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Providing Nutrition Advice to Pre and Postnatal Clients

8 minute read

If you are keen to provide nutrition, exercise and healthy lifestyle advice to pregnant women, or those recovering from a birth, then you’ll certainly want to read our guide on providing nutrition advice and support for pre and postnatal clients.

Pregnancies and Births in the UK

Over the past 10-15 years, the total number of women that became pregnant and/or who have given birth has steadily decreased. In 2018, England and Wales saw around 650,000 live births, whereas Scotland and Northern Ireland (which both record birth data separately), saw around 46,000 and 23,000 respectively. Pregnancy rates, which are recorded as ‘conceptions’, will obviously be much higher than birth figures because for a variety of reasons, some pregnancies do not result in a live birth (e.g. termination, miscarriage, still birth).

Despite the steady decline in pregnancy rates, there are some positive outcomes associated with this data. Many women are now choosing to defer pregnancy until later life (typically 30+), in favour of focusing on their education and/or career. Conversely, some women are also reporting reasons why they are choosing not to have children, or to have fewer children, is because of a lack of support, high costs of living and/or low wages.

Generally speaking, pregnancy is a life event that for most women, is occurring much later in life when they have more stability, support and a broader and richer life experiences. In terms of preparation for birth and motherhood, these factors can only be positive because these women are far more likely to have the time, resources and experiences to empower them to make better health, fitness and nutrition choices.

pregnany woman using exercise ball

Did you know:
Pregnancy rates for women in the UK aged 30 and over are the only age demographic in which rates of pregnancy have increased since 1990. All groups aged 29 and below have either stabilised, or decreased.

The Need for Pre and Postnatal Nutrition Advisors

Broadly speaking, the later pregnancy occurs in life, the greater the risks to women that they will experience specific adverse outcomes, including Down syndrome, miscarriage, stillbirth, gestational diabetes and other complications associated with birth. There is also a decline in fertility with advancing age, reducing the likelihood of pregnancy occurring altogether.

Given that the data demonstrates that women are choosing to delay pregnancy until they are 30+, the need to ensure women engage in health-promoting behaviours before, during and even after pregnancy is ever more important in order to keep risks to mother and baby as low as possible. If a healthy diet is followed and an appropriate level of exercise and physical activity is performed, then the risks associated with a delayed pregnancy should only marginally increase, if at all. This is where a suitably trained and qualified nutrition and exercise professional will become invaluable.

Did you know: The risk of a mother experiencing gestational diabetes increases when pregnancy is delayed past 30 years old, and again past 40 years old.

As previously stated, following a healthy lifestyle, which includes maintaining a healthy bodyweight, exercising regularly and appropriately, and eating a healthy and nutritious diet significantly reduces the risks associated with pregnancy. It is essential therefore that pregnant women receive accurate information and evidence-based recommendations from appropriately trained exercise and nutrition professionals. Consuming the wrong foods, or performing inappropriate types of exercise can significantly increase the risks to both mother and baby, with potentially fatal consequences.

If you are a fitness instructor or personal trainer that wants to work with pre and postnatal clients, you may wish to consider upskilling, by completing our Level 3 Award in Exercise for Pre and Postnatal Clients, and our Level 3 Nutrition to Support Pre and Postnatal Clients.

Personal trainer with pregnant client

Working as a Pre and Postnatal Nutrition Advisor

Pregnant women will generally have a relatively basic understanding of nutrition science, healthy eating guidelines, and how important a healthy diet is to support a successful pregnancy. To illustrate this point, lower glycaemic index foods consumed regularly during pregnancy, like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, are linked with a reduced risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). However, most women won’t have completed formal training or qualifications on nutrition and will have little understanding of what the glycaemic index is, let alone which foods, and combinations of foods, affect glycaemic index or load.

