Diet And Pregnancy

Diet and Pregnancy

Pregnancyis the time period between the conception and the birth of a child. Measured from the startof a woman’s last normal menstrual period, called LMP, it usually lasts about40 weeks, or roughly 9 calendar months. The process of childbearing,though, can be said to last longer. Often, it is divided into three stages:

  • preconception, which is the months before pregnancy
  • prenatal, which is the months during pregnancy
  • postpartum, which is the months after the birth
  • During preconception and pregnancy, a woman’s dietcan be a key factor in her health and in the health and growthof the fetus. After her baby’s birth, what she eats affects her breast milkif she is breastfeeding.It has a strong impact on her health and energy levels, too.

    What is the information for this topic?

    Key concerns about diet during each of the three stagesare outlined below.


    In the months before a woman gets pregnant, her foodchoices are key. What she eats and the vitamins she takescan help ensure that both she and her fetus will have nutrients that areessential from the very start of pregnancy.

    Some diets and activities affect key nutrients andhormones. A woman should talk to her doctor beforetrying to get pregnant if she:

  • is a strict vegetarian
  • is a long-distance runner or does other kinds of strenuous exercise
  • is dieting to lose weight
  • has, or has had, anemia
  • A B-vitamin called folate can help prevent certain birthdefects of the spine and brain called neural tube defects.The neural tube starts to form soon after conception. Many women do notknow they are pregnant until a few months into the pregnancy. For thatreason, the US Public Health Service advises all women of childbearingage to take 400 micrograms (mcg) a day of folic acid, a synthetic form offolate. This has been shown to help cut down the risk of neural tube defects.One multivitamin a day should supply this amount.


    Just as it is important to stay active and get plenty of sleepduring pregnancy, a woman needs to eat well, too. Her body and hergrowing fetus have special nutritional needs. The best way meet theseneeds is to eat a variety of foods from all the food groups.

    Skipping meals, eating poorly, and trying to diet whilepregnant can be serious threats to the development of the fetus. After thefirst trimester,in fact, a woman should add about 300 calories a day of healthyfoods to her diet. She should expect to gain between 25-30 poundsduring her pregnancy.

    Below is a list of special nutritional needs during pregnancy.A woman who is not sure if she is meeting these needs should consulther doctor.

    Carbohydratesgive the fetus the constant supply of energy it needs for growth. Most of awoman’s extra calories during pregnancy should come from carbohydrates.Foods such as fresh fruit, whole grain cereals and breads, rice, potatoes, andbeans are good sources.

    Ironsupports the growth of the fetus and helps a woman produce more blood.If the mother does not get enough iron, the fetus will take the iron it needsfrom her blood. Pregnant women should get about 30 milligrams (mg) ofiron a day. Most women do not start pregnancy with enough iron intheir blood. The doctor may prescribe an iron supplement to preventiron deficiency anemia.

    Foods that contain iron include meat, poultry, fish, legumes such as beans,and whole-grain and enriched grain products. Iron from animal products isbetter absorbed by the body than that from plant sources. Eating goodsources of vitamin C,such as citrus fruit, broccoli, and tomatoes, can help the body absorb more iron.

    Folic acidis key to the development of the spinal cord. It helps make new cells andgenetic material. Its most important job is helping to preventneural tube defects,such as spina bifida.

    During pregnancy, the recommended daily amount of folic acidrises to 600 mcg. Based on the woman’s medical history and test results,the doctor may recommend 400-800 mcg of folic acid a day.Many foods are fortified with folic acid, including those made with enrichedflour or grain products, such as bread and rice. This makes it easier for awoman to get all the folic acid she needs before and during pregnancy.Other food sources include green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli,dark yellow vegetables, and fruits such as mangoes, papaya, peaches andpumpkin, beans, and nuts.

    Proteinis needed for the growth and repair of muscles and body cells in mother andfetus. During pregnancy, the recommended daily allowance, called the RDA,for proteinis 70 grams a day. Good sources of protein include lean meats, fish, legumes,eggs, and skinless poultry. An eating plan that follows the USDAFood Guide Pyramidshould provide enough protein for a healthy pregnancy.

