Nutrition Basics - Nutrition and Pregnancy


  Nutrition and Pregnancy

The optimal nutritional balance is important during pregnancy as this will affect the development of baby. The nutritional needs of pregnant women are increased during pregnancy. Eating good nutritious food also develop good eating habits for the growing child. For the first few weeks you may not have good appetite and you may not feel like to have proper meals this may be possible when you suffer from morning sickness or nausea. It is better to have small frequent meals in order to counter the effect of morning sickness. It is not true that you need to eat for 2 people, but pregnant women should only increase calorie intake by 300 calories. During second and third trimester the nutritional needs of the pregnant women is to be increased as the fetus grow rapidly. The total weight gain of pregnancy at full term should be around 10 to 12 kgs.

Distribution of pregnancy weight gain:

  • The baby amounts to 7-9 pounds
  • Amniotic fluid amounts to 2 pounds
  • Enlarged uterus amounts to 2 pounds
  • Increased volume of blood amounts to 4-5 pounds
  • Fluid present in maternal tissue amounts to 3-4 pounds
  • Placenta amounts to 2 pounds
  • Enlarged breasts for breastfeeding amount to 1 pound
  • The remaining pounds are fat deposits that are needed by the body for energy and breastfeeding.

Weight gain during pregnancy:

  1. First trimester: 2 – 3 pounds
  2. Second trimester: 3 – 4 pounds/ month
  3. Third trimester: 3 – 4 pounds/month

Recommended weight gain during pregnancy:

BMI (kg/m2) Recommended Weight Gain

  • Low (BMI <19.8) 12.5-18 kg (28-40 lb)
  • Normal (BMI 19.8-26) 11.5-16 kg (25-35 lb)
  • High (BMI 26-29) 7-11.5 kg (15-25 lb)

Nutritional requirements during pregnancy:

Nutritional needs are increased during pregnancy.

Energy + 300 kcals/day
Protein + 15 gms/ day
Iron 38 mg/day
Calcium 1000mg/day
Folic acid 400 mcg/day
Thiamine + 0.2mg/day
Riboflavin + 0.2mg/day
Nicotinic acid + 2 mg/day

Energy: Due to increased metabolic activity there is increase in basal metabolism and calorie needs are increased at around + 300 kcals per day that is in second and third trimesters. The first trimester the calorie level is no need to increase. But the choice of foods should be nutritious and healthy.

Protein: During pregnancy extra protein requirement is needed. As protein is required for placenta, amniotic and maternal tissues. It is also needed to produce new blood cells. During pregnancy the protein requirement is around 15 gms per day. Especially in second and third trimester increased protein intake is necessary as the baby’s growth and development is fast in this period. The blood volume increases by 50% during pregnancy and body requires protein to increase blood volume. It is very important to get good quantity and quality of protein in order to meet nutritional needs.

Fats: Fats are essential part of healthy balanced diet. During pregnancy fats play an important role to support development of baby’s brain and eye. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good choices of fats. Monounsaturated fats are good as they decrease LDL levels. Polyunsaturated fats contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

Iron: Iron is very important nutrient during pregnancy. It is needed for the formation of red blood cells. Iron improves hemoglobin level during pregnancy. Especially in second and third trimesters extra amount of iron is needed for new growing baby and placenta. If there is deficiency of iron during pregnancy then it is associated with preterm delivery low birth weight and infant mortality.

Vitamin C: It helps in absorption of Iron. Vitamin C helps in healing of damaged tissues. It also improves immunity of pregnant women.

Folic acid: Folic acid helps in formation of red blood cells. And it plays a vital role in formation of genetic material called DNA that aids in proper formation of the cells and tissues. If there is deficiency of folic acid in pregnancy then there is risk of major birth defects. Severe folic acid deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia. It is good to have folic acid fortified breakfast cereals. Good sources of folic acid include green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, citrus fruits and berries. Folic acid supplements to be taken during pregnancy.

Calcium: Calcium is required in diet during pregnancy. Calcium absorption and calcium excretion is high during pregnancy. Increased calcium requirement is needed for skeletal growth of fetus.

Fluids: Pregnant women should drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water. Drinking water can prevent morning sickness. The fluid acts as the transport system it carries nutrients through the blood to the baby. Drinking water also improves bowel movement.

  • Foods to eat: Eggs, milk, milk products like cheese and yogurt as these are good sources of protein and calcium.
  • Fruits and vegetables are good for health. Fruits like cantaloupe, apricots, mangoes, orange, grapes, bananas and vegetables like green leafy vegetables, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, capsicum.
  • Nuts can also be included as a part of diet as they are rich in carbohydrates.
  • Rice, Breads, Pasta and cereals are also good as they are rich in carbohydrates and provide calories.
  • Fortified breakfast cereals.

Foods to avoid during pregnancy:

  • Raw eggs as they may contain salmonella.
  • Uncooked meat or poultry as there may be risk of salmonella bacteria.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Avoid raw fish.
  • Limit your cholesterol intake to about 300 mg per day.
  • Limit intake tea and coffee as they contain caffeine.
  • Unpasteurized milk or juice.

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