Healthy pregnancy diet
A balanced diet is the key to having a healthy pregnancy. It is particularly important to make sure your diet is balanced and nutritious while you are pregnant, and it is also worth thinking about your diet even before you become pregnant. Your baby will take all it needs from you and your reserves, so to keep fit and healthy you will need to be sure your diet is adequate. If your baby cannot get good nutrition, it may be malnourished and underweight at birth or have other significant problems.
Pregnancy tends to be more complicated and delivery tends to be premature and more risky in undernourished women. It is crucial that your body has the necessary chemical elements, strength and stamina to make it through pregnancy with good health. Poor diet during pregnancy can have lifelong consequences on the physical and mental health of your child.
The principles of a good diet include: Plenty of fruits and vegetables; Lean meats, particularly red meat; Wholegrain cereals; Dairy foods; Low salt; Limited fried or fatty foods; Adequate protein; Some fats and oils, particularly the mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated varieties. During pregnancy it is recommended to have each day: 125g of meat/fish or 1/2 to one cup of meat alternatives (like legumes and nuts); 450-600g milk (or equivalent in yoghurt (500g) or reduced fat cheese (80-100g) or calcium fortified soy milk); Four fruits; Five serves of vegetables (one serve is 1/2 cup); Eight slices of bread (one slice of bread can be substituted with one cup of rice/pasta or a serve of breakfast cereal).
Pregnancy places substantial demands on the availability of iron in the body. This is caused by the increased amount of blood circulating and also by the growing foetus and placenta. Iron intake is especially important during the third trimester, where there is a large shift of iron to the baby. Around 10 to 15 per cent of pregnant women are iron deficient, compared to only 4 per cent of non-pregnant women. Insufficient iron intake can lead to anaemia. Symptoms include extreme tiredness. Maternal anaemia has also been linked to increased risks of premature labour, low birth weight babies, foetal growth retardation and death, and the development of high blood pressure in the infant's later life. Iron rich foods includes foods high in iron include red meat, legumes, nuts, some vegetables, and iron-fortified breakfast cereals and bread.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron during pregnancy is 22-36mg (10-20mg more than the non-pregnant state). The amount needed depends on the amount of iron the mother has 'stored' in her body prior to pregnancy. If a woman's iron stores are very low, she may need to get more from supplements. Iron supplements are regularly recommended to pregnant women, as it's often difficult to get enough iron from food, especially if the woman does not eat red meat. However, iron supplements can cause constipation.
The RDI of calcium during pregnancy is 1100mg per day; 300mg per day more than for non-pregnant women. During the third trimester of pregnancy, there is a large shift of calcium to the baby as it starts to develop and strengthen its bones. If the mother isn't getting enough calcium in her diet, the calcium needed by the baby is drawn from the mother's bones. This may have a negative effect on the woman's bone health in later years. Low calcium intake by the mother during pregnancy may also cause the baby to have weak bones and impaired bone development. In severe cases, the baby may develop rickets and have growth retardation. Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, and calcium fortified soy milks are excellent sources of calcium.
Folate (also known as folic acid) is a B-group vitamin. Insufficient folate intake during pregnancy has been linked to neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in the unborn baby. More than 600 pregnancies in Victoria are affected every year. Folate taken before conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy can prevent seven out of 10 cases of neural tube defects. Low folate intake also increases the risk of multiple births, such as twins. Women who are in the early stages of pregnancy (or likely to become pregnant) should take folate supplements of 0.4 - 0.5 mg each day. Good food sources of folate, which should be included in everyone's diet, include leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and asparagus, and legumes, nuts, oranges and avocados.
As well as iron and calcium, the other nutrients that should be boosted in the second and third trimesters include protein (a small increase by an extra 8g per day), vitamin C (double the intake to 60mg/day), B vitamins like B1, B2, B3, B6 and especially B12 (30 per cent increased intake), zinc (25 per cent increased intake to 16mg/day) and magnesium (10 per cent increased intake). Vitamin A requirements do not change during pregnancy and Vitamin A supplements are rarely recommended because they can be toxic and may cause birth deformities. The best way to increase your intake of vitamin A if it is low is through food sources like milk, fish, eggs, margarine, vegetables and fruits such as oranges. In some developing countries, vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is a major cause of blindness. Multivitamin and calcium supplements are only recommended for the following pregnant women: vegetarians; substance abusers (drugs, smokers, alcohol) and teenagers who may have an inadequate food intake; and obese pregnant women who are restricting their energy intake to prevent large weight gains.
