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Every year, world heart day is celebrated and awareness is spread about cardiovascular diseases. Having a nutritious diet means to safeguard and keep hearts healthy in order to lead a healthy life. This is important for everyone, especially for pregnant women among whom a nutritious diet plays the key role in improving foetal cardiovascular system. Foetus also requires Omega-3 fatty acids and essential vitamins and minerals like in the case of adults.

The foetal heart development commences in the first trimester of pregnancy, thereby every pregnant women should follow a diet rich in calcium and phosphorus, which are important for your baby’s heart growth. I would suggest mothers to consult a nutritionist or dietician as soon as they become pregnant to have a safe pregnancy and healthy baby.

Foetuses, in the womb, have bigger hearts in the 1st and 2nd trimester compared to other organs. As your baby grows, the heart increases in size. The nutrition of the foetus is connected with that of mother. Hence, pregnant mothers should steer clear from caffeinated, excess sodium and high cholesterol products which may hinder your foetal heart development.

What are the factors affecting foetus heart development?

Chromosomal abnormalities: In 50% of babies chromosomal abnormalities are associated with Down syndrome.

Other genetic defects: A single gene may develop abnormally leading to development of a congenital heart defect.

Diabetes: Unstable blood sugar control in women with diabetics can be a cause of increased risk of heart defects in baby.

Rubella [German measles]: Luckily, Rubella is a rare disorder now days however obstetricians advise to test fao rubella to confirm whether the mother is protected against German measles in the early pregnancy phase.

Drugs or substance abuse: Exposure to unwanted chemicals: paints, solvents, pesticides, air pollutants like trichloroethylene and possibly, deadly radiations should be avoided.

Common heart problems: Heart defects are a rare phenomenon only around 8 in 1000 pregnancies are diagnosed with heart abnormalities. Only around 8 in every 1000 pregnancies are diagnosed with heart abnormalities.

Which are the best foods for foetal well-being?

Pregnant women should have regular intake of diet rich in whole grains, leafy greens and lean proteins. However in some cases, expecting mothers may emphasize rich minerals and nutrient foods. The most critical minerals that significantly impact the foetal heart development are calcium, copper, phosphorus and thiamine. Milk is rich in calcium and can be taken daily in quantities of 1000 and 700 milligrams respectively. Have at least 1 milligram cashews, kidney beans daily since they are great sources of copper. Lastly eat around 1.4 milligrams of oats, split peas and meat mostly; meat products are rich source of thiamine.

Which foods lower foetus’s heart development?

  • Unhealthy foods
  • High cholesterol
  • High caffeinated products

In addition to increase consumption of heart healthy foods, limit unhealthy eating, keep a check on your cholesterol and sodium intake, should be below 300 and 3000 milligrams per day, respectively. Food additives or chemicals like MSG can have side-effects on your developing baby. You can also seek further advice from your concerned doctor.

Pregnancy is one of the most vital and delicate phase in every woman’s life. Every woman should pay special attention to her diet.

Most important, drink milk 2-3 times a day, take adequate nutrient supplements and enough rest. Don’t panic and enjoy the beautiful journey as ‘would be mother’.

The writer is M.Sc. Food Science & Technology NET(ICAR)

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