Pregnancy and Nutrition
Gaining weight can be an issue for some pregnant women. A change to their body shape can be psychologically challenging.
For the foetus to grow energy is required, to gain the adequate energy the mother needs to consume additional calories. It’s far too simplistic to say that you should only gain x amount of pounds during pregnancy, this is very individualistic.
It’s recommended that an additional 200/300 calories should be eaten each day for a healthy growing baby, this equates to half of a chicken sandwich or two chocolate biscuits. Most women report that most of their weight gains happens during the third trimester.
Between 12-14 Lbs disappear at the moment of delivery. The body will go through many changes for the following 6 week after birth; there is the size reduction of the uterus due to the loss of body fat and body fluids resulting in the reduction of post baby weight
What should be included in a pregnant women’s diet?
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and Vegetables should be included in each meal and snacks. The evening meal should have at least 1/3 of the dinner plate filled with vegetables. I would also suggest that a conscious effort should be made to include dark leafy vegetables. They’re high in the Iron Vitamin and are high in folate.
Wholegrain and Whole-wheat Carbohydrates
A healthy balance diet should include starchy carbohydrates. I would suggest that you go for lower GI carbohydrates such as; cous cous, bulgur wheat and sweet potatoes. Whole-wheat pasta should be chosen over white pasta, whole wheat bread should also be included.
Protein is vital for the development of the foetus and the placenta. A lack of protein can effect the motor and mental development of the foetus.
Protein is also needed to provide for the physiological changes, which a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy. There are three physiological changes that occur; an increase of blood volume, growth of the uterus and enlargement of the breasts.
How much protein should a pregnant woman have?
The amount of protein intake should be determined by the weight of the pregnant woman. At least 2/3 portions of protein should be included in the diet with the minimum of 75grams (this varies depending on weight).
Breast-feeding mums’ should roughly include 70grams of protein into their daily diet.
Types of protein, which should be included in the daily diet?
Animal protein is a great source of protein for the pregnant woman. It’s a complete protein therefore it has all the essential amino acids. Fish, eggs, cheese and milk are also categorised as complete protein. They contain; high amounts of Iron, particularly red meats, zinc (higher in turkey & chicken), Vitamin B6 & B12, Vitamin E, phosphorus and Iodine. Around 2/3’s of a pregnant woman’s intake should be filled with the above protein sources. The other 1/3 should be taken from vegetables, nuts and pulses. They’re packed with vitamins and minerals but they’re not complete protein because they lack in a number of amino acids.
During pregnancy some women can experience constipation due to the pregnancy hormones. Eating foods, which are fibrous, can reduce the possibility of experiencing constipation issues.
Foods, which are high in fibre, are; wholegrain bread, pulses, rice, fruit, vegetables and pasta.
Steaming food is a better option over boiling. Steaming helps to keep all the good nutrients in the vegetable. Over boiling can reduce the amount of nutrients.
Alcohol is a subject that people are unsure about. There is a recommendation of 1-2 units of alcohol a week can be consumed after the first trimester. There are potential risks of drinking alcohol whilst pregnant. The alcohol can be passed to the placenta and into the foetus. It can cause low baby weight, facial defects, learning difficulties and behavioural issues.
There is evidence to suggest that heavy drinking affects the quality of the men’s semen.
Caffeine intake should be monitored before, during and after pregnancy (if breast feeding). There are no limitations of how much caffeine should be consumed during pregnancy but its suggested that 200 mg is the RDA. When breast-feeding caffeine intake should be reduced.
Caffeine stays in a pregnant woman’s circulation between 2/4 times longer then someone who isn’t pregnant. Once the caffeine is exposed in the body it quickly reaches the placental wall and the foetus tissues. The foetus isn’t able to metabolise the caffeine like an adult would. It stays in the foetus/new-borns blood stream 15 times longer, therefore removing or clearing the caffeine is a lengthier process.
Caffeine intake should be reduced whilst breast-feeding. Due to the incapability of metabolising the caffeine too much will result in the new-born being more alert and restless.
