Unless you were the smartest kid on the block, when growing up, we no doubt noticed that chap or lass who annoyingly scores an A+ on all their tests – with relative ease. It’s hard not to feel the urge to compare, and wonder what we’re lacking!

Well, genetics aside, intelligence development begins before you “pop” out of the womb. A fetus’s brain development is like comparing a bullet train to a bicycle – in other words, it’s very fast. During this phase, the raw materials that determine intelligence and personality are coming together with zeal. This makes the fetal months a critical time in life, if you’re aiming to give your little tot a head start in life.

We’ve pieced together several pieces of expert advice on the matter, to nurture your child from bump to birth!

EAT! Lots of healthy food. And cut down on the junk please.

Pregnancy is not an excuse to load up on the unhealthy hawker fare, and hope your hubby doesn’t notice the excess weight gain. Nutrition has a tremendous effect on your baby’s development, especially since her brain is forming with materials coming from your diet.


Portrait of pregnant woman refuse to eat junk food and choose vegetable salad

Did you know there are two windows of time when the brain is especially sensitive to nutrition – during the first two years of life, and the last decade of life for a senior citizen. During pregnancy, omega-3 fatty acids are conveyed from the mother's blood to the developing fetus by way of the placenta,” writes Phyllis A. Balch in Prescription for Dietary Wellness.

Pregnant mothers should ensure your intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are sufficient. These are found in fish, but there’s a catch – you’ve got to avoid the large fish that may have high levels of mercury. Fish that are both low in mercury and high in healthy fats include anchovy, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout (farm raised), salmon (wild or farm raised), and sardines. As of June 2014, the FDA and EPA recommend that women who are pregnant or nursing and young children eat between two and three servings each week of low-mercury seafood.

That’s not all – during the first year of life, your baby’s brain will triple in size (possibly making her three times as smart!). During this stage of rapid central nervous system growth, the brain uses sixty percent of the total energy consumed by the infant. That’s why eating nutritious fats is extremely crucial to provide the building blocks for brain composition.


 Be a Shiny Happy Pregnant Person

pregnant woman jumping on the beach

"Stress is a silent disease," says Dr. Hobel, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Cedars Sinai and a professor of obstetrics/gynecology and pediatrics at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). "Pregnant women need to be educated in recognizing when they have stress, the consequences and some of the simple things they can do to make a difference."

A growing number of studies are affirming what used to be an old wives’ tale – that stress during pregnancy negatively affects your baby. Some studies are suggesting that stress in the womb can affect a baby’s temperament and neurobehavioral development. When mothers experience high levels of stress during pregnancy, their infants tend demonstrate signs of depression and irritability, and are slower to tune out repeated stimuli – an important predictor of IQ.

Pregnancy in itself is a real stress on the body, so it’s key that you learn to eliminate the other sources of stress in your life. Work is a common stressor, so it may be advisable to reduce your time spent in the office, or to scale down your workload. Perhaps get your hubby to buy you a teddy bear, as the stroking of soft fur has proven to be very therapeutic.

Joining a support group, taking time to meditate and light exercise are great ways to fight the stress demon, which leads to our next point.

Move your Body!

Light physical exercise is very beneficial pregnant women. Exercise during pregnancy boosts a newborn baby’s brain capacity for life, according to a 2013 study by researchers at the University of Montreal. With this finding, women are encouraged to change their health habits, given that the simple act of exercising during pregnancy could make a difference to their child’s future.

Suitable activities include brisk-walking, light cycling, and low-intensity yoga. Avoid strenuous exercise or activities that make you sweat buckets – raising your core temperature above 38.9 degrees for more than 10 minutes could cause harm to your baby. Stay hydrated before, during and after exercise, and you’ll reap the physiological benefits of your workout.

At the same time, get plenty of rest, and put a stop to any detrimental health habits such as smoking, alcoholism and drug intake, as these have been associated with birth defects.

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