The role of nutrition in strengthening the immune system has been the focus of many studies over the years1.

The immune system is your body’s natural defence system. It is an intricate network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend your body against invaders, invaders that can include bacteria, viruses, parasites, or even fungus, all with the potential to make us sick2. Your immune system works all year round to ward off all kinds of illnesses2.

But what happens to the immune system when you fall pregnant? Are there ways to naturally boost your immune system during pregnancy?

The immune system and pregnancy are very much interconnected, with your immune system undergoing some very intense changes when you are pregnant3.

So fascinating are the highly orchestrated changes in the immune system throughout pregnancy that the Stanford University School of Medicine conducted the first-ever study into the meticulously timed immune system changes in women that occur during pregnancy.

The results, which were published in 2017, revealed that there is an immune clock of pregnancy and that the timing of immune system changes follow a precise and predictable pattern in normal pregnancy. These results may be a step towards understanding why some babies are born prematurely and how this can be prevented, by researching why someone’s immune system is not adapting to pregnancy the way it is expected to4.

While these immune system changes can help you to fall pregnant, stay pregnant and deliver your baby, they ironically can also make you more susceptible to illness3.

This is because changes in hormone levels and immune system function can make you more vulnerable to infections and complications. During pregnancy, different parts of your immune system are enhanced while others are suppressed5.

These changes also help protect your baby from your body’s defences and means that during pregnancy, your immune system has to work harder since it’s supporting two of you. This makes you susceptible to certain infections5.

These changes in the immune system during pregnancy make pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum) more prone to severe illness from flu which is why many healthcare experts recommend that pregnant women get the flu vaccine6.

Consuming the right nutrients is important at every stage of life, but it is especially critical during pregnancy, as pregnant women need to nourish both themselves and their growing babies6. Vitamins and minerals support maternal and foetal growth at every stage of pregnancy and are required to support critical functions such as cell growth7.

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