A balanced pregnancy diet
How to adopt a healthy diet for two? The very first contact between you and your baby in utero happens through your diet during pregnancy. A healthy, balanced diet meets all your nutritional needs and your baby’s while ensuring an optimum development of the foetus.
Pregnancy changes your nutritive and energy needs.
From the first pregnancy day, the maternal organism adapts in prevision of the development of the foetus. Although your infant’s needs are limited in the first trimester of pregnancy, your body will adapt to ensure a healthy and normal development of your baby. Your body already starts forming reserves for the last pregnancy trimester, when the nutritious needs of the foetus will be maximum.
Eating well throughout your pregnancy and taking care to ensure your diet is full of good nutrition is one of the best things you can do for your developing baby – and for yourself. This way you will avoid deficiencies and excesses.
The diet of the future mother affects the pregnancy long before conceiving. Women wishing to get pregnant should visit their doctor to adapt their diet and prepare their body to the pregnancy.
During this visit, you may decide to take a daily folic acid supplement. The folic acid is a vitamin playing a major role during the whole pregnancy. At the beginning of the pregnancy the needs in folic acid will be increased by the expansion of the maternal tissues. This vitamin is essential for the development of the infant’s central nervous system and cells and the formation of red blood cells. A folic acid deficiency can lead to neural tube defects, thus causing dangerous neurological malformations. Having a healthy diet therefore means focusing on food containing high quantities of folates such as leafy vegetables, (citrus) fruit and eggs.
The future mum should ensure her diet is full of good nutrition. Although dieting during pregnancy is not advisable as it could cause deficiencies to the foetus and yourself, you should avoid the high-calorie food and not « eat for two ». It is more to do with eating a good variety of the right foods for two and meeting the energetic needs.
Nowadays a normal weight gain during pregnancy is of 1kg per month. There is no « golden rule »: as each woman’s body is different, the estimated weight gain is between 9 and 12kg according to healthcare professionals. Your doctor should pay particular attention and make sure you maintain a steady and healthy weight gain.
The future mum needs to adopt a healthy balanced diet. Therefore, let’s have a look at the essential nutrients required during pregnancy.
Protein requirements gradually increase during pregnancy as the growth of the foetus is at its maximum during the last trimester. Not only do proteins build up, maintain, and replace the tissues of the mum’s body but also those of the baby. The pregnant woman’s body will adapt and stock up on proteins to develop the baby’s cells and muscles. Vegetable proteins need to be combined with animal proteins to gain all the complementary amino acids.
A well-balanced intake of lipids is important. DHA (DocosaHexaenoic Acid) is a long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid essential for the development of the brain and retina. As the organism only synthesises it in very small amounts, enough should be eaten every day. Oily fish is a rich source of DHA.
The pregnancy hormonal changes often cause constipation. You can help to overcome this problem by eating plenty of fibre.
Calcium needs increase during pregnancy. Calcium is involved in the process of forming your child’s bones.
Iron is the major oligo-element in pregnancy participating in the production of red blood cells. You should increase your iron intake especially towards the end of your pregnancy to reduce risks of prematurity, low birth weight baby or important haemorrhage for the mother during delivery.
Iodine is essential for the thyroid gland and the development of the baby’s brain. Fish contains iodine.
Various vitamins will also support your organism and have different benefits:
Vitamin A is essential for good vision and protects the epithelium.
Vitamin C promotes the absorption of iron and stimulates the immune system.
Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium by the organism and is essential to strengthen the bones.
Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, ensures a healthy nutritional basis for the mum at the end of the pregnancy. Healthcare professionals recommend women wishing to get pregnant to take folic acid supplements.
Staying hydrated is crucial so try and drink 1,5 to 2 litres of water per day. On the other hand, reduce your tea and coffee consumption as well as soda and sweet drinks. Smoking and alcohol consumption are to ban immediately to reduce risks of prematurity and low birth weight baby.
Certain pregnancy conditions such as being adolescent and pregnant, having a multiple pregnancy or your children are spaced closely together need a particular care... These situations request a regular medical check-up.