You are what you eat. We’ve all heard this classic adage, haven’t we? Evidently, this old saying rings true in pregnancy too. The diet you consume can affect your baby’s health, development, and potential risk factors throughout their life. However, your genetic makeup and lifestyle have a significant impact on your and your baby’s nutrition.
Your DNA can cause you to be, perhaps unknowingly, predisposed to a nutrient deficiency. Additionally, your lifestyle habits can exacerbate the effects of these deficiencies if you don’t feed your body what it needs to make up for it. But how would one know whether your genetics have caused you to have low levels of iron and Vitamin B6, for instance?
DNA and Lifestyle During Pregnancy
Soon-to-be mommies can now discover how their genetic makeup affects their nutrition through an at-home Prenatal Nutrition Test kit and prenatal nutrition app called 9Moons. Further, they can monitor their nutrient levels to better ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. Here, we will break down how DNA plays a role, which lifestyle habits can hinder and help potential predispositions, and review how the 9moons app has provided an essential service that pregnant women have long needed.
How Does DNA Affect Nutrition in the Female Body?
Many factors can affect a woman’s nutritional needs. Factors like age, eating habits, and access to healthy foods, as well as psychological determinants, such as mood and stress levels. While these areas are vital in determining whether a person will pursue a healthy lifestyle, DNA also plays a significant role in nutrition.
Medical professionals are beginning to understand better how an individual’s genetic makeup can affect their nutritional needs. This relatively new field of study is called nutritional genomics, or nutrigenomics, and it involves the study of the relationship between a person’s gene expression, nutrition, and diet. Not surprisingly, this new field of study has also increased the popularity of genetic testing kits.
Depending on a woman’s DNA, various genetic variables can hinder their body’s ability to obtain their complete nutrient requirements. Some may be unable to properly absorb necessary vitamins, such as vitamin B12, A, C, and D, and folate. Others may suffer from a condition causing an accumulation of excessive iron in the body (known as hereditary hemochromatosis).
In comparison to men, women also face the biological predisposition of requiring a higher intake of calcium and iron, especially when pregnant. That’s why pregnant moms must consume calcium and iron supplements to avoid potential deficiencies. Women are also more susceptible to breast cancer, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, and female-exclusive diseases like ovarian and cervical cancers, Turner Syndrome, and Rett syndrome.
How Does Lifestyle Habits and DNA Impact Prenatal Nutrition?
In 2019, Purdue University discovered that pregnant women who participated in the study were deficient in vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and B6. They also lacked necessary minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. The researchers found that, without a dietary supplement, “80 to 95% of expecting mothers would fail to achieve iron recommendations.”
For expecting mamas, especially those with vitamin absorption issues, nutrients are imperative for a healthy pregnancy and fetal development. Poor maternal nutrition can result in increased health risks for women, including:
- Anemia (the lack of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body’s tissues)
- Maternal mortality
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension (a form of high blood pressure in pregnancy)
- Premature rupture of membranes (the sac surrounding the baby to protect it ruptures)
- Postpartum hemorrhage (heavy bleeding post-childbirth)
- Puerperal endometritis (uterine infection)
- Third trimester bleeding
Improper maternal nutrition can restrict a baby’s growth in the womb and lead to severe outcomes: childhood malnutrition, intrauterine growth restriction, low birth weight, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, premature birth, and chronic diseases in adulthood.
To help prevent nutritional deficiencies, moms-to-be should take adequate doses of folate, vitamins B and D, calcium, and iron. They should also eat a proper diet loaded with foods that provide energy (like healthy carbs, proteins, and fats), essential fatty acids (omega 3s), and other micronutrients.
Improved Lifestyle Habits Can Have a Positive Impact Despite Genetic Makeup
Don’t fret if you’re feeling a bit concerned with what seems like the laundry list of genetic and lifestyle variations that women are up against. Improved lifestyle habits can positively impact nutrition despite your genetic makeup, even when you’re expecting. According to a study conducted by the MRC International Nutrition Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a mother’s diet during her pregnancy can have a significant effect on the expression and control of a baby’s genes. There’s no losing hope here, moms-to-be!
