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Ask the Expert - Anna Mapson, The Gentle Touch

Hi Anna. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm a Nutritional Therapist working with pregnancy, new mums and babies. At The Gentle Touch we support mothers, wherever they are on their journey, through Holistic Sleep Coaching, Nutrition and our parenting classes such as Baby Massage. We have been working in Bristol for the last 7 years and recently took our services online so we can support women across the UK.

As a nutritional therapist I support people to change their diet to drive optimum health. For each person it's a different journey, but I offer functional testing, supplement recommendations as well as dietary advice.

How do our nutritional requirements change during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is the quickest and largest change that can be experienced as part of the human body. Whilst there are several anatomical changes that are obvious to see, for example belly and breast size increasing, there are also hidden changes that aren’t so obvious.

Your diet in pregnancy has been shown to influence a child’s lifelong risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and more. No pressure then! 

  • We need more protein to support growth. An extra 6-10g of protein a day is needed support the growth of your body and the baby. Include eggs, legumes & beans, fish, seeds, nuts throughout the day.

  • You need to focus on iron rich foods, calcium, omega 3 fats as well as a broad range of minerals and vitamins from diet. 

Are there any common myths surrounding nutrition in pregnancy that you can help to debunk?

There are a lot of old sayings about pregnancy, and some are more true than others. 

  • Eating for two - focus on healthy eating, with a varied and balanced diet to sustain your growth. The second person inside you is very small, and doesn't need much extra food! 
  • Women should avoid nuts in pregnancy - there is now research suggesting that nuts can actually support healthy brain development in babies. As long as you're not allergic to nuts there is no reason to avoid them whilst pregnant, and they can be a handy protein rich snack to carry in your bag.
  • Avoiding soft boiled eggs - as long as your eggs have the Lion mark on them they can be eaten soft or raw (e.g. mayonnaise).

What is the gut microbiome and why is it important during pregnancy?

In our digestive system there are trillions of microbes that helps us create hormones, vitamins, digest food, as well as interact with our immune system. 

Our microbiome changes in response to our environment, diet, weight, and hormones. So it's not surprising that there are also significant changes in the gut microbiome during pregnancy when dramatic weight gain happens, and our immune system changes. Eating a varied diet, full of vegetables, fruits, pulses and whole grains will help to feed the bugs to help the good bugs grow and flourish. 

Babies were thought to be born ‘sterile’, but new research is coming out showing there is some transfer of bacteria to your baby during pregnancy. Your baby will be covered in your bacteria during a vaginal birth, or environmental bacteria during a c-section. So keeping your own microbes happy and healthy may support your baby's future health.

What is the most important piece of advice you can give to a pregnant women?

Aim for as much variety in your diet as you can manage, include at least your 5 a day, but also look for a rainbow of colour in your food. This will help provide all the nutrients you need, but also help the growth of your baby. Look for vegetables that are green, purple, orange, yellow and red to get a great spectrum of nutrients. 

A big thank you to Anna for taking the time to share her nutritional knowledge with us. Anna offers nutritional consultations to any women all over the UK to support a healthy pregnancy diet, or during the postnatal period to restore and rejuvenate after the birth. You can find her here on Facebook and Instagram.