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NUTRITIONAL DEMANDS DURING PREGNANCY

Updated: Jan 21




Introduction: During pregnancy, your body undergoes significant physical and hormonal changes. To support the health of both you and your growing baby, it is crucial to make wise food choices from a diverse range of sources.

Importance of a Balanced Diet: Eating a healthy, balanced diet is key to feeling good and ensuring that you and your baby receive all the necessary nutrients. The food you consume serves as the primary source of nourishment for your baby, emphasizing the importance of meeting your nutritional needs.

Increased Nutrients: Pregnancy increases your body's nutritional requirements. While the concept of "eating for two" is not entirely accurate, you do need additional micronutrients and macronutrients to support both you and your baby. Micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, and macronutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, play a vital role.

General Guidelines for Key Nutrients:

  • Calcium: 1200 milligrams (mg)

  • Folate: 600–800 micrograms (mcg)

  • Iron: 27 mg

  • Protein: 70–100 grams (g) per day, increasing each trimester

Meeting Nutritional Needs: A varied diet comprising protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats like omega-3s, vitamins, and minerals is essential. Gradually increase calorie intake by 350 calories daily in the second trimester and 450 calories daily in the third trimester.


Protein Needs: Critical for the growth of the baby's tissues and organs, protein plays a vital role in various bodily functions. Daily intake should range from 70 to 100 grams, adjusting based on weight and trimester.

Protein is the building blocks of protein, called amino acids, play countless roles in the body, from maintaining the structure of our muscles, skin and bones to producing critical hormones for growth. Eating enough protein during pregnancy also supports your baby's development, since amino acids are required for normal cell growth and function. Meeting your daily protein needs may also lower the risk of complications like fetal growth restriction and preterm labor.

Here are some good protein sources during pregnancy:

  1. Chicken Breast

  2. Eggs

  3. Plain Greek Yogurt

  4. Lean Ground Beef

  5. Salmon

  6. Legumes (beans, lentils, edamame)

  7. Nuts (peanuts, walnuts, cashews, almonds)

  8. Seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia, flax, sesame seeds)

  9. Tofu

  10.  


 

Calcium: Supporting the development of your baby's bones and regulating fluid balance, calcium is essential. Aim for 1000 mg daily, ideally in two 500 mg doses, and consider additional calcium from prenatal vitamins.

Hypertensive disorders* such as pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are among the main causes of maternal deaths and preterm births, especially in low-income countries. Preterm births are the leading cause of early neonatal deaths and infant mortality, and survivors are at higher risk of respiratory disease and long-term neurological morbidity.

Normally, during early pregnancy, blood pressure falls and then slowly rises until the end of pregnancy. However, obesity, diabetes, twin or teenage pregnancies and low calcium consumption alter this equilibrium and increase the risk of developing pre-eclampsia. Calcium supplementation improves calcium intake and consequently reduces the risk of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.


Folate: Crucial for reducing the risk of neural tube defects, folate intake during pregnancy is recommended at 600 to 800 mcg.

Getting enough folic acid is especially important for women who are pregnant or planning to conceive. Adequate intake during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects, which are serious birth defects that affect the brain and spine.

Here are some reasons why is important:

Fetal development: It is essential for the proper development of the neural tube, which becomes the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Adequate intake of folic acid before and during pregnancy can reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in babies.

Cell growth and development: It is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells in the body. It helps to make DNA, RNA, and other genetic material, which are essential for cell division and growth.

Red blood cell production: It is involved in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body.

Cardiovascular health: It also plays a role in maintaining cardiovascular health, by helping to reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Cognitive function: It plays a role in cognitive function and may help reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline.


Iron: Working with other minerals, iron increases blood flow, supplying sufficient oxygen to both you and your baby. Aim for 27 mg daily, coupled with vitamin C for enhanced absorption.

IMPORTANCE OF IRON DURING PREGNANCY

Risk of Anemia: Eating more iron-rich foods throughout your pregnancy is crucial to avoid anemia caused by iron deficiency. Pregnant women face an increased risk of developing anemia due to elevated blood formation.

Consequences of Anemia: Anemia is a condition where the body fails to produce sufficient healthy red blood cells, leading to inadequate oxygen transportation to body tissues. This deficiency can result in fatigue, weakness, and a pale complexion.

Impact on the Growing Baby: The insufficient oxygen supply also affects your growing baby. Iron is essential for your baby's red blood cell production, and a deficiency can jeopardize their thriving, increasing the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.

Role in Brain Development: Iron is a critical factor in your baby's brain development. It plays a vital role in processes such as myelination, neurotransmitter production, and energy metabolism. Ensuring an adequate iron supply is essential for supporting cognitive and motor skills development in the early years.

Supporting the Immune System: Iron contributes to supporting your immune system during pregnancy, playing a key role in keeping you healthy. Prioritizing iron-rich foods becomes paramount to ensuring overall well-being throughout the pregnancy.

 

Other Considerations: Choline, salt, and B vitamins are also crucial. Drinking at least eight glasses of water daily and taking prenatal vitamins is advised.

Cravings and Aversions: Addressing cravings and aversions is part of a healthy pregnancy. While it's okay to indulge occasionally, balancing cravings with nutritious foods is essential. Food aversions may necessitate alternative nutrient sources.

Healthy Weight Gain: Normal weight gain during pregnancy is 25 to 35 pounds. Individual factors influence this, and it's vital to focus on a balanced diet rather than fixating on the scale.

Healthy Exercise: Incorporating safe exercises like swimming and walking supports overall health during pregnancy.




 

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