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Pregnancy and Nutrition

Being pregnant is indeed a precious gift. When you realize that a new life is forming inside you, it is an awesome feeling of joy and happiness. But it is mixed with a little trepidation about what one should be doing to make sure not just themselves but also the baby is healthy. The list of questions that pop up may be endless, but the good news is that both the mother-to-be’s health and the baby’s health can be assured with a few lifestyle and diet principles.

A famous saying is that when you are pregnant, you should be eating for two, but that need not mean twice of what you normally eat. In fact, for the first trimester, you need not eat anything extra at all because the baby gets enough nutrition from the mother. In the second trimester, your calorie intake can be increased by about 200 calories, and in the final trimester, it needs to be 300 calories more than what you usually consume.

More important than the quantity of food is the quality. A balanced meal incorporating many nutrients should be the choice. According to a study conducted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG), a pregnant woman needs more calcium, protein, iron and folic acid, than a woman who is not pregnant. It is necessary to start increasing the intake of these essential nutrients at least one month before becoming pregnant.

Protein: Protein is known to be the “bodybuilder”. The same is true with the baby too. Protein in the food consumed by the mother will help the baby to develop a healthy heart and brain. It also helps build up all the other vital organs.

Iron: The intake of iron should be double the quantity than is needed by a woman not expecting. It is approximately 27 milligrams per day. The additional amount of iron is essential to prevent anemia. Deficiency will lead to a reduction of oxygen supply to the baby, an increase in the number of infections and weakness and fatigue.

Folic Acid: This is a B vitamin, a deficiency of which may cause neural tube defects, that is, birth defects in the brain and spinal cord of the baby. Before pregnancy, a woman requires around 400 micrograms of folate a day, and during pregnancy, the daily requirement is about 600 micrograms.

Calcium: Calcium is a mineral known to build healthy and strong bones and a good skeleton system. When a mother-to-be consumes enough calcium through food, it has a positive impact on the baby, as it is utilized to develop a healthy skeleton system for the baby. If the mother doesn’t get enough calcium, the baby utilizes the calcium found in the mother’s bones and thereby making the mother’s bones weak. It is essential to include calcium-rich foods in the diet along with vitamin D to increase the absorption rate of this mineral. The daily calcium requirement is about 100 milligrams for women who are 19 and above.

Fats: Most of the pregnant women assume that if they eat more fat, then their baby would gain enough weight and be healthy. But that is not true. A pregnant woman’s diet should not contain more than 30 percent fats. Researchers found that the gene expression in the liver of the fetus may be modified if it is exposed to a high-fat diet before birth. This may cause the liver of the baby to produce more glucose which can lead to early insulin resistance and diabetes. Studies also reveal that the flow of blood from the mother to the fetus will be blocked with excess fat.

Zinc: Several biological functions such as protein synthesis and nucleic acid metabolism, and cellular integrity along with the normal functioning and development of the fetus are all linked to this trace element called zinc. The most vital function of cell division also requires zinc, hence it is advised that mother-to-be include the foods like sunflower seeds, ginger, bran, onion, rice, pasta, shrimp, ham, turkey, chicken, crab, meat, fish, dairy products, beans, peanut butter, in their diet.

Written by MedPlus