Did you know: Women who consume high amounts of caffeine (>400mg or 4 cups of coffee per day), have an increased risk of miscarriage, still birth, and pre-term birth.
Given that the mother’s diet is the only external source of nutrition and nourishment for the baby, her diet has the potential to positively and negatively affect her unborn baby’s health, both physical and mental. For example, an adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding, which are typically sourced from oily fish, nuts, seeds and plant oils, can significantly improve a child’s cognitive development, maybe even making them smarter later in life!

Did you know: 30% of the human brain is made of an omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic (pronounced as: dow kow suh·hek·suh·no·uk) acid, or DHA for short.
Suitably trained, qualified and experienced pre-and-postnatal nutrition coaches/ advisors will be equipped with the necessary level of evidence-based knowledge and skills to be able to advise and educate women about how they can make better and more educated food choices during pregnancy. Much of this advice will be aimed at improving health and reducing risks, but may equally help women to enjoy this life-changing experience by reducing the impact of the common symptoms of pregnancy, like nausea, vomiting and heartburn for example.

There are no shortage of old-wives tales and myths about what women should and should not eat while they are pregnant. Similarly, the internet and social media are also full of misinformation on all manner of subjects relating to diet, exercise and health. By utilising the professional services of a suitably trained pre and postnatal nutrition advisor, pregnant women will be able to better recognise poor advice and misinformation, making better and more informed decisions about healthy eating.

It’s important to underline the fact that nutrition coaches or advisors are there only to provide education, advice and support, but not to prescribe or diagnose. This is an important distinction to make because it would be considered beyond the ‘scope of practice’ for an exercise professional or nutrition advisor to engage in any activities that might suggest that this is what they are doing. Additionally, any advice, information or education shared with clients must be evidence-based and support what the appropriate health authorities (e.g NHS, NICE) advise.

pregnant woman on yoga mat

Getting the Right Pre and Postnatal Nutrition Training

Safely helping women through a healthy pregnancy is a role that has one of the greatest responsibilities in the health and fitness industry. On this basis, picking the right training provider and course is absolutely crucial if you want to safeguard your professional reputation, business and clients from risk.

Most personal training courses and qualifications will give a wink and a nod towards nutrition, and training approaches for special populations like pregnant women or older adults. However, rarely do these programmes explore general and specific nutrition interventions for pre and postnatal clients comprehensively. Instead, they simply present the basics, as is often necessary to demonstrate that the course has included some training in these areas. Furthermore, there is little in the way of formal assessment on these subjects. Consequently, it just isn’t possible to say with any confidence that just because somebody is a personal trainer or fitness coach, that they have sufficient knowledge to operate in this field.

Did you know: 50% of personal trainers still give out specific dietary prescriptions to clients, despite not having any nutrition qualifications.

Our pre and postnatal nutrition course has been specifically created by leading industry nutrition and research professionals to bring to the market the most comprehensive evidence-based repository of information available on nutrition and healthy eating for pregnant women, or those that have recently given birth. The course is specifically designed for exercise professionals working in this field and will give those completing it the knowledge, skills and confidence to safely advise, educate and inspire clients on how they can achieve a healthy pregnancy through diet and exercise.

Understandably, pregnancy is a common reason why many clients decide to take a temporary break from training, usually because they are fearful that they might increase the risks associated with their pregnancy. Having completed our trusted specialist course, you will be better equipped to help pregnant clients to become more comfortable to continue to exercise throughout their pregnancy and beyond, all the while helping them to improve their nutritional health.

As you successfully coach more women in the area of diet and exercise, your reputation in this specialist area will go from strength-to-strength and you’ll have the opportunity and privilege to work with even more pregnant women.

Finally, work with pre and postnatal clients is a niche and specialist area of the active leisure sector. As such, access to qualified, experienced and skilled professionals isn’t as widespread as it would be for other more generic services, like weight loss for example. Therefore, the earning potential and rewards are usually much greater for those with specialist qualifications that they are for more mainstream training and nutrition services.

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