The Role of Nutrition During Pregnancy

As a practicing dietitian and consulting nutritionist, advising pregnant mothers on diet and nutrition is an important area of work for me. Let us try and answer some questions that a pregnant woman may have during her pregnancy.

How much Weight Gain is Normal During Pregnancy?

During the first trimester, the energy needs of a mother increases slightly while only about 300 extra calories are required during the second and third trimester. About half a kilo of weight gain per month is usually recommended. During the second and third trimester, about 1.5 to 2 kgs of weight gain per month is healthy. About 11 – 15 kilos of total pregnancy weight gain is normal.

How Much Should an Overweight or Underweight Woman Gain During Pregnancy?

If a woman is underweight before pregnancy, 12 – 18 kilos of weight gain is recommended. If a woman is overweight then only about 6 – 11 kgs of weight loss is recommended. A woman must realise though that pregnancy is not the right time for her to start losing weight. I definitely do not encourage a weight loss program during pregnancy.

What Should a Woman Do If She Gains Too Much Weight During Pregnancy?

If during the early months of pregnancy a woman puts on excess weight, she should not try to lose weight. Though I would advise her to be careful and not to exceed the 0.5 kg per week weight gain recommendation for the remaining weeks.

What Factors Contribute to Weight Gain During Pregnancy?

When a woman starts putting on weight during pregnancy, about 3 – 4 kilos can be attributed to the weight of the baby. The rest of the weight gain can be distributed throughout the body of the mother as various tissues develop during pregnancy. These tissue include the placenta, amniotic fluid, increased breast tissue, expanded blood volume, and fat storage and muscle.These tissues help to support the mother and the foetus during pregnancy and birth. The mother’s bones also become more dense during pregnancy contributing to the weight gain.

The Role of Nutrition During Pregnancy

How much Protein Intake Does a Mother Need During Pregnancy?

Protein intake is generally increased during pregnancy. An increase of 25 gms of protein is recommended going up to a total of 70 gms of protein per day. Vegetarian women should absolutely consult dietians in terms of protein intake in order to ensure the healthy growth of the infant.

Are Vitamin Needs Increased During Pregnancy?

Vitamin needs are also increased during pregnancy especially folate and Vitamin D. The manufacturing of DNA requires folate and since the developing infant is composed of fast reproducing cells, extra folate ingestion is important. The extra folate also supports the formation of red blood cells because the mother’s blood volume is expanding. intake can be increased by consuming orange juice, fruits and veggies. Vitamin D is also important during pregnancy and can be attained by regular but limited exposure to sunlight and by drinking milk and consuming dairy products.

Are Minerals Needed in Greater Amounts During Pregnancy?

The requirement for essential minerals increases during a woman’s pregnancy. The RDA for iron for example increases from 18 to
27 milligrams daily. The mother needs iron to create new haemoglobin for the increased blood and it is also required by the fetus to forge new tissues. Also important is Calcium for fetal bone and teeth development. I also increase Zinc requirements for pregnant women by about 25 % because it aids in general growth and development of the baby.

Should Pregnant Women Take Prenatal Vitamin/Mineral Supplements?

Prenatal vitamin/mineral supplements are recommended by many physicians
and nutritionists including me. This is because during pregnancy, a woman experiences unusual eating patterns. Even the most health-conscious woman will admit to cravings and other irregular eating preferences and patterns. The most common prenatal vitamin
and mineral supplements that I prescribe include folate, vitamin D, iron, zinc, and calcium along with other key nutrients such as omega-3 fats.

Can There be a Vitamins Overload During Pregnancy?

Yes. For example, excessive vitamin A supplementation during pregnancy can cause birth defects. Moderation is the key.

What Factors Can Affect the Healthy Growth of an Unborn Infant?

Caffeine, alcohol, and smoking can negatively impact healthy growth and development of an unborn infant. An unborn child is highly vulnerable in the womb to the effects of nutritional deficiency and toxicity as well as the harmful effects of drugs and addictive substances that the mother ingests in her body. This is especially so in the embryonic period. Good nutritional, behavioral, and
environmental care should be taken by a woman throughout her pregnancy in order to increase the likelihood of a healthy offspring. Pregnant mothers who smoke are at greater risk of delivering low birth weight and premature infants apart from the risk of childhood cancers and sudden infant death. Children born to mothers who drink alcohol may suffer from low birth weight, physical
deformities, and poor mental development. I also advise women to abstain from heavy coffee and tea drinking and if possible completely abstain from tea and coffee because research has proven that coffee-addicted mothers can suffer from a greater risk of
spontaneous fetal abortion and low birth weight.

Should a Pregnant Women Exercise During Pregnancy?

In India it is seen that many women give up activity during pregnancy fearing for the safety of their unborn infant. But regular exercise or prenatal yoga (specific yoga poses only) does not affect growth or development of the child but actually provides a lot of benefits such as shorter delivery time and less discomfort and delivery pain. But attention must be paid to the type of activity a pregnant woman chooses. Contact sports and movements involving rapid directional changes and jarring motions must be avoided. I advise safe exercises such as low impact aerobics, walking, and swimming during pregnancy. Most importantly a pregnant woman must pay particular attention to her energy consumption and monitor her body weight and hydration status.

Hope this helps you or your loved one understand the vital role that Diet and Nutrition plays in the healthy development off the baby. For a prenatal or postnatal diet and nutrition consultation, feel free to call me on 98206 07875.

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