcg), or 0.4 milligrams (mg) of folic acid before conception and during pregnancy. This man-made form of B vitamin is essential in the production of red blood cells. It also helps prevent neural tube defects, like spina bifida, by which the brain and/or spinal cord do not fully develop.
To meet the dietary requirement for folic acid or folate, Food and Nutrition Research Institute said all women of child-bearing age can take supplements with folic acid in addition to eating food items high in folate.
Another essential nutrient that women should have during pregnancy is DHA, which is not synthesized by the body and can only be obtained through diet or supplementation. This omega-3 fatty acid is important for a developing fetus’ eyes, nervous system, and overall cognitive development. Often called as a brain food, DHA also helps with the development of myelin sheath, a coating surrounding the brain’s many axons, which allows the nerve cells to communicate more quickly.
Pregnant women may also consider drinking PROMAMA, a delicious vanilla tasting nutritional maternal milk drink designed to support them during pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and lactation. It is scientifically formulated with the essential and important nutrients needed to support the baby’s physical and mental development in the womb, such as folic acid, DHA, choline, iodine, and iron.
Pregnancy is an important time for a woman to take utmost care of her physical and mental health. This includes following a healthy lifestyle and making good choices. By doing this, pregnant women are likely to maintain a healthy pregnancy and help their babies get the best start in life so they can have a brighter tomorrow.
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