What is the role & importance of nutrition for a pregnant lady?
Pregnancy is a stage that involves an increase in the nutritional needs of women, both due to the changes that her body experiences, as well as the demands of the fetus for its development.
There is increasing scientific evidence that the mother’s diet during pregnancy has a direct relationship with the growth and development of the baby, not only in the first months of life but may even have an influence on adulthood.
A correct diet, physical activity, avoiding environmental toxins and an adequate weight during pregnancy helps, not only for the future mother to better face this stage, but also to have sufficient nutritional reserves for the growth and development of the baby.
Therefore to meet the special needs during pregnancy, it is important to have an adequate daily supply of some micronutrients, which plays a key role in the growth and development of the fetus.
These nutrients are present in food, but there are also supplements to achieve the recommended intakes.
A healthy and balanced diet will help the body to get essential nutrient requirements like protein, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre and water.
During pregnancy, nutrition intake helps you and your baby gain the proper amount of weight and fitness. Without optimal food, perfect nutrition will not be met both for the mother and the child.
Several hormonal changes occur during pregnancy that essentially needs medicines and supplements.
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Do you have any special nutritional needs now when you are pregnant?
You need more folic acid, iron, calcium, and vitamin D than you needed before pregnancy:
- The folic acid contains vitamin B that can help prevent specific birth defect. Before pregnancy, you need 400 micrograms per day. The total daily requirement of vitamins from food and supplements is 600 micrograms.
- The iron is important for growth and brain development of your baby. The permissible limit is 27 milligrams per day. Due to an increase in the blood content during pregnancy, more iron is required.
- Calcium consumption during pregnancy may help to control blood pressure. The calcium concentration greatly influences the teeth and bones of the baby. Pregnant women should receive 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day.
- Vitamin D helps calcium to form bones and teeth of the baby. Whether the lady is pregnant or not, she should consume Vitamin D daily. Six hundred units are recommended as the permissible limit of daily consumption.
Be aware that taking too much of a supplement can be harmful. Excess consumption of Vitamin A can create defects in the newborn child. Only take vitamins and mineral supplements that your Doctor recommends.
Protein Consumption is essential during pregnancy. It is a vital nutrient for the lady. Beans, peas, eggs, lean meats, seafood and unsalted nuts and seeds are some excellent sources of good quality proteins.
Protein helps the mother remain strong and have good nourishment of the muscle tissue. It will help the mother during recovery after the delivery.
Taking sufficient water during pregnancy is essential. When you are pregnant, your body needs more water to keep you and your baby hydrated.
Hence hydration of the body is essential as it helps to activate certain enzymes that perform digestion and absorption of food nutrients.
Essential nutrients in the pregnant woman’s diet:
During the first trimester, the calcium requirement increases from 1,000 milligrams to 1,200 milligrams, that of folic acid increases from 170 micrograms to 400 micrograms.
Iron, generally, cannot be supplemented by diet alone, so it is necessary to resort supplements, which will be prescribed by your Doctor from the second trimester, since the iron, calcium and folic acid requirements increase considerably, especially during the last trimester.
For special needs during pregnancy, below are the top 10 essential nutrients that must be included in the pregnant woman’s diet:
1. Folic Acid
Intervenes in the formation of blood and prevents neural tube defects in the embryo. It is present in green leafy vegetables (spinach, swiss chard and lettuce), dark yellow fruits and vegetables, as well as beans, peas, broccoli, green asparagus, as well as nuts. For the special needs during pregnancy, the daily recommended intake of folic acid is 600 micrograms.
Calcium is a fundamental mineral in pregnancy because it is used in nervous functioning, in the contraction of muscles and the development of bones and teeth. Dairy products are the main source of calcium, but it is also found in fish with bones such as sardines and anchovies, and green vegetables like spinach.
The skeletal system of the baby’s body will get the best flexibility if a sufficient amount of calcium is consumed. If there weren’t enough for both of them, the baby would continue to get the calcium it needs to develop its bones, leaving the mother with weakened bones.
The daily recommendation of calcium for pregnant women is 1400mg, but this is not why we should load the refrigerator with milk cartons. Milk and its derivatives have an acidifying effect within the body, so intake only in the desired amount.
3. DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)
An Omega-3 essential fatty acid, also known as DHA is especially important during pregnancy, as it contributes to the development of the fetus’s nervous (brain) and ocular system (vision). 300 mg is the dosage of this essential nutrient.
It is advisable to consume a serving of bluefish two to three times a week during pregnancy and lactation. The main sources of Omega-3 are, in addition to bluefish, some nuts, seeds and algae.
A daily intake of 200 mg of this compound contributes to the normal brain and visual development of the fetus and the infant.
The pregnant lady often suffers from anaemia. Iron is important to treat anaemia. A lack of iron in the fetus could lead to the birth of a baby with low weight and complications during delivery, so we must reinforce our iron consumption during pregnancy.
It is better absorbed from foods get from animal origin (meat) than from foods of plant origin (spinach, leeks and cereals). In any case, the combination in the same digestion with foods rich in vitamin C contributes to its absorption.
27 mg iron will be an essential dose for a pregnant lady. The nutrient can be obtained from food and medicines. Some people have iron deficiency from birth. They should intake iron supplements as prescribed by doctors.
5. Vitamin A
It is a powerful antioxidant, which is necessary to keep bones strong. Protects vision health and prevents premature skin ageing. Pumpkins, carrots and leafy vegetables are the best sources of Vitamin A. For the special needs during pregnancy, daily recommended intake of vitamin A is 770 micrograms.
6. Vitamin B6
It helps in the development of RBC. It is found in pork (ham), whole grains, and plantains or bananas. For the special needs during pregnancy, 1.9 mg is the daily recommended intake of vitamin B6.
