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Nourishing Pregnancy: Understanding Maternal Blood Volume Increase and Preconception Support

Pregnancy is a miraculous journey characterised by numerous changes in a woman's body, each crucial for nurturing the growing life within. One such significant change is the increase in maternal blood volume, a natural adaptation to support the needs of both the mother and the developing foetus. Understanding this physiological phenomenon and taking proactive steps during the preconception stage can greatly contribute to a healthy pregnancy. In this blog, we delve into why maternal blood volume increases during pregnancy, and what can be done beforehand to support essential nutrients like iron, protein, and electrolytes.


Preconception support Holistic Midwifery Australia

Why Does Maternal Blood Volume Increase During Pregnancy?


The human body is remarkably adaptive, especially during pregnancy. Maternal blood volume expansion is a fundamental adaptation that ensures an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients to the growing foetus, as well as to support the changes occurring in the mother's body.


During pregnancy, several physiological changes contribute to the increase in maternal blood volume:


Placental Development: The placenta, a temporary organ that develops during pregnancy, plays a crucial role in the nutrient exchange between the mother and the foetus. As the placenta grows and matures, it requires increased blood flow to meet the nutritional demands of the growing foetus.


Increased Cardiac Output: The heart works harder during pregnancy, pumping more blood with each beat to meet the body's increased demands. This increased cardiac output leads to an expansion of the blood volume to accommodate the higher circulation requirements.


Hormonal Changes: Hormones like oestrogen and progesterone surge during pregnancy, leading to the relaxation of blood vessels and increased blood flow to the uterus and placenta. This hormonal influence contributes to the expansion of maternal blood volume.


Fluid Retention: The body retains more water during pregnancy, which also contributes to the expansion of blood volume.


Supporting Essential Nutrients in the Preconception Stage


Optimal maternal health before conception sets the stage for a healthy pregnancy. Preconception care involves focusing on nutrition, lifestyle, and overall well-being to support maternal health and prepare the body for pregnancy. Here are some key considerations to support iron levels, protein requirements, and electrolyte balance during the preconception stage:


Iron-Rich Diet: Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to tissues and organs, including the foetus. Consuming iron-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, liver, and dark leafy greens can help build iron stores in the body before conception. Including foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, and strawberries, can enhance iron absorption.


Supplementation: In some cases, supplementation may be necessary to meet increased iron requirements, especially for women with a history of iron deficiency or those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. Consulting with a healthcare provider before starting any supplements is recommended to determine individual needs. There are an array of iron supplements on the market that contain different forms of iron. Iron bisglycinate is recommended as it is a chelated form of iron - meaning it's bound to an amino acid - which improves absorption.


Protein-Rich Foods: Protein is crucial for foetal growth and development, as well as for supporting maternal tissue repair and growth. Including sources of high-quality protein such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds in the diet can help meet protein requirements during the preconception stage.


Hydration and Electrolyte Balance: Adequate hydration and electrolyte balance are essential for overall health and well-being, including reproductive health. Drinking plenty of water and consuming electrolyte-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and coconut water can help maintain proper hydration and electrolyte balance before conception. Magnesium, potassium and sodium are common electrolytes and are available in products containing the correct amounts of each required for optimal health and well-being.


Healthy Lifestyle Choices: In addition to nutrition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle before conception is crucial. This includes regular physical activity, managing stress, getting enough sleep, avoiding harmful substances such as tobacco and excessive alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight.


By focusing on these aspects of preconception care, individuals can support their overall health and prepare their bodies for the demands of pregnancy, including the increase in maternal blood volume. Prioritising nutrition, hydration, and lifestyle habits sets the stage for a healthy pregnancy and supports the well-being of both the mother and the developing foetus. As always, consulting with a healthcare provider for personalised guidance and recommendations is important throughout the preconception journey and beyond.


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