Nutrition During Pregnancy
by Ruby Bayan
The future health and disposition of your child depends largely on what you eat while the baby is still in your womb. Throughout your expectancy, your weight, calorie intake, and choice of food and drink, will have significant effects on the development and well being of your unborn child, which in turn will be the foundation of your child's health as an adult. Therefore, proper nutrition during pregnancy, for you as well as your baby, is vital.
Leading a healthy, nutritious lifestyle prior to getting pregnant is also extremely important. You can find diet information at the pregnancy page of NIH.gov here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/pregnancy.html.
Your Baby's Needs
The little baby inside you will undergo massive development phases that will rely on the nutrients you provide, which can only come from the food you eat. Let's look at your unborn child's developmental needs and what you should include in your diet to address these needs.
- Tissue formation -- Proteins are the building blocks for proper tissue and muscle growth and development. You should, therefore, pack your diet with plenty of protein by eating three daily servings of meat, fish, chicken, eggs, tofu, and beans.
- Bone formation -- Calcium and phosphorus are what your baby needs for bone development. The fetus draws the calcium from your body's reserves, so in order to adequately supply yours and your baby's needs, supplement with more than a quart of milk and other calcium-rich dairy products every day.
- Cell formation -- Folic Acid, a form of Vitamin B, has been known to prevent birth defects associated with spine and brain cells. Experts recommend folic acid pill supplements, as well as plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially oranges, spinach and legumes, as early in the pregnancy as possible. Iron, on the other hand, is essential for red blood cell formation. Iron supplements are recommended especially in the last trimester when the baby stores it for use during the growing years. Consult your doctor for your folic acid and iron requirements.
By taking care of your own body's nutritional needs, you assure that you are providing the best environment for your unborn baby. Remember:
- Take plenty of fluids. Your baby will be swimming in amniotic fluids and your body will require an ample supply of blood during pregnancy, therefore, drink more than 8 glasses of water and fruit and vegetable juices a day. Fluids will also help ease constipation, which is a common complaint during pregnancy.
- Consider vitamin and mineral supplements. Especially during the first trimester, eating the necessary natural foods may be a little disconcerting. Unusual cravings can upset an otherwise nutritious eating schedule. To ensure that you're providing yourself and your baby with the adequate nutrients, consider taking pill supplements. Consult your obstetrician for appropriate quantities.
- Up your calorie intake. The pregnancy period is not the time to go on a diet because you will starve your baby, too. In fact, you will need to put on some pounds. The normal weight gain for pregnant moms is 25 to 40 pounds. This is because the recommended additional intake is 200 to 300 calories a day during the second and third trimesters. You need these additional calories not only to optimize your baby's development, health, and birth-weight, but also to ensure that your body can cope with the demands of pregnancy and childbirth. Remember to load up on nutritious, not empty, calories.
- Avoid foods that are detrimental to you and your baby's health. Fresh tuna, swordfish, and shark may contain harmful traces of mercury. Freshwater fish may be contaminated with pesticides and carcinogens. Processed foods have chemicals that could harm you and your child. Excessive caffeine, and greasy and spicy-hot foods should be avoided; and alcohol should be totally eliminated during pregnancy. Staying away from these potentially toxic foodstuff is your best safeguard against future health problems.
Only the Best for You and Your Baby
You will be eating for two people while you're conceiving. Although you may not exactly have a good appetite because of nausea, heartburn, or constipation, bear in mind that your overall well-being, as well as your baby's development and future circumstance, depend on what you choose to eat each day. Eat only what will be good for you and your baby.
* University of Washington Women's Health: Well Woman Exam
* WomensHealth.gov: A project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health: Pregnancy
[First published at New2USA.com, 2000]