Dietician for Pregnant Women
During the time of pregnancy, the energy needs of a woman increase proportionately for her to allow a healthy increase in body weight. A pregnant woman’s energy needs increase during the first trimester. An extra amount of 300 calories per day are required during the second and third trimester. A Weight gain of half a kg during the first trimester is normal and recommended by me. In the second and third trimesters about .75 to a kg of weight gain is healthy. A total pregnancy weight gain of 11 – 15 kgs. is healthy and recommended.
Ideal Weight Gain for an Underweight Woman
During pregnancy if a woman is underweight, I would recommend a maximum weight gain of 12 – 18 kgs. If a woman is already obese or overweight at the start of pregnancy, a weight gain of 6 – 8 kgs is considered to be safe. It is here that I would like to urge any pregnant woman reading this article that pregnancy is not the time that one should think about losing weight. A woman who gains a healthy amount of weight will result into healthy growth for the unborn infant. Weight loss is not a concept that should enter a woman’s mind during pregnancy.
Being Overweight during Pregnancy
If perchance a woman puts on a little too much weight, I would not encourage her to think about losing weight. I would advise her to use restraint while eating and not exceed a weight gain of 0.5 kg per week for the remaining weeks of her pregnancy. She can divide her recommend weight gain by the number of remaining weeks and use that figure as a guide for total weight gain during the rest of her pregnancy.
What Contributes to Weight Gain
As a woman’s weight increases during pregnancy, about 3 – 3.5 kgs can be linked to the weight of the infant at birth. The rest of the weight is distributed throughout the mother’s body In various tissues that develop during pregnancy. These tissues include placenta, amniotic fluid, increased breast tissue, expanded blood volume, and fat storage and muscle. These help prop up the mother’s health during pregnancy and post birth. To aid the delivery, the mother’s bones also tend to become stronger and denser during pregnancy which adds to the overall weight.
Protein Requirements of a Pregnant Woman
A woman’s protein requirements are increased during pregnancy. An increase of 25 – 50 gms of protein per day above a woman’s normal recommendations is advised by me. Vegetarians and Vegans should definitely consult a Nutritionist for a proper diet that details their protein intake on a day by day and month by month basis.
Vitamin Intake During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is generally a time when a woman’s vitamin needs are increased especially the intake of folate and Vitamin D. The manufacturing of DNA requires ample amounts of folate. Since the unborn infant is composed of fast-reproducing cells, extra folate intake is a must. Extra folate intake also helps support the red blood cell formation during the expansion of the mother’s blood volume. Folate-rich foods like orange juice, fruits and vegetables must be consumed everyday. Increased Vitamin D intake is also important during pregnancy. Vitamin D helps in the process of calcium metabolism and foetal bone formation. I recommend regular and moderate exposure to sunlight as well as Vitamin-D fortified milk and dairy products.
Prenatal Vitamin / Supplements
A lot of nutritionists advise pregnant women to take prenatal vitamin / mineral supplements. During pregnancy most women experience some unusual eating patterns. Typically depending on the food habits and strength of the mother, I would advise prenatal vitamin and mineral supplements that include folate, Vitamin D, iron, zinc and calcium along with omega-3 fats.
Nutritional Factors Affecting Growth
During pregnancy a woman must remember that dietary and lifestyle factors do contribute to the proper or improper growth of an unborn infant. Factors such as caffeine, alcohol and smoking can negatively impact a developing infant in the womb. Throughout pregnancy, the unborn infant is vulnerable to the effects of nutritional deficiency and toxicity and more so during the embryonic stage. Adequate nutritional, behavioural and environmental care must be taken throughout the entire pregnancy period in order to increase the chances of delivering a healthy baby.
Smoking and Alcohol
If cigarette smoking is gravely injurious to a fully grown adult, then it requires only an iota of common sense to imagine the permanent harm that cigarette smoke can cause to unborn infants. Pregnant mothers who smoke are a far greater risk of delivering low birth and premature infants. Infants born to mothers who smoke or have been ingesting secondary smoke are at risk for childhood cancers and sudden infant death. Infants whose mothers consume alcohol are at risk for low birth rate, physical deformities and poor mental development.
Caffeine and Pregnancy
Research has shown that the risk of fetal abortion and low birth weight is higher amongst pregnant women who consume 10 cups of coffee a day. I would suggest pregnant women to stay away completely from coffee or tea during pregnancy until more definitive research is done in this area.
Exercise During Pregnancy
A lot of women have traditionally stayed away from exercise or physical activity during pregnancy fearing harm to the developing foetus. Times have changed though and it is clear that regular exercise does not have any adverse effects on the growth and development of the foetus. In fact, regular exercise and prenatal yoga can provide some benefits during delivery such as shorter delivery times and less perceived discomfort and pain. I would advise a pregnant woman not to give up physical activity altogether and take some pregnancy yoga classes if possible. I do advise some amount of caution when it comes to the type of activity that a pregnan woman pursues. You should avoid any form of contact sports like kickboxing or any movement where ther are rapid directional changes and jarring motions. I advise low impact aerobics, prenatal yoga, walking and swimming as safe activities during swimming.