Nutrition During Pregnancy

Posted by Rashi Mundhra on Sat, May 12, 2012  
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Pregnancy is a very important phase in every woman’s life. This is a phase of great pleasure. There are a lot of new experiences that a woman comes across during this phase in her life. It’s a stage full of joy, happiness and wonders for her. So keeping all the excitement in mind, now lets not forget the role of nutrition during pregnancy.


Nutrition has a very important role to play during pregnancy. Not only during pregnancy but also pre conception, during and post pregnancy. At all the times in pregnancy, nutrition plays a very important role.


One thing to be kept in mind is if possible pregnancies should be planned. The nutrition status of a woman should be monitored around 4 months prior to pregnancy. She has to begin to maintain her iron and folic acid stores 3 to 4 months prior to pregnancy. If in case its not a planned pregnancy then as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed, she has to start the folic acid and iron supplements. Iron and folic acid as nutrients are very important during pregnancy both for the mother and the child.


During pregnancy, there are a lot of physiological changes taking place in a woman’s body like:


  1. Increase in the blood volume and composition
  2. Increased cardiovascular and pulmonary function
  3. Gastrointestinal function
  4. Renal function: The Glomerular Filteration Rate increases by 50%.


To meet with the increased demands of the mother during pregnancy, all her nutrient requirements also increase considerably during pregnancy.


If she is deficient in folic acid then the child is at risk of Neural Tube Defects (NTD’s). A NTD occurs when the neural tube fails to close either completely or partially which leads to the brain development failure. The effect of this NTD on the baby’s health, growth and development depends on the severity of the defect. If it’s a minor defect then the baby can lead a normal life with no much harm. However if the defect is a severe defect then it could lead to mental retardation and also physical abnormalities. Sometimes, it can even lead to death of the baby. So maintaining the folic acid stores before and during pregnancy is very important.


Other lifestyle factors such as smoking active and passive smoking, alcohol/drinking, multiple sex partners, exposure to chemicals, caffeine, drugs, improper nutrition or malnutrition can have an adverse effect on the growing fetus.  These factors should be modified during pregnancy and one must try to avoid the consumption of suck harmful substances as much as possible.


The first trimester of pregnancy is when all the cells in the fetus are developing. It is the critical period during pregnancy. The neural tube also closes during the 8th week of pregnancy. To maintain the nutritional status during this time of pregnancy and throughout is very important. In the second and third trimester as well the needs are high as the fetus is developing and growing. In the third trimester, the baby is building its own stores depending on the mother’s stores and drawing all the nutrients from the mother. During this time, if the mother is deficient in her stores, the fetus will be gathering all its nutrients from the mother and she will continue to become more deficient in the same. The most important nutrients of concern during the third trimester are the iron and calcium and the others also remain important as well.


The maternal needs during this phase increases greatly. Both the fetal and the maternal changes demand for additional nutrients. The energy needs during pregnancy increases by 350kcals every day. There is a misconception of eating for the two which has to be ruled out as this 350kcals takes care of both the needs of the mother and the fetus. The sources are whole grain cereals and pulses; sugar and jaggery which are good high energy foods.


The carbohydrates can be included in the diet like whole grain cereals. Sugars can also be included. Whole grain cereals also provide with a good amount of fiber in the diet. Fiber is also very important during this time.


The protein needs increases by additional 15gms after taking into account the normal protein requirements. The good sources of proteins include milk and milk products, animal foods, egg, pulses, nuts and oilseeds; and cereals.


The fat requirement also increases a little to meet the increased energy demands. Also omega 3 fatty acid should be included in the diet which helps in the brain development of the fetus. Sources include vegetable oils, butter, nuts and oilseeds.


The vitamin and minerals requirement also increases as the baby depends on the mother to meet its needs of these micronutrients. Vitamins like B12, folic acid, ascorbic acid, B6, A, D, E, K are all important during pregnancy. The minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, sodium, copper, magnesium, fluoride, iodine need to be taken care of and provided adequately. The best way to meet the vitamin and mineral requirements is to include more of fruits and vegetables in the diet. The good sources of iron include liver, beef, and green leafy vegetables. Addition of a little vitamin C like lemon juice or tomatoes or potatoes increases the absorption of iron. Green leafy vegetables are a very good source of vitamin B12. Milk and milk products are good sources of calcium and vitamin D. animal foods are good sources of vitamin B12.


Include good amounts of fluids during the day. One and a half to two and a half litres of fluids should be included in the diet.


Exercise is also very important during pregnancy. Moderate exercise or the daily household chores can be continued by the mother. Any form of exercise which she can perform without straining herself can be practiced. Swimming is a very good exercise for pregnant mothers. However, carrying too much of weight or weight training should be prohibited.


Thus the most important aspect of pregnancy is “East healthy, Stay healthy, Give birth to a healthy child”. If you take care of your nutrition as a responsible person nothing can go wrong with either you or your child. So EAT HEALTHY.


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