Nutrasweet is safe if used in moderation (3 to 5 servings daily). It is used in your body much like protein. Drinking large amounts of diet pop, however, often leads to decreased intake of more nutritious fluids such as skim milk or fruit juice.
It is a good idea for you to use caffeine sparingly during pregnancy. Recent research does show that women who consume large amounts of caffeine during pregnancy have smaller babies. (Smaller babies are not always healthier babies.) Large amounts of coffee/tea also can inhibit the absorption of iron, which may lead to anemia. Caffeine also may cause heartburn or nausea and vomiting. For all these reasons, we recommend you cut your intake to less than the equivalent of 3 cups of coffee per day (300 milligrams). But you should limit the amount of caffeine to no more than 300 mg per day. Having a lot of caffeine increases the risk of having a baby with low birth weight, and increases the risk of miscarriage. The main sources of caffeine are coffee, tea, chocolate, cola. Caffeine is also added to some 'energy' drinks and to some cough and cold remedies.
Listeria is a bacterium (germ) which does not usually cause problems in people who are not pregnant. However, pregnant women are more likely to become infected with listeria, and it sometimes causes miscarriage, stillbirth, or infections in the baby after birth. Foods which are most at risk of carrying listeria are undercooked meats and eggs, soft cheeses such as brie, pâtés., shellfish and raw fish, unpasteurised milk. Note: goat's milk is often unpasteurised, and goat's milk products such as cheeses are often made from unpasteurised milk.
A high level of mercury can damage the developing nervous system of an unborn baby. So do not eat shark, merlin, or swordfish. Limit the amount of tuna that you eat. You should eat no more than two medium sized cans (drained weight = 140 gm per can), or one fresh tuna steak per week. (This would be about six tuna sandwiches, or three tuna salads per week.)
Alcohol causes damage to the baby's nervous system. Since we are unsure of the quantity of alcohol that causes fetal alcohol syndrome, the best advice is to discontinue alcohol use altogether before you become pregnant. Excessive amounts of alcohol can deplete your body of vitamins, particularly thiamin and folic acid.
More information on pregnancy
Pregnancy - Pregnancy is period of time between fertilization of the ovum (conception) and birth, during which mammals carry their developing young in the uterus (see embryo).
Pregnancy signs and symptoms - During pregnancy a woman's body undergoes a number of changes to allow the fetus to develop inside the womb. The symptoms of pregnancy vary from woman to woman.
Pregnancy tests - A pregnancy test is a test of blood or urine used to determine whether a woman is pregnant. There are two types of pregnancy tests - blood and urine tests.
Home pregnancy test - A home pregnancy test measures the presence of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. All home pregnancy test kits test your pregnancy on the basis of your urine sample.
Pregnancy stages - There are three stages of pregnancy called trimesters. Each trimester is three months. The word "trimester" comes from a Latin word meaning "three months long."
First trimester of pregnancy - First trimester pregnancy is the early stage of pregnancy from conception to 12 weeks gestation, or about 14 weeks from the first day of the last normal menstrual period (LNMP).
Second trimester of pregnancy - In the second trimester the embryo, now known as a fetus, is recognisable as human in form, but is not developed enough to be viable if born. The second trimester is often called the planning trimester.
Third trimester of pregnancy - The third trimester of pregnancy lasts from 28 weeks after your last menstrual period (LMP) until the birth, which usually occurs between the 38th and 42nd weeks of pregnancy.
Calculating pregnancy due date - The due date is usually computed from the first day of the last regular period. In the calendar, this can be figured by taking that date, subtracting three months, and adding seven days.
Prenatal diagnosis - Prenatal diagnosis is the process of detecting and diagnosing fetal abnormalities before birth. A targeted prenatal diagnosis is done when there is a concrete suspicion that there might be a particular disorder.
