Nutrition in Pregnancy

Many women look at pregnancy as a chance for a free for all eating marathon. Yes you definitely need to intake more calories, but you want to be sure that you are getting the nutrients necessary to help ease your body into this transition as well as benefit your baby. I’m sure you have often heard the phrase “ Well I am eating for two here”; but before you pay homage to the “Golden Arches” with a bounty of “Big Macs” remember that what you eat is going straight to your baby.

This definitely is NOT the time to diet, but it’s also not the time to go hog wild on unhealthy snacks either. Entering your pregnancy in good health, and maintaining that good health through healthy eating choices, can greatly affect the outcome of your labor and birth. Everything the pregnant mother eats, drinks, inhales, ingests gets passed through the placenta and can potentially impact her baby’s development. It acts as Mother Nature’s coffee filter for the growing fetus.

Every pregnant woman is going to have certain cravings, and I urge you to indulge those cravings. Often times it is your body telling you that you need a particular vitamin or mineral that your changing body is lacking. However, before you go seconds on your ice cream dipped pickles, or chocolate covered French fries, remember that there are certain dietary guidelines to follow. I know what you are thinking, why put restrictions on the one time to self indulge and eat whatever, whenever, but ladies let me tell you there is definitely a purpose in keeping track in what you ingest.

It is crucial for every expectant mother to understand the importance of proper nutritional needs and how important a high-quality diet is for facilitating proper fetal growth and development. Our first step as parents is to begin healthy eating habits for our children beginning with those precious little ones growing inside.

So let’s take a gander on what the average caloric intake for a pregnant woman should be and break down the appropriate weight gain. Circumstances will of course depend on your health and pre-pregnant weight; those specifics your doctor will be sure to go over with you.

Now let us look at a healthy pattern of weight gain on a woman who gained 28lbs and had a 7.5 lbs baby:

Momma Preggos

Baby……………………..7 ½ pounds

Placenta…………………….1 pound

Uterus……………………….2 pounds

Amniotic Fluid………………2 pounds

Breasts…………..…………..2 pounds

Blood Volume………………5 pounds

Fat…………………………..5 pounds

Tissue fluid………………….6 pounds

TOTAL: 28 lbs

In some cases the fluid levels or fat storage may weigh more or less. Keep in mind however that the 5 pounds of fat is very important to gain, so do not try to avoid that necessary addition. Your baby needs it! The closer you get to the end of your pregnancy, the more fluids you will gain. When it comes to nutrients, your body will be the one to suffer for it will give all the added vitamins and minerals to the baby hence the importance of prenatal vitamins, however when it comes to fluid levels your body will do a fight or flight syndrome and will reject the thing that is dehydrating it. The number one cause of preterm labor is dehydration; in fact it is responsible for about 80% of the cases. It is vital that you remember to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day during your pregnancy. A normal part of a healthy pregnancy is ensuring that the blood and amniotic fluid levels increase.

drinking plenty of fluids will not only help sustain your pregnancy till the desired 38 week mark, but will also help eliminate the majority of those pesty pregnancy discomforts such as fluid retention and indigestion.

The caloric intake for the expectant mother changes as her baby grows. During the first trimester, the mother needs to intake at least 2200 calories a day. However, as you enter your second and third trimester you need to boost up that intake to an extra 300 calories a day making a nice round 2500 calories a day. That would be equivalent to two tall glasses of milk, a hearty soup, or even 3tbl of peanut butter; and no “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups” do not count as peanut butter!!

An increase of calories is not the only thing to pay attention to when altering your diet. Multiplying your protein intake is imperative as well. Approximately 75-100 grams a day is average. Protein not only helps to form new cells, it also builds and repairs tissues, and builds up the extra blood flow, amniotic fluid, and placenta. More importantly, protein is a vital key to forming antibiotics. The fetal requirements increase by about 1/3 in late pregnancy during the baby’s main growth period. Some great examples of protein would be: meat, fish, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, tofu, dried beans, peas, peanut butter, nuts whole grains, and cereals. It is important however to keep in mind that you do not ingest sushi or any fish that contains high levels of mercury such as shark, swordfish and other bottom dwelling fish. There is a myth about not eating sandwiches when pregnant because of the possibility of bacteria being present in the deli meat. Here is a good rule of thumb; if it is from a deli where it is being hand carved such as at a sandwich shop, then the meat is perfectly safe to eat. If you are purchasing the meat already packaged such as bologna, then it is not a good idea. There are too many preservatives present in a packaged meat product, which can be extremely harmful to the growing fetus. But a fresh deli sandwich is perfectly safe.

Fat-soluble vitamins are another very valuable facet to prenatal nutrition. Vitamin A for example is critical for bone and tissue growth as well as protecting against infection. Most prenatal vitamins have large amounts of this in them. Vitamin D is also a principal vitamin because of the role it plays in absorption of calcium from the blood and the mineralization of the bones and teeth. Calcium is needed for building strong bones and teeth, aids in clotting blood, regulates the use of minerals, and helps to further muscle tone which is essential for relaxation later on. All though most women tend to crave milk, others gag at the sight of it. If you have intolerance, never fear… there are many sources to retain good calcium levels. Some of these examples include: Broccoli, dark leaf vegetables, orange juice, and certain types of seafood such as salmon. Pregnant women are required to intake 1200 mg of calcium a day.

Iron is another must for new mommies. Some women, while pregnant have a more difficult time absorbing iron then others. This of course, tends to leave the mother anemic since the baby is absorbing the majority of her iron levels. In pregnancy it is necessary to ingest 36 mg of iron daily, keeping in mind that this may be more or less depending on the specific dietary needs of the woman. Iron is essential for the formation of hemoglobin, the element which carries oxygen to our tissues and cells. Although this super mineral is rich is often found lurking in red meats, and other complex proteins, you can also find huge amounts in spinach, egg yolks, grains, cereals, and many dried fruits.

A healthy diet rich in a variety of food is an important start to this exciting journey ahead of you. Should you have any questions consult your caregiver or local dietitian.

Copyright© 2011, Danielle Gauss – All Rights Reserved.

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