    Calciumand phosphorushelp to form the bones of the fetus. The RDA for calcium is 1,000 mg formost pregnant women over age 18, and 1,300 mg for pregnantwomen under age 18. If a pregnant woman does not get enough calcium, thefetus will take what it needs from calcium stored in her bones. Milk, yogurt,and other dairy products are the best sources of calcium. Other sourcesinclude tofu with added calcium, calcium-fortified orange juice, sardines,salmon with bones, and dark green leafy vegetables such as collard greens,kale, and mustard greens. Vitamin D works to help the body use calciumand phosphorus. Vitamin D is found in fortified milk and sunshine.

    Other vitaminsand mineralsare also needed in higher amounts than usual during pregnancy. Exceptfor iron, folic acid, and calcium, most of the nutrients needed duringpregnancy can be taken in by making healthy food choices. However,a doctor may prescribe a vitamin and mineral supplement.If so, it should be taken only as directed.

    Constipationis a common problem during pregnancy. Coupled with pressure from the baby,it can sometimes lead to hemorrhoids.To help prevent constipation, a woman should try to:

  • eat foods high in fiber,such as raw fruits, raw vegetables, beans, bran, and whole-grain breads.Prunes, prune juice, and figs are also helpful.
  • drink 8-12 glasses of fluid a day. Water is a great choice.Milk and some juices are helpful, too.
  • be physically active. A woman should first check with her doctor beforestarting any type of exercise during pregnancy.
  • Many pregnant women experience thenauseaand vomitingknown as morning sickness.Diet can be a good way to help ease these symptoms. A woman mayfind it helps to:

  • eat only foods that are appealing. She may find she preferscertain flavors or textures. In the early months ofpregnancy, getting enough calories is more important than eating aperfectly healthy diet. Odd combinations sometimes help a womanbreak the cycle of nausea and poor appetite. When morning sicknessstarts to taper off, usually around the end of thefirst trimester,a woman should start to focus on healthy foods again.
  • avoid strong smells. These can sometimes trigger nausea.
  • try to eat something before getting out of bed in the morning. Foodssuch as crackers, plain toast, dry cereal, or anything that appeals can begood choices.
  • eat often and before she feels hungry. When the stomach is empty,it triggers nausea. It is helpful to eat small, frequent meals during the dayrather than skipping meals.
  • try to avoid high-fat and fried foods during this time. Again, those typesof foods may trigger nausea in some women.
  • eat in bed to keep the stomach full and the blood glucose even.Before going to sleep and before getting out of bed, she may want toeat a high protein snack such as peanut butter or milk.
  • A woman who is vomitingmore than twice a day should consult her doctor. It is hard to get thenutrients needed to stay healthy and support the fetus when nausea andvomiting are occurring at that level.


    In the months after a baby’s birth, the new mother needs to keepeating a balanced and healthy diet. Just by doing so, many women willlose weight in the first 4 weeks.

    If a woman chooses to bottle feed, her body no longerneeds the extra calories that helped her during pregnancy. If awoman is breastfeeding,she continues to need extra fluid, calories, and protein.

    A nursing mother needs to eat a typical healthy diet,plus add extra food to produce milk for the baby. She should beeating about 500 more calories a day than her body needed beforepregnancy. Calciumis very important for nursing mothers. Milk, yogurt, cheese, cottagecheese, and dark green leafy vegetables are good sources of it.

    About 20% of all pregnant women suffer fromiron deficiency anemia.It usually occurs later in pregnancy as the baby’s need for iron increases.If there is any excess postpartum bleeding, this can become worse. Pregnantwomen at highest risk are those who are not well-nourished before and/orduring pregnancy. It is recommended that all pregnant mothers take adaily ironsupplement of 30 to 60 mgs. This is equal to having a diet high in iron-richfoods such as red meats, dried beans and peas, or enriched cereals.

    Vitamin Ais needed for growth of bones and teeth. However, the body has no method toshed any excess, so a woman needs to be careful not to get only the right amount.Overdoses can produce toxic effects in the baby such as congenital malformations.The RDA for vitamin A is 800 mcg per day.

    Article type: xmedgeneral