Healthy pregnancy diet - A balanced diet is key to having a healthy pregnancy. Pregnancy places substantial demands on the availability of iron in the body.
Nutrition during pregnancy - Nutrition is an essential component of prenatal care. During pregnancy, your body needs more nutrients in order to provide a baby with what it needs. Eat enough food to gain weight at the rate recommended by your health care provider.
Exercise during pregnancy - Exercise plays an important role in promoting health and well-being for pregnant women. Excessive levels of physical activity in pregnancy can reduce fetal growth and increase the risk of preterm delivery.
Spotting during pregnancy - Spotting is light bleeding similar to your period and it can happen at any time during pregnancy, but it is most common during the first trimester.
Bleeding during pregnancy - Bleeding from the vagina in early pregnancy is very common. First trimester bleeding is any vaginal bleeding during the first 3 months of pregnancy.
Smoking during pregnancy - Cigarette smoking during pregnancy can cause serious health problems to an unborn child. Many complications of pregnancy are more likely to occur in smokers.
Sex during pregnancy - Sex and sexual intercourse are not harmful during pregnancy. For most women and their partners, sex during pregnancy is fine as long as both partners consent and are comfortable.
Prenatal care - Prenatal care is the health care that a woman receives before her baby is born. Prenatal care is provided for women during the period between conception and birth of the baby.
Teenage pregnancy - Teenage pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs in an adolescent. Babies born to teenagers are at risk for neglect and abuse.
Twins and multiple birth - Multiple pregnancies are on the rise in recent years with more and more twins and other types of multiples being born. A multiple birth is when more than one human baby results from a single pregnancy.
Childbirth - Childbirth (also called labour, birth, or parturition) is the culmination of pregnancy, the emergence of a child from its mother's uterus.
Obstetrics - Obstetrics is the surgical specialty dealing with the care of a woman and her offspring during pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium (the period shortly after birth).
Pregnancy ultrasound - Pregnancy ultrasound is a method of imaging the fetus and the female pelvic organs during pregnancy.
Chinese lunar pregnancy calendar - The Chinese pregnancy calendar was allegedly discovered about 700 years ago. The accuracy of the chart has been proved by thousands of people and is believed to be 99 percent accurate.
Fertility charting - Fertility charting allows you to predict ovulation, pinpoint your most fertile time in your cycle, and increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Ovulation: calendar, prediction, test - Ovulation is the process of discharging a mature ovum (egg) from an ovary after a Graafian follicle - representing the final stage of follicular development before ovulation - has been formed.
Getting pregnant - The best or most fertile time to get pregnant is the period of ovulation in your menstrual cycle. Most women ovulate (release an egg from the ovary) about two weeks before their period.
Gender selection - There are three main techniques of sex selection: pre-natal testing and termination of pregnancy, pre-implantation genetic testing of embryos, and sperm sorting.
Prenatal tests - Prenatal tests are one of the many ways your practitioner can check on the well-being of your growing baby and find out whether you're at risk for complications.
Genetic screening - Genetic screening is a process used to find out what diseases or birth defects a child might inherit from his or her parents.
Genetic counseling - Genetic counseling is the process of determining the risk you have of passing on an inheritable disease to your baby.
Birth control (contraception, pregnancy prevention) - Birth control is the practice of preventing or reducing the probability of pregnancy without abstaining from sexual intercourse; the term is also sometimes used to include abortion.
Male condoms - Condoms are thin barriers made of latex, plastic, or natural membranes. The male condom fits over a man's penis. The female condom fits inside a woman's vagina.
Female condoms - The female condom is a polyurethane sheath or pouch about 17 cm (6.5 inches) in length. It is worn by a woman during sex.
Diaphragm - A diaphragm is a rubber disc a woman places into her vagina. The diaphragm blocks a man's semen from entering the cervix (the opening to the womb).
Cervical cap - The cervical cap is a small latex cup that a woman inserts into her vagina before sexual intercourse. The cervical cap fits snugly over the woman's cervix.