7. Vitamin B12
It promotes RBC development and supports the effective functioning of the brain and nerves.
Milk, poultry, fish, liver and meat are the good sources of vitamin B12. For the special needs during pregnancy, you need 2.6 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily.
8. Vitamin D
It is the only vitamin that the body makes through sunlight. It nourishes the bone and teeth development. It also helps to consume calcium from food. Dairy and cereals contain a small proportion of this vitamin.
It abounds in meat, chicken, fish and milk. Vegetarians, who do not consume dairy products, need an additional Vitamin D. For the special needs during pregnancy, 600 international units (IUs) is the daily recommended intake of vitamin D.
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9. Vitamin C
It helps in iron consumption and tissue development. It maintains healthy teeth, gums and bones. Citrus fruits, broccoli, kiwi, and tomatoes contain this vitamin. For the special needs during pregnancy, 85 mg is the daily recommended intake of vitamin C.
It is a mineral of great relevance during pregnancy. According to the WHO, iodine deficiency is one of the main causes of neurological problems in newborns.
It can be found in salt, seafood or some fish such as cod, tuna or clams, in algae, dairy products, some cereals and in most fruits. It contributes to a correct function of the mother’s thyroid gland and prevents alterations in the baby’s brain and neurological development.
The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide energy. The recommendations regarding their intake do not vary during pregnancy or lactation, and should, therefore, be the main source of energy for pregnant or lactating women (50-60% of total energy).
There are two types of carbohydrates in the diet: simple carbohydrates or sugars, and complex carbohydrates, the most important of which is starch.
The amount of fast-digesting sugars or carbohydrates should not exceed 10% of the total kilocalories, which is equivalent to about 50 g of sugar (about ten lumps).
Above all, it is recommended to monitor the intake of sugary drinks and soft drinks (a glass of cola or soft drink provides 25 g of sugar) and in any case take sugar or sweets at the end of meals instead of between meals or fasting, since under these conditions sucrose behaves like a slow-digesting carbohydrate.
Also avoid excessive fruit intake, which provides significant amounts of sugar (fructose).
Since pregnancy is usually associated with hyperglycemia, it is recommended to replace sugars with products that are rich in starch, such as potatoes, cereals and legumes.
Furthermore, these foods often provide significant amounts of dietary fibre, which helps normalize intestinal transit and can alleviate constipation that occurs in many women during pregnancy.
Other supplements required for special needs during pregnancy:
According to various specialists, it is not necessary to take vitamin supplements if the woman is healthy, and no pathology is detected during pregnancy.
If the woman is taking a healthy diet and doing some exercises, there is no requirement of supplements. But if the woman has a critical disease prior to pregnancy, she should definitely take the supplements in the proper way.
It is somewhat risky to do so. Some supplements have vitamin concentration more than the permissible limit, which may damage the foetus.
In some cases, the supplements can be helpful. For example, in vegetarians, taking an iron supplement should be considered, as it is not so easily get from foods other than red meat.
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Do I need to consume more calories while pregnant?
How many calories you need depends on how much weight you need to gain. Your doctor can tell you what your goal should be, based on your weight before pregnancy, your age, and how quickly you gain weight.
|BMI category||Weight gain goal: single||Weight gain goal: twins|
|BMI < 18.5: underweight||28-40 lbs||Not enough data|
|BMI: 18.5-24.9: healthy weight||25-35 lbs||37-54 lbs|
|BMI: 25-29.9: overweight||15-25 lbs||31-50 lbs|
|BMI: >30: obese||11-20 lbs||25-42 lbs|
The general recommendations for special needs during pregnancy are:
- In the first three months of pregnancy, you probably won’t need extra calories.
- During the last six months of pregnancy, you usually need 300 more calories a day than before you were pregnant.
- Towards the termination of pregnancy period, excessive calorie consumption will not be beneficial.
All calories are not created in equal concentration. Hence you should eat healthy foods that contain nutrients, not so-called “empty calories,” such as those found in soda, candy, and desserts. Some prenatal yoga poses and stretches may be helpful in being fit and mind off of cravings.
What foods should I avoid during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, you should avoid:
- Alcohol: There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe for a woman during pregnancy.
- Fish that may have high levels of mercury: Limit albacore to 6 ounces per week. Do not eat tilefish (shark), shark, swordfish, or king mackerel (mackerel).
- Products that may have germs that cause food-borne illness, including:
- Chilled smoked seafood such as white fish, salmon and mackerel
- Hot dogs or cold cuts unless served hot
- Refrigerated meat spreads
- Unpasteurized milk or juices
- Chicken, egg, tuna and other stone prepared salads.
- Unpasteurized soft cheeses, such as unpasteurized feta cheese, Brie cheese, white cheese, fresh cheese, and blue cheeses.
- Alfalfa, Clover, radish and mung beans and other raw sprouts.
- Too much caffeine: Drinking large amounts of caffeine can be harmful to your baby. Small to moderate amounts of caffeine approximately 12 ounces (less than 200 milligrams per day) appear to be safe during pregnancy. But it is necessary to investigate the subject. Check with your doctor about consuming a limited amount of caffeine. It is good to avoid.
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Why Nutritional needs to increase during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, nutritional needs increase, as the diet must provide enough energy and nutrients to:
- Satisfy the nutritional requirements of the mother and the baby.
- Allow the growth of structures such as the uterus, the placenta and the breasts.
- Meet the needs for the growth and functioning of the fetus.
- Allow the mother to accumulate the necessary reserves for the growth of the fetus and lactation after delivery.
So if you are pregnant, then you must take care of your diet. You can ask your doctor for a diet chart according to your requirement.