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Diet Nutrition in Pregnancy
Nutritional Advice on Iron, Calcium, Folate, Protein, Sodium During Pregnancy
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Short Articles About Weight and Diet For New Mothers
Diet Advice - Pregnancy - Dietary Advice Pregnancy (UK) - Diet Nutrition - Pregnancy
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Nutritional Guidelines For Pregnant Moms

Diet Nutrition During Pregnancy

Dietary Advice on Vitamins, Minerals, Nutrients During Pregnancy

Iron During Pregnancy

Iron is needed in larger doses, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. This mineral is essential to the formation of healthy red blood cells. It is difficult for a woman to consume enough of it from foods to maintain an adequate supply from the mother, often leaving her anemic and exhausted. Anemia can make the mother less able to fight off infections and unable to handle hemorrhaging during the birth. Pregnant women should eat iron-rich foods in order to prevent an iron deficiency. Iron-rich foods include leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli, strawberries, meats, whole grains, prune juice, dried fruit, legumes, and blackstrap molasses.

Iron Supplements Needed During Pregnancy

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) additional iron requirements in pregnancy cannot be met through diet alone and should be attained through supplements containing iron. More iron is needed for both fetal demands and the large increase in maternal blood volume.

Calcium During Pregnancy

Pregnant and lactating adult women require an additional 40% of calcium a day (1200-1500 mg per day). Calcium is essential for maintaining the bone integrity of a pregnant woman and providing for the skeletal development of the fetus. The U.S. RDA (recommended daily allowance) for calcium is 1200 mg, which is sufficient to meet both the maternal and fetal needs. Women should increase their intake of calcium-rich foods, such as milk products. To get this extra calcium, 3 extra servings (3 cups) of milk or dairy products are needed. Women who don’t drink milk or consume dairy products should take a calcium supplement of 600 mg per day.

Folate (Folic Acid or Folacin) During Pregnancy

Pregnancy doubles a woman’s need for folate from 2 mg to 4 mg per day. Folate is essential for protein synthesis, the formation of new cells, and the production of new blood. It’s required for a pregnant woman’s expanding blood supply and the growth of both maternal and fetal tissues. Sufficient folate also decreases the risk of neural tube defects. Folic acid has been shown to be important in preventing neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly and is essential to the formation of red blood cells.

Folate Deficiency During Pregnancy

Severe folate deficiency can result in a condition called megaloblastic anemia, which occurs most often in the last trimester of pregnancy. In this condition, the mother’s heart, liver and spleen may become enlarged which and can threaten the life of the fetus. Folic acid can be found in many foods, including kidney beans, leafy green vegetables, peas, and liver. Women in their childbearing years should consume plenty of these foods. In fact, folate is so important to the health of women and their babies that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently required the addition of folic acid to prepackaged bread and cereals.

Folate Rich Foods

It’s possible to meet this requirement through a well-selected diet: folate-rich foods include eggs, leafy vegetables, oranges, legumes, and wheat germ. But some women may require as much as 3mg of daily supplements.

Folate Supplements During Pregnancy

However, there is not universal agreement on the necessity of folate supplements for all pregnant women. Some doctors prescribe the supplements primarily for pregnant women who are smokers, drug users, alcohol drinkers or strict vegetarians. While research continues, your doctor will continue to recommend supplements based on your individual health profile.

For women who have previously delivered infants with neural tube defects, the U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends 4 mg supplements daily, starting at least four weeks before conception and for the first 3 months of pregnancy.

Vitamin D During Pregnancy

Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium and is important for normal bone growth. For women with low intake of vitamin D-fortified milk, especially those who have minimal exposure to sunlight, daily supplementation should include 10 micrograms.

Protein During Pregnancy

The estimated requirement for protein in pregnancy is 60 gm, about 15 gm more than normal. Protein-containing foods can be excellent sources of vitamins and minerals such as iron, vitamin B6, and zinc. In the U.S., protein deficiency is not a common problem, since most peoples’ diets are comprised of adequate or even excessive amounts of in protein-rich foods.

