Meet our expert: Dr Nicole Avena, neuroscientist and author of What to Eat When You’re Pregnant (£8.49, Ten Speed Press).
Tempting as it might be to tuck into comforting junk food in late pregnancy, feeding your body with the right nutrients can make a significant difference to you and your baby at this stage.
Making wise nutritional choices can alleviate late pregnancy symptoms, help prepare your body for labour and boost your baby’s development.
Set yourself up for labour and birth by consuming adequate protein so your body can repair muscles. ‘Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of your muscles,’ explains Dr Nicole. ‘Consuming sufficient energy and protein has been shown to be associated with healthier outcomes in labour and birth.’ Chicken should ideally be on your labour-day menu. ‘Eating just half a chicken breast gives you 27g of protein,’ adds Dr Nicole.
Until recently, women were advised to avoid food during labour. But research now shows that a light meal and snacks is fine in a low-risk pregnancy. ‘Choose low fat, because fatty foods take longer to digest,’ says Dr Nicole. ‘To help stay hydrated, pick foods with a high water content such as strawberries.’
At this stage, you’ll probably experience some swelling of your body’s lower extremities due to fluid shifts. ‘As well as snacking on foods with a high water content, choose those with potassium, such as apricots,’ says Dr Nicole. Potassium helps maintain a normal water balance in your body, and a lack of it can cause water retention.