Pregnancy and Diet

It is very important for you to take care of your diet during pregnancy because you have the added responsibility of taking care of your baby along with yourself. A pregnant woman is supposed to eat for two and should include a good amount of nutritive food full of vitamins, proteins, fats, roughage, and minerals.

The following food constituents should be included in your diet in pregnancy –

  • Vitamins – A prenatal vitamin all through your pregnancy is very important. A few Vitamins like D and A, are quite important for you during pregnancy. They ensure the exact nutrients in your pregnancy. The best source of Vitamin A and D are margarine, cheese, eggs, and fatty fish.
  • Omega 3 supplements with fatty acids – They should be a part of your diet to improve the baby’s eye and brain development.  They are found in fish and other seafood.
  • Folic acid – It should be a part of your diet before conception till at least the first three months of your pregnancy to ensure that there are no birth defects of the spine and brain in the fetus. Folate or folic acid rich foods include broccoli, chick peas, lentils, spinach, oranges, peas, leeks, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts. Wholegrain bread, parsley and so on.
  • Iron – The growing fetus takes enough iron from your body to last it for the first 6 months of its life. Thus your requirements of iron increase during pregnancy. There is no iron loss during pregnancy because there are no menstrual cycles and hence during pregnancy you draw more from the gut. Apart from this it is beneficial to include foods which are good sources of iron in your diet every day along with foods that are good sources of Vitamin C to help absorb the iron.  It is recommended to take 22-36 mg (10 mg more than for a normal woman) of iron on a daily basis in your pregnancy.
  • Calcium – In the third trimester the baby needs a large share of calcium because it begins to grow and strengthen its bones and if you do not take calcium supplements in your diet, it is extracted from your bones. This loss anyway gets replaced once you have stopped breastfeeding. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, yogurts, and calcium fortified soy milk are excellent sources of calcium. The daily dose of 1,100mg of calcium per day (300mg per day more than for non-pregnant women) is recommended for pregnant women.

A healthy and nutritious diet will ensure good health for you and your baby. You should eat as per your appetite but learn to manage your weight accordingly. The normal weight gain for a healthy woman is 10-13 kg. It is not recommended to eat too much during pregnancy. During the first trimester your calorie intake should be the same as it was prior to your pregnancy. During the next two trimesters the calorie intake is increased by about 10 percent, approximately about 600kJ extra per day. But still it is the nutritional content of your diet that matters more than the calories intake. It is of utmost importance to include the following foods in your diet –

  • Low fat milk and milk products
  • Chicken, fish and lean meat
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Food high in fat, sugar and salt to be taken in small quantities
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fresh fruits, whole grain cereals and breads

If you are eating a restricted diet or go on crash dieting during your pregnancy because of the fear of gaining extra weight, then you are making a serious compromise on your as well as your baby’s health. If you are adolescent and pregnant, then you need more nutrients than your older counterparts because you yourself are still growing. Lack of iron or Anemia is very common among adolescents. Calcium intake is also important because you have still not reached your peak bone mass and may have osteoporosis later in your life.

At times due to physical and emotional changes and change in food habits you tend to get heartburns.  To avoid them during pregnancy you should –

  • Eat small meals frequently than eat few large meals
  • Avoid eating late at night
  • Avoid excessive intake of tea, coffee or alcohol

Avoid lying down after meals.