Sodium During Pregnancy

Although sodium need not be restricted during pregnancy, excessive use is not recommended. A diet of primarily natural foods can be safely salted “to taste.” But women should avoid processed or “junk” foods that are high in sodium. Too much salt can lead to hypertension, and the consumption of too much salty food may be related to too much weight gain in some women.



Recommended Daily Allowances for a Healthy Balanced Diet During Pregnancy

What are the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for pregnant women?
The following is a chart that outlines the RDAs for by age group as well as the RDAs for pregnant women.

Table 2. Recomended Daily Allowances Female RDA (by age)

Age Protein Vit E Vit K Vit C Thiamin Riboflavin Niacin B6 Folate B12 Iron Zinc Selenium
15-18 44 8 55 60 1.1 1.3 15 1.5 180 2.0 15 12 50
19-24 46 8 60 60 1.1 1.3 15 1.6 180 2.0 15 12 55
25-50 50 8 65 60 1.1 1.3 15 1.6 180 2.0 15 12 55
51+ 50 8 65 60 1.0 1.2 13 1.6 180 2.0 10 12 55
Pregnant 60 10 65 70 1.5 1.6 17 2.2 400 2.2 30 15 65


Questions About Diet and Pregnancy

Should I avoid drinking alcohol while I am pregnant?

Remember that what you eat and drink can affect your baby. Avoid drinking any alcoholic beverages while you are pregnant. Alcohol can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which is an condition that can affect your baby for its entire life. FAS is a preventable cause of birth defects and mental retardation. The Institute of Medicine estimates some 12,000 children with fetal alcohol syndrome are born in the United States each year. No one knows what amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy; therefore, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends pregnant women avoid alcohol altogether.

Should I avoid caffeine while I am pregnant?

Caffeine is a stimulant found in colas, coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, and some over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs. Consumed in large quantities, caffeine may cause irritability, nervousness and insomnia as well as low-birth-weight babies. Caffeine is also a diuretic and can dehydrate the pregnant woman's body of valuable water. Some studies do indicate that caffeine intake pregnancy can harm the fetus. Until more is known, caffeine should be avoided. Caffeine is an ingredient in many OTC and prescription drugs. Before taking any drugs, a pregnant woman should consult her physician.

Why do pregnant women crave certain foods?

The "pickles and ice cream" choices and other appetite cravings of pregnant women may be reflections of the changes in nutritional needs. The fetus needs nourishment and the mother’s body begins to absorb and metabolize nutrients differently. These changes help ensure normal development of the baby and fill the demands of lactation (nursing) after the baby is born.

Do I really need to "eat for two?"

While you are pregnant, you will need additional nutrients to keep you and your baby healthy. However, that does not mean you need to eat twice as much. As stated above, an increase of only 300 calories per day, is recommended during pregnancy. For example, a baked potato has 120 calories, so getting those extra 300 calories should not be that difficult.

How do I reduce morning sickness?

By adapting your diet.

  • Eat small meals
  • Avoid going long periods without food
  • Drink fluids between, but not with, meals
  • Avoid food that are greasy, fried or highly spiced
  • Avoid foul and unpleasant odors

What about diabetes and pregnancy?

Diabetic women should be closely monitored to make sure their blood sugar levels are at or near normal. If maternal blood sugar rises too high, the increased sugar crossing into the placenta can result in a large, over developed fetus with defects or an infant with blood sugar level abnormalities. Diabetic women may also suffer from a greater loss of some nutrients. It is important to maintain tight control of blood sugar before and during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that begins during pregnancy and usually goes away after the birth of the baby. If you have gestational diabetes, this means that you have a high amount of sugar in your blood. This form of diabetes can be controlled through diet, medication and exercise but if left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health problems for both you and your baby.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services.


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