Birth control pills - The birth control pill is a small, usually white, tablet that is taken orally (by mouth). The pill usually comes in a packet that has days marked off for a cycle lasting about a month.
Norplant - Contraceptive implants (Norplant?) are six match stick size implants inserted into the upper arm. Norplant is a form of progestin that is placed under the skin.
Depo Provera - Depo Provera is a hormone, much like the progesterone a woman produces during the last two weeks of each monthly cycle. Depo-Provera or progesterone stops the woman's ovaries from releasing an egg.
Spermicides - Spermicides are chemicals that make the sperm unable to function. Spermicide can be used alone or with other birth control methods to reduce the risk of pregnancy.
Emergency contraceptive pill - Emergency contraception is the use of certain methods after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
Natural family planning - Natural family planning is defined as the understanding and use of the natural phases of fertility and infertility by a couple in order to either achieve or avoid pregnancy.
Intrauterine device (IUD) - An intrauterine device (intra meaning within, and uterine meaning of the uterus), is a birth control device also known as an IUD or a coil.
Birth control patch - The birth control patch is a thin plastic patch (1 3/4 inch square) placed directly on the skin of the woman. It is a hormonal method of contraception obtained by prescription.
Sterilization (vasectomy) - Sterilization is a surgical technique leaving a male or female unable to procreate. It is a method of birth control.
Fertility awareness method (FAM) - Fertility awareness is a means of understanding a woman's reproductive cycle by observing and writing down fertility signs.
Abstinence - Periodic abstinence is a way that sexually active women prevent pregnancy by becoming familiar with their fertility patterns and abstaining from vaginal intercourse on the days they think they could become pregnant.
Pre-eclampsia, eclampsia - Pre-eclampsia is a condition which only occurs during pregnancy. It causes high blood pressure, protein leaks from the kidneys, and other symptoms may develop.
HELLP Syndrome - The HELLP syndrome is a complication of pregnancy featuring a combination of abnormal conditions including emolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count.
Intrauterine growth restriction - Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) refers to the condition in which a foetus is unable to grow to its genetically determined potential size to a degree that may affect the health of the foetus.
Premature birth - Premature birth is defined medically as a birth occurring earlier than 37 weeks. Infants born prematurely have an increased risk of death in the first year of life.
Stillbirth - Stillbirth refers to the death of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy but before birth. A pregnancy that ends before the twentieth week is called a miscarriage rather than a stillbirth.
Caesarean section - A Caesarean section (Cesarean section AE), is a surgical procedure to deliver one or more babies through an incision in the mother's abdomen and uterus.
Preterm labor - Preterm labor, or premature labor, is when the uterus (womb) contracts and the cervix opens earlier than normal.
Rh incompatibility - Rh incompatibility is a condition that occurs when the mother of a fetus or newborn has Rh-negative blood type and the fetus or newborn has Rh-positive blood.
Ectopic pregnancy - An ectopic pregnancy is one in which the fertilized ovum is implanted in any tissue other than the uterine wall.
Pregnancy diabetes (gestational diabetes) - Gestational diabetes is a condition in which the glucose level is elevated and other diabetic symptoms appear during pregnancy in a woman who has not previously been diagnosed with diabetes.
Group B strep - Group B streptococcus (group B strep) is a type of bacteria that causes infection among newborns, pregnant women or women after childbirth.
Morning sickness (NVP) - Morning sickness, also called nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP), affects between 50 and 85 percent of all pregnant women.
Hyperemesis gravidarum - Hyperemesis gravidarum means excessive vomiting during pregnancy. The severe vomiting associated with hyperemesis gravidarum requires medical attention.
Miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) - Miscarriage is the term used for a pregnancy that ends on it's own, within the first 20 weeks of gestation.
Postpartum hemorrhage - Postpartum bleeding (severe postpartum bleeding) is the loss of more than a pint of blood within the first 24 hours after delivering a baby.
Pregnancy-induced hypertension - Pregnancy-induced hypertension (also referred to as toxemia, preeclampsia and eclampsia) is a condition that may develop during the second half of a woman's pregnancy.
Pica - Pica is a pattern of eating non-nutritive substances (such as dirt or paper), lasting for at least one month.