Nutrition during pregnancy
Nutrition is an essential component of prenatal care. A healthy diet contributes to a successful pregnancy by reducing complications and promoting adequate fetal growth and development. During pregnancy, your body needs more nutrients in order to provide a baby with what it needs. But, according to the National Women's Health Information Center, most pregnant women need to consume only an extra 300 calories a day. That may not seem like a lot, so during pregnancy,
it's more important than ever to avoid "empty" calories.
According to the National Institutes of Health, pregnant or lactating women need 1,500 mg/day of calcium. Since most women don't get enough calcium even when they're not pregnant, it's important to pay attention to this need in your diet. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, tofu and salmon. The Food and Drug Administration says getting enough calcium can help prevent a new mother from losing her own bone density as the fetus uses the mineral for bone growth. Depending on your diet, your doctor or healthcare provider may recommend a calcium supplement.
Foods rich in iron include many meats, fish and poultry (especially red meat and liver). Iron is also found in leafy green vegetables, eggs, and enriched grains, although this form of iron is not as easily absorbed by the body. The FDA says iron helps both the mother and baby's blood carry oxygen. Iron supplements can be used on a doctor's advice. However, be careful to store iron containing products safely out of the reach of children.
The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women who could possibly become pregnant get 400 micrograms (or 0.4 mg) of folic acid every day. This could prevent up to 70 percent of a type of serious birth defect called neural tube defects. But for folic acid to work in this way, women need to be getting enough before they get pregnant. That's why women should always get enough folic acid every day, but especially if they're thinking about becoming pregnant. Foods that are high in folic acid include liver, dark green leafy vegetables, lean meat, oranges, grains and legumes (lima beans, black beans, etc.) Folic acid is also found in certain fortified foods. Depending on your diet and personal history your doctor or healthcare provider may also recommend folic acid supplements. Most pregnant women are placed on prenatal vitamins so check with your healthcare provider to see how much folic acid is in your vitamins.
Eat enough food to gain weight at the rate recommended by your health care provider. Continue to eat a balanced diet even if you think you are gaining weight too quickly. Include a variety of foods as outlined in the food pyramid. Adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients required during pregnancy are easier to obtain when the diet is varied. Limit nutrient deficient, high kilocalorie foods. Substitute foods which have higher nutritive value. Eat meals and snacks at regular intervals. Do not skip meals. This reduces discomfort and helps you obtain the necessary nutrients. Do not omit foods from essential food groups. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Buy foods that are labeled "enriched" or "fortified" or made of whole grain. To improve absorption of iron, include meat, poultry, fish or vitamin C-rich foods to meals. Choose milk or milk products often. Salt foods to taste, unless otherwise recommended by your health care provider.
To a certain extent, optimal weight gain depends on the mother's pre-pregnancy weight. The average weight gain recommended is 30 pounds. If a woman is overweight, she can gain slightly less weight. This is because some of the weight gain normally recommended is to build fat stores. For an underweight woman, a 28 to 40 pound weight gain during pregnancy is associated with the best outcome. Women who are under five feet two inches tall may aim for the low end of the weight gain range; adolescents and African-Americans, however, should strive for the high end of the recommended range. Weight gain is desirable for all women since it is essential for normal fetal growth. Therefore, it is important not to restrict calories during this time. In general, typical weight gain in the first trimester is three to eight pounds, which reflects an increase in maternal tissues. A lack of weight gain in the first trimester is usually not a major problem. During the second and third trimester, weight should increase 2/3 to one pound each week for optimal fetal growth. Although weight gain varies, the best pattern is a continuous, gradual increase rather than large weight changes from month to month.
No safe level of alcohol has been established for pregnant women. Because of this, abstinence is the safest choice. The issue of drinking alcohol during pregnancy is somewhat controversial, however. Some practitioners believe that an occasional dilute drink, or a small glass of beer or wine once or twice a week is harmless. Others feel that current research indicates even as few as one to two drinks per week may cause harm to the fetus by increasing risk of prematurity or low birth weight. Excessive intake is definitely associated with a condition called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which can cause permanent mental retardation and physical problems. Intake of alcohol should be avoided even while you are trying to conceive. Do not be alarmed if you had a few drinks before finding out that you were pregnant, but do be careful for the remainder of the pregnancy. (Wine may still be used for cooking because alcohol evaporates during the cooking process.) Cigarette smoking during pregnancy is associated with low maternal weight gain and low birth weight of the baby. Children of mothers who smoke are also at greater risk for certain diseases and may have learning problems.
Although supplements and fortified foods can be useful in helping a woman get adequate amounts of the nutritional elements she needs, excess consumption of vitamins and minerals can cause health problems. For example, according to the National Institutes of Health, getting 2,000 mg/day or more of calcium can produce adverse health effects. Therefore, use of supplements should always be discussed with a doctor or healthcare provider first.
In addition to foods a pregnant woman should consume, there are also foods she should avoid. Undercooked meat can be contaminated with a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. If a pregnant woman becomes infected, the infection can be transferred to the fetus, potentially resulting in a miscarriage. In addition, the FDA says pregnant women, nursing mothers, and women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should be aware of the hazards of eating certain kinds of fish, specifically shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, because these fish may contain high levels of methyl mercury which may harm an unborn baby's developing nervous system.
Many women experience discomforts during pregnancy. The level of discomfort will differ from woman to woman and from pregnancy to pregnancy. While not all suggestions will help relieve the symptoms, they can make them more tolerable. The three most common complaints are listed below.
"Morning" Sickness : "Morning" sickness (nausea) can actually occur at any time of day and is caused by changing hormonal levels. The following suggestions may help: Eat a dry food such as unbuttered toast or crackers prior to getting up in the morning. Avoid going for long periods without food and getting too hungry. Try to avoid odors that make you feel ill. Eat smaller meals more frequently. Avoid coffee and tea. Avoid drinking any fluids upon arising. Drink liquids mainly between meals.
Heartburn : As the baby grows, it puts pressure on your stomach. In addition, greater secretion of the hormone progesterone during pregnancy acts to slow digestion and decreases the function of the sphincter muscle between the stomach and the esophagus. This may lead to pain under the sternum which feels like heartburn or indigestion. Instead of over-the-counter antacids, try some of the following suggestions: Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Eat slowly and in a relaxed environment (stress and fatigue may add to indigestion). Limit intake of fatty foods such as fried foods and rich desserts. Learn which foods are particularly irritating to you and avoid them. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which contribute to decreased sphincter muscle function. Limit peppermint and chocolates. Do not lie down immediately after eating. Try sleeping propped up on pillows.
Constipation : Increased progesterone levels which relax intestinal muscle tone and slow peristalsis can cause constipation. A decreased level of physical activity later in pregnancy may also contribute. Avoid over-the-counter remedies such as laxatives. Instead try the following suggestions: Increase intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods will provide additional fiber as well as important nutrients. Drink ½ cup prune juice or eat four prunes daily. Try including more dried beans and peas into your diet. They are high in fiber as well as a great protein source. A fiber supplement (e.g. Metamucil , Citrucel ) can also have a positive effect. Start with one teaspoon daily. Drink plenty of fluids (at least eight glasses per day). Warm or hot fluids are especially helpful in the morning. Increasing fiber intake without adequate fluid can have deleterious effects.
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.