Diet and lifestyle choices for expectant mothers in India’s cancer-prone scenario

As expectant mothers begin their pregnancy journey, ensuring optimal health becomes crucial. It helps protect the mother and fetus from many serious diseases including cancer. According to the latest estimates of the global burden of the disease by the World Health Organization, in 2022, there were more than 14.1 lakh new cancer cases in India and the disease caused more than 9.1 lakh deaths. The report also identified breast and cervical cancer as the most frequently diagnosed types of cancer among women.

Pregnant mothers should consider the following during pregnancy to reduce the risk of cancer.

Maintain a balanced diet
Make sure to maintain a balanced diet rich in nutrients. Pregnant mothers should focus on including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in their diet. Nutritionally, this ensures adequate intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants necessary for cell repair and immune function, which may reduce the risk of cancer.

In addition, eating specific diets, such as green leafy vegetables, legumes and fortified grains, may help reduce the risk of cancer. Likewise, people who consume meat may prevent the development of cancer by including foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and soybean oil.

Stay hydratedAdequate hydration is very important during pregnancy, as water helps transport nutrients, eliminate waste, and maintain overall body function. Pregnant women should drink enough water throughout the day to support hydration and overall health.

Limit your intake of processed foodsPregnant mothers should limit their intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and refined carbohydrates. Not only do these items lack essential nutrients, but they can also contribute to weight gain and inflammation, factors linked to an increased risk of cancer and other chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Avoid alcoholTobacco, alcohol and smoking should be avoided during or possibly before pregnancy. All three substances are associated with an increased risk of various types of cancer, and avoiding them is particularly important to protect fetal growth and maternal health.

Avoid contaminationEnvironmental factors are also important causes of cancer. Women should avoid polluted air as much as possible during pregnancy. In addition, using sunscreen can help reduce the risk of skin cancer by limiting exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays.

Physical activityFrom a lifestyle perspective, regular physical activity during pregnancy is beneficial for both the mother and the fetus. Moderate exercise, such as slow walking or doing prenatal yoga, not only promotes physical fitness but also helps manage stress and improve mood swings, which is an important aspect of overall health during pregnancy.

Women should take more care of their health during pregnancy, especially in a country like India where cancer rates are high. During this time, not only the mother’s health depends, but also the baby’s health. By keeping the above things in mind, a woman can have a healthy pregnancy and protect herself and her baby from serious diseases such as cancer.

(Writer: Samiksha Kalra Gupta, Senior Nutritionist, Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Delhi)

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