Healthy pregnancies

Pregnant women have particular nutritional and physical activity needs that midwives need to know about.

The standard textbook for midwifery students in Australia and New Zealand is Midwifery: Preparation for Practice. The current edition came out in 2018. This will be the third update that Dr Megan Gibbons has been involved with, and the second for Jade Wratten. Together they contribute a chapter on Nutrition and physical activity foundations for pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. Megan is Head of College for Te Ohu Ora and brings expertise in nutrition, while Jade is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Midwifery.

The biggest nutritional concern for pregnant women is micronutrient deficiency. Because the growing baby will take what it needs for its own development, the woman's health can suffer if she is not getting enough micronutrients. Lack of iron is a big issue, as the volume of blood in the body increases during pregnancy, but the necessary micronutrients also include calcium, folate and vitamin B12.

Obesity is another issue that midwives need to know about. Obesity makes it harder for a woman to get pregnant, and pregnancy also exacerbates the health implications of obesity. For example the heart and lungs have to work that much harder, and childbirth is also harder. However pregnancy is a great motivator for women to make positive behavioural changes that will improve the health of themselves and their babies.

New for this edition of the book is a section on physical activity. Keeping active is important for pregnant women because generally speaking fitter mothers have easier deliveries and recover better from childbirth. However for some very fit women, the strength of their muscles can actually cause problems.

The book is revised regularly with new editions ensuring that the next generation of midwives are as well-prepared as they can be for caring for Australasian mothers and babies.

 July 2018

Image credit: Megan Gibbons, used with permission