Vitamin A is essential because it helps build resistance to illnesses. It also helps develop the foetus eyes, skin and glands. The level of Vitamin A normally drops just after the first trimester for a couple of week but by the 36th week vitamin A levels should be a bit higher then average.
Excessive amounts of Vitamin A can be problematic. It can be harmful to the foetus causing possible birth defects.
Vitamin A should be taken from food and not through a supplementation.
The food sources which will help increase vitamin A are; kale, spinach, red/green peppers, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, carrots, butter, egg york, fish, apricots, broccoli, tomatoes and fish.
Vitamin B is made up of 12 different types. B2 helps the development growth of the foetus.
Supplementation shouldn’t be required if a healthy balance nutrition plan is in place. The foods which contain Vitamin B are; meat, milk, eggs, fish, whole grain bread, cereal and wheat germ.
Vegans and Vegetarians are more prone to have deficiency in the Vitamin B12 and Iron, therefore a supplement could be required.
Vitamin C helps to protect the body cells. To keep the Vitamin C levels maintained lots of fruit and vegetables should be included in the pregnant woman’s diet.
Vitamin D is essential for pregnant women. To absorb calcium efficiently Vitamin D levels need to be maintained. Throughout the pregnancy process the mother will be setting the newborn up for their first few months. Therefore it’s essential that the woman’s Vitamin D levels be sustained. There are severe consequences if the newborn doesn’t have the correct amount of Vitamin D. The newborn bones will be soften which can led to rickets disease.
It’s recommended that 10 micrograms of Vitamin D should be included in a pregnant woman’s diet. If breast-feeding this should be continued.
Vitamin D is found in two different forms; natural light and food.
Foods which are high in Vitamin D are; Oily Fish, Eggs, Meats, Breakfast cereals, Soya products, Milk & Cheese.
Vitamin E works with the A vitamin, it helps healing and the development of keeping the Red Bloods Cells functioning correctly. Nuts, eggs, animal fat and cereals are just some of the foods which contain high levels of Vitamin E
There is often confusion of when the supplement Folic acid should be taken. It’s suggested that as soon as the conceiving process is started the recommended daily allowance of 400 mcg should be taken. This should be continued until the first trimester ends (12 weeks). Folic Acid will help to prevent the unborn foetus from the risks of spina bifida and other possible birth tube deficiencies.
Folic acid is found in food sources such as; green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, fruit, wheat bran, kidney beans, peanuts, broccoli, kidney, asparagus and Soya beans.
The pregnant woman’s Iron levels need to be monitored during pregnancy. Around 1/3 of women suffer from anaemia during the third trimester.
Iron stores need to be high before giving birth. Without significant Iron stores the red blood cell become un-functionable. Red blood cells are required to pass oxygen to the foetus body cells.
Monitoring iron levels is just as important after giving birth. Paleness and fatigue are two warning signs that indicate iron levels could be low.
Foods, which contain a higher iron count, are; dried beans, nuts, red meat, spinach, kale, broccoli, Green Vegetable leafs, egg yorks and some breakfast cereals (watch out for the sugary ones)
Calcium is required for the development of foetus teeth and bones. To help build up the calcium stores dairy products should be included in a pregnant woman’s diet.
Beef, beans, cereals, lentils, lamb, nuts, pork and peas are all high in Zinc. Zinc is an important mineral for the pregnant woman and the foetus. It contributes to the development of the foetal.
What food to avoid through pregnancy
Cheeses- Soft cheeses are more likely to contain bacteria called listeria. It’s a rare infection, however, it can be serious if the infection is caught particularly to the foetus.
Brie, Danish Blue, camembert, gorgonzola and Roquefort should be avoided.
Cheddar, cottage cheese, mozzarella, feta, cream cheese, ricotta, halloumi. parmesan and stilton are all safe to eat during pregnancy.
Milk- Unpasteurised milk should be avoided during pregnancy. It can contains high levels of bacteria; salmonella, E.coil and listeria.
Pate should be avoided because of the risk factor of having excessive levels of listeria.
Due to the high concentration levels of Vitamin retinol, liver should be avoided.