We know pregnancy nutrition is important. Preconception nutrition is also moving into the spotlight. But the importance of nutrition between pregnancies remains in the dark.
Interpregnancy is the time between pregnancies – the birth of one child to the conception of another. And what a time. A new baby brings transformational physical and lifestyle changes, impacting your metabolic requirements and ability to meet them. If this is not appropriately managed, there is a risk of nutrient deficiency in subsequent pregnancies – which can impact baby and mum’s health.
Based on current Australian statistics, ~70% of women have two or more children. And with ~50% of pregnancies suggested to occur accidentally, you could be between pregnancies right now!
Many international governing institutions recommend an 18-24month gap between babies to reduce the risk of pregnancy related complications. But, tightly-spaced pregnancies certainly occur at ~1/5 pregnancies. And a shorter interpregnancy gap can further increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies in subsequent pregnancies.
5 Reasons Why Nutrition Between Pregnancies Matters
Pregnancy increases your nutrient requirements
Energy and micronutrients, like folate and iodine, requirements increase rapidly in pregnancy to facilitate baby’s growth. Iron requirements almost double!
Inadequate nutrition in one pregnancy will deplete the body’s stores. This can lead to nutrient deficiency in postpartum. Which can lead to deficiency in subsequent pregnancies, where requirements increase again, perpetuating a cycle of deficiency risk.
Pregnancy can come with hurdles to healthy eating
There are pregnancy related barriers which may reduce the ability to meet extra pregnancy nutrients (ironic, huh).
Morning/all-day sickness, reflux, a squished stomach, and so forth are just a few of many complex reasons I see clinically which impact prenatal nutrition.
Ensuring nutrients are consistently topped-up with the right foods (and maybe supplements if indicated) postnatally can help reduce the risk of deficiency in subsequent pregnancies.
Birth increases nutrient requirements (again?!)
Recovery from any birth increases nutrient requirements.
And I know. Everything seems to increase your metabolic requirements (sorry!). Recovering from blood loss, stitches, exhaustion, making breastmilk or bottle feeding all day and night, it all increases your requirements for food.
Breastfeeding (you guessed it) increases nutrient requirements
It takes a lot of metabolic energy to make breastmilk, on demand, 24/7.
Evidence suggests it’s ~500 extra calories a day. Micronutrients like Iodine, omega-3, vitamin B12, zinc, choline, selenium amongst others increase too, beyond that of pregnancy.
Nutrition matters when trying to conceive
Your period is unique to you, when it comes back postnatally will vary person to person.
This can be an issue when planning another pregnancy sooner rather than later. While breastfeeding can play a role here, I assure you if you are not eating enough food, it can contribute to your period not returning as quickly.
If you think you are at risk of nutrient deficiency, see your GP for a blood test. Prioritise your diet and pack it with nourishing whole grains, good fats, plant protein and/or lean animal protein including fish, plants and fibre. If you are not sure where to start, see a prenatal dietitian.
The MumSafe website has a growing number of articles on nutrition, check them out!
This article is no way intended to be used as personalised health advice. That’s what your healthcare team is for.