Pregnant moms should be mindful of how lifestyle habits and DNA can complement one another but can also conflict. For instance, women who consume a plant-based diet should develop a well-balanced meal plan during their pregnancy. Load it up with foods heavy in iodine (sea veggies like nori), zinc (fortified grains, tempeh, and tofu), and choline (Brussel sprouts, broccoli, collard greens, etc.), in addition to the necessary vitamins and minerals that we’ve previously discussed.
As for pescatarians who eat a diet heavy in seafood, avoiding fish with higher levels of mercury is best. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends eating lobster, freshwater trout, and herring but avoiding fish like bigeye tuna, swordfish, and orange roughy.
The seasons can also play a role in the nutrients mommas-to-be should be incorporating into their diet. People who live in regions marked with colder climates are likely to have a Vitamin D deficiency and can look to a supplement to combat anxiety or depression.
Keeping Track of Your Nutritional Needs With 9Moons
Incorporating several nutrients into your everyday meals that fulfill your baby’s and your health needs and combats genetic-based deficiencies can be challenging. Many expecting women aren’t sure what they should eat, how much they should eat, and what foods they should avoid. It can be confusing and overwhelming because, as we’ve mentioned, nutritional needs vary for everyone. It’s not a one-size-fits-all plan.
For LifeNome, an award-winning precision health AI company, creating a solution that would seamlessly monitor DNA and health results for moms all over the world was a top priority. This led the group to develop 9Moons, a prenatal nutrition app that assists pregnant women with formulating a balanced diet that meets their needs. It’s a simpler way for women to ensure they get exactly what they and their babies need from their diets.
Personalized Nutrition Plans Based on Your DNA
Developed by a team of top global geneticists and nutritionists, the app utilizes genetic test evaluations to help identify critical prenatal nutritional needs. Their technology is revolutionary and it’s incredibly easy to get started!
Once you order the test kit, it is conveniently delivered directly to your door. In the kit, you will find all the necessary items for your DNA test. You will self-administer a simple cheek swab and mail it back to the lab using their prepaid postage.
Get Your Results
After ten business days of mailing your DNA sample, you’ll receive your results and can get started with your personalized prenatal nutrition plan!
Download the 9Moons App
9Moons builds your unique recommended dietary allowance (RDAs) based upon your specific genetic traits, providing information on the macro and micronutrients your body needs daily.
This app makes it easy for expecting mothers since it showcases specialized recommendations for the foods that will help them meet their nutrient quota—no more guessing what you should eat during your pregnancy anymore. 9Moons takes the guesswork out of meal planning.
Weekly Meal Plans Created Just For You
While eating the right foods may sound simple enough, making them into exciting and tasty dishes on a day-to-day basis can become cumbersome. To help pregnant mommas stay on track, 9Moons generates a comprehensive weekly meal plan, coupled with over 1,000 recipes to choose from that are personalized to your nutritional needs and preferences for each trimester of your pregnancy.
We love that the platform can also serve as a food journal to record what you eat (cravings, we’re looking at you). It also allows for monitoring your health throughout your pregnancy by tracking mood changes, quality of sleep, and stages of gestation progression.
And when you find recipes that you like or want to save for later, no problem! You can easily mark them on the app in their respective folders. You can even add the ingredients to a grocery list with just a push of a button!
Tracking For Baby, Too
9Moons can play an integral role in the first two years of your little one’s life too. After your baby is born, you’ll have the ability to document their nutrition for the first 24 months of their life. Plus: you can chat with a nutritionist and OB/GYN if you have any questions or concerns.
If you’re interested in learning more about your genetic profile and how to maintain your and your baby’s health during your pregnancy, download the 9Moons app on the Apple Store or Google Play. You can also visit app.9moons.com to receive a free 14-day trial!
Keeping yourself healthy and making good nutritional choices can be challenging for any mom. Worrying about how your genetic makeup may affect those choices shouldn’t keep you up at night. Using an app like 9Moons can help to give you that peace of mind you need to stay healthy, happy, and confident while you’re growing that beautiful baby.