Some women mistakenly believe that pregnancy gives them the license to eat as much as they want since they’re now eating for two. But it’s not as simple as that. Important dietary considerations must be made now that a little one is relying on you for sustenance in the crucial months of development. Start digging into the facts we prepared for you below.
Importance of nutrition during pregnancy
A healthy diet couldn’t be stressed enough for the benefits it has for you and the baby. It helps you cope with the physical demands of pregnancy, curb unpleasant symptoms such as morning sickness and fatigue and reduce the risks of gestational diabetes. Furthermore, eating right fosters good brain development and a healthy birth weight for your little one. It also prevents the risk of birth defects.
Nutritional requirements of pregnant women
To maintain a healthy pregnancy, you need to get the right caloric intake for each trimester. During the first three months, the baby does not require any additional calories, therefore, you don’t need it too.
As the second trimester rolls in, you will need an approximate extra 340 calories each day to help the baby’s rapid growth. In your last trimester, this goes up to about 450 extra calories per day. These numbers dismiss the notion that you’ll be eating twice as much food because that’s not a lot—but it’s enough.
So, instead of indiscriminately eating more, the goal is to get the right number of calories and make each one count! That means you need to focus on essential nutrients for your baby’s development instead of giving in to fast-food or indulging your sweet tooth!
The table below gives a quick overview of the food options that can help satisfy the nutritional requirements of pregnancy.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy
A crucial part of planning your pregnancy diet is also knowing what foods to skip. Some have components or bacteria in them that are harmful to your growing foetus. With that said, here are some food options that you must avoid:
· Raw (uncooked) or undercooked fish or shellfish, like sushi or oysters
· Soft cheeses like feta, Brie, and goat cheese, unless they are pasteurized
· Meats, poultry, or eggs that are raw or undercooked
· Unpasteurized juices or milk
· Lunch or deli meats, smoked seafood, and hot dogs – unless these are heated until it’s steaming hot before serving
· Prepared salads like ham salad, chicken salad, or seafood salad
· Raw sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts
· Fishes such as bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, or swordfish because these have high mercury content.
Proper food preparation
With proper food choices, good food hygiene should also follow. This habit reduces the risk of infections like listeria and salmonella. Certain organisms can cross the placenta and increase your baby’s risk of becoming infected. Infections can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labour or severe complications for the baby.
To avoid problems due to poor food handling, take note of the following suggestions:
· Practice proper handwashing before and after preparing food.
· Keep kitchen surfaces, cutting boards and utensils clean.
· Don’t let uncooked food contaminate cooked food.
· Wash fresh produce well before eating.
· Cook food thoroughly.
· Keep pets away from kitchen surfaces.
· Wear rubber gloves when handling cat litter trays or gardening.
· Store food at proper temperatures.
The importance of supplementation in pregnancy
Your diet may not always meet your nutritional requirements. It’s for this reason that supplements are necessary to fill in those nutritional gaps.
Doctors normally prescribe a prenatal supplement before conception or shortly afterwards to ensure that all of your nutritional needs are met. However, a prenatal supplement does not replace a healthy diet.
Remember that you should not take more than the recommended amount each day. That being said, some ingredients, such as vitamin A, can cause birth defects in high doses. If there’s any known deficiency, your doctor may advise a separate supplement. It’s often the case for vegetarians or vegans, those who don’t get enough calcium or women with low iron stores.
To be safe, follow what is recommended to you by your OB during your prenatal visits. Suggestions may vary based on the status of your health and other factors. Therefore, stick to the proper dose and timing.
Fluid intake during pregnancy
Adequate hydration is key during pregnancy. It’s recommended that a pregnant woman consume 8 to 12 cups of water each day.
It’s also suggested to limit caffeine intake to 200 mg per day, which amounts to 12 ounces of coffee. Also remember that caffeine is also found in tea, chocolate, energy drinks and soft drinks. Having said that, drinks that are sweetened should be kept at a minimum to reduce pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes.
Alcohol is a big no-no during pregnancy. There is no established safe limit for a pregnant woman hence ideally, abstinence is advised. Even moderate drinking can cause life-long problems for your baby. Issues may include problems with brain development, smaller-than-normal head size, and abnormal facial features and are associated particularly with binge or excessive drinking. However, serious harm is also unlikely if you drank before you knew you had a bun in the oven. What’s important is that you stop intake when you learn that you’re pregnant.
Food cravings and aversion during pregnancy
Contrary to popular opinion, no scientific evidence supports the idea that your body craves certain foods due to their nutritional value. However, some theories explain that a woman’s food cravings and aversion during pregnancy may be attributed to fluctuating hormones. Others also believe that cultural expectations about cravings may also shape a pregnant woman’s reaction towards certain foods.
Usually, there’s no need to worry about pregnancy cravings and aversions. Caving into the occasional urge won’t have a big impact on your overall health. But if you repeatedly give in to unhealthy cravings, you could gain more weight than recommended for pregnancy, which exposes you to long-term health risks.
Appropriate weight gain during pregnancy
You’re aware that your diet directly affects your weight, and this matter should be taken more seriously during pregnancy. Excess weight gain is linked to a number of complications in pregnancy and childbirth (e.g. high blood pressure, preeclampsia, preterm birth, gestational diabetes). Obesity in pregnancy also increases the risk of a larger than normal fetus (macrosomia), birth injury and Caesarean section. The table below gives you an idea of the healthy amount of weight you will gain for the next nine months.
The health risks that are associated with excess weight are avoidable, and it mainly has much to do with your diet. Ask your health care provider how much weight you should gain or control according to your baseline.
The information we shared here should not replace the professