Eating Your Way To A Healthier Pregnancy
Nutrition is essential for growth, development and for protection against disease. Pregnancy is a time of rapid growth and development and there is no other stage in a woman’s life where good nutrition is more important.
Amongst healthcare professionals, it is widely known that good nutrition is an essential ingredient for a healthy pregnancy outcome. However, there is growing appreciation of the long-term impact of prenatal nutrition, which affects the status of both mother and infant well beyond pregnancy.
Understanding nutrition in pregnancy not only gives your baby the best building blocks for healthy development but can also contribute to baby’s neurodevelopment.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Turku and Turku University Hospital in Finland has emphasized the crucial role that a mother’s health and lifestyle play in regulating the neurodevelopment of her child. The study specifically investigated the impact of maternal gestational diabetes, obesity, and diet during pregnancy on the neurodevelopment of 2-year-old children.
Read more about this study here at nutrition in pregnancy.
This article aims to give a broad introduction to the topic. We also have further information in our Nutrition in Pregnancy section.
Healthy Pregnancy Nutrition
If you’re expecting or planning to become pregnant, nourishing your body with nutrient-rich foods is one of the most important steps for a healthy pregnancy. It’s essential to be aware that some foods can carry risks as well as benefits, but with knowledge and careful practices it’s possible to eat a nutritious diet for both Mum and baby. To make this important journey through pregnancy easier, we’ve compiled our top 10 tips for optimizing nutrition during pregnancy.
We’ll go over how adding various types of food are beneficial including fruits, vegetables grains and proteins while discussing key points such avoiding unpasteurized dairy products and reducing intake of certain seafoods.
Know your nutritional needs during pregnancy – understand the importance of eating nutrient-dense foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats
Eating a healthy diet is crucial during pregnancy, not only for the health of the developing baby but also for the mother.
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables provide a variety of nutrients, including folate, vitamin C, potassium and fibre, while whole grains offer valuable carbohydrates, protein and dietary fibre. Lean proteins, such as skinless chicken, fish, and beans, contain iron, zinc, and other vital minerals, which are essential for a healthy pregnancy.
Additionally, healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids from nuts, seeds, and oily fish are beneficial for both the mother and baby’s brain and eye development. So, knowing your nutritional needs during pregnancy is essential to ensure your baby gets the best possible start to life.
Make sure to get enough folate for your baby’s development – look for green leafy veggies and fortified cereals/grains as good sources
As an expectant mother, you want to give your baby the best start in life.
Including sufficient folate in your diet will help towards this. You can find folate in many foods, but green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals and grains are some of the best sources. By taking care of your nutrition during pregnancy, you are giving your baby the best chance for a healthy start in life.
Here is a guide about folic acid during pregnancy.
Increase your calcium intake for stronger bones – include dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt in your diet As we age, it becomes more important to take extra care of our bones. Including calcium in your pregnancy diet is also very important. By making changes to your diet, you can give your bones the support they need to stay strong and healthy for years to come.
Iron rich foods
Include iron-rich foods such as spinach, lentils and beans to help your body absorb oxygen more effectively
It’s essential to include iron-rich foods in your diet to boost your body’s ability to absorb oxygen. Spinach, lentils and beans are excellent sources of iron and can do wonders for your overall health. Iron plays a part in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body.
So, by incorporating these iron-rich foods into your meals, you’ll be ensuring your body is getting the oxygen it needs to function at its best. Start experimenting with recipes that include spinach, lentils and beans, and you’ll be feeling the benefits in no time.
Don’t forget about Vitamin A – important for the development of eyesight and skin tone; try adding sweet potatoes or butternut squash to meals Vitamin A is a crucial nutrient that is often overlooked in our diets.
Not only does it play a crucial role in maintaining healthy eyesight, but it also helps to keep skin looking fresh and bright. Not only do these vegetables taste great, but they also provide a wide range of other vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy. So next time you’re thinking about what to cook for dinner, don’t forget about the importance of Vitamin A!
Be careful with caffeine
Monitor your caffeine intake – too much can cause premature labor or low birth weight; stick with 1-2 cups per day Are you a coffee lover and an expecting mother? While caffeine is generally safe during pregnancy, exceeding the recommended intake can pose serious risks to you and your baby.
Research shows that too much caffeine intake can cause premature labor or low birth weight, so it’s important to monitor your daily coffee, tea, or soda consumption. Stick with 1-2 cups per day to keep the caffeine level in check. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so consult your healthcare provider about your caffeine intake and other dietary concerns during pregnancy.
Eating healthily during pregnancy is paramount for the positive physical and cognitive development of your baby. With this in mind, make sure you take the time to understand what your nutritional needs are as well as knowing where to find nutritious foods such as fortified cereals and grains, leafy green vegetables, dairy products, etc.
To maximize the absorption of oxygen in your body and for your baby’s health, include iron-rich foods like spinach, lentils and beans in meals. Don’t forget about Vitamin A either; it is essential for eyesight and skin tone, so try adding sweet potatoes or butternut squash to meals.
However, mind your caffeine intake – try limiting yourself to one or two cups per day – too much can cause premature labor or low birth weight. Last but not least, attend an early pregnancy scan for reassurance that everything is on track with you and your baby’s health. Pregnancy is a beautiful, unique experience – so ensure you keep up good nutrition by remembering these tips.
The potential for maternal weight gain
Pregnancy has the potential to lead to excessive maternal weight-gain. Women now enter pregnancy approximately 10kg heavier than they did 20 years ago. Being overweight or obese before or during pregnancy increases a woman’s risk of adverse obstetric outcomes, including:
- operative delivery
- foetal macrosomia
- gestational diabetes
Most countries do not designate specific weight-gain goals for pregnancy, but rather give general advice regarding weight gain. In Ireland, we follow the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) weight-gain goals, which were revised in 2009 .
The IOM recommends that women with singleton pregnancies gain between 11.5-16kg, 7-11.5kg or 5-9kg, depending on whether they are a healthy weight, overweight or obese before pregnancy, respectively. These ranges were drawn from observed weight gains of women delivering full-term, healthy infants without complications. A systematic review by Abrams et al in 2000 reported that gaining weight within these ranges is associated with the best outcomes for both mother and infant.
Weight gain in pregnancy comprises the products of conception (the foetus, placenta and amniotic fluid), the increases in various maternal tissues (uterus, breasts, bloods and extra-cellular fluid) and increases in maternal fat stores.
Extra calories (kcal) are essential during pregnancy
Extra calories (kcal) are essential during pregnancy to allow for the energy deposited in maternal and foetal tissues and for the increase in energy used by the body. There is an increase in metabolism during pregnancy and an increase in the amount of energy spent during daily activities. The total energy cost for the entire duration of pregnancy is approximately 80,000 calories (kcal).
This equates to approximately an extra 200-300 kcal per day for the second half of pregnancy. However, exact energy requirements during pregnancy remain controversial because of inconclusive evidence on maternal fat-deposition and assumed reductions in physical activity levels as gestation progresses.
Midwife sonographer facilitated
Consultant Led, Centre of Medical Excellence
All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.
This website was formerly Merrion Fetal Health. The clinic has undergone a rebrand and is now known as Merrion Ultrasound.