Nutrition during Pregnancy
Good nutrition for a mother-to-be is one of the most important keys to having a healthy baby. When you eat wisely and nutritiously, your growing baby gets the nutrients it needs to develop and to grow healthy.
Have you heard the saying, “A pregnant woman is eating for two?” It’s true, you are eating for two—yourself and your baby—but you don’t have to eat twice as much! It’s more important to eat healthfully.
Some women have the misconception they can eat anything they want, and as much as they want, during pregnancy. But the truth is, if you’re average weight when you begin pregnancy, you only need to eat about 300 extra calories a day for good nutrition for you and your baby. That’s not a lot of food—you can add those extra calories by eating one 8-ounce carton of lowfat flavored yogurt and a medium apple!
The baby growing inside you has many nutritional needs—needs you must meet through the foods you choose. A pregnant woman who eats a healthy diet during pregnancy is much more likely to give birth to a healthy baby. Eating well reduces your risk of pregnancy complications and limits some pregnancy side effects.
Some General Guidelines
• Eating healthfully, exercising and controlling your weight during pregnancy go a long way toward giving your baby a healthy start in life.
• The foods you eat help your baby develop and grow—your baby gets the nutrients it needs from your blood.
• By eating healthfully, you provide the baby with the nutrients it needs to build its bones and organs.
• You can meet most pregnancy nutrition needs by eating a well-balanced, varied diet.
• The quality of your calories is important—if you eat a food in it’s natural state, it’s better for you than if it is processed and comes from a can or a box.
• Some women have the false idea they can eat all they want during pregnancy. Most women can’t!
• Controlling your weight (not gaining too much weight but gaining enough) makes sure your developing baby gets the nutrients it needs.
• Don’t gain more weight than your doctor recommends during your pregnancy—it can make you uncomfortable, and it may be harder to lose the extra pounds after baby is born.
• Gaining too much weight can cause problems during delivery because your baby may be very large.
• Eat frequent, small meals during the day to supply better nutrition to your growing baby. If you eat only three large meals, nutrient levels rise and fall during the day, which isn’t as good for the growing baby.
• Eating small meals frequently gives you more stable nutrient levels and can also help avoid some problems, such as heartburn and indigestion.
• One study showed 95% of the women who had good-to-excellent diets during pregnancy delivered babies in good-to-excellent health.
• One of your main goals in pregnancy is to have the healthiest baby you can. Your nutrition during pregnancy has a great impact on your baby’s health.
• To help you determine if you are choosing healthy foods, buy a book that lists the nutritional content of many foods. There are many available; check your bookstore.
• Reading labels on various food packages can also tell you a lot. If you haven’t done this before, try it. You’ll learn a great deal about the foods you eat, and it will help you eat healthfully.
How Much Weight Should I Gain?
Every woman needs to gain a certain amount of weight during pregnancy. Proper weight gain helps ensure you and your baby are healthy at the time of delivery.
Today, recommendations for weight gain during pregnancy are higher than they were in the past; normal weight gain is 25 to 35 pounds. If you are underweight at the start of your pregnancy, expect to gain between 28 and 40 pounds. If you’re overweight before pregnancy, you probably should not gain as much weight. Acceptable weight gain is between 15 and 25 pounds. Recommendations vary, so discuss the matter with your doctor. Eat nutritious, well balanced meals during your pregnancy. Do not diet now!
Many years ago, women were not allowed to gain much weight—sometimes only 12 to 15 pounds for an entire pregnancy! Today, we know that restricting weight gain to this extent is not healthy for the baby or the mother-to-be. But don’t go overboard, either, just because you’re pregnant.
You may be eating for two, but you don’t have to eat twice as much!
• As an average for a normal-weight woman, many doctors suggest a weight gain of ⅔ of a pound (10 ounces) a week until 20 weeks, then 1 pound a week through the 40th week. This recommendation is only an average; actual suggestions vary according to your needs.
• It isn’t unusual not to gain weight or even to lose a little weight early in pregnancy.
• Your doctor will keep careful track of changes in your weight. You should watch your weight, but don’t be obsessive about it.
• Gain weight slowly.
• If you’re in good shape when you get pregnant, with an appropriate amount of body fat, and if you exercise regularly and eat healthfully, you should not have a problem with excessive weight gain.
• Getting on the scale and seeing your weight rise may be very hard for you. Tell yourself it’s OK to gain weight.
• You don’t have to let yourself go—you can control your weight by eating nutritiously. But you need to gain enough weight to meet the needs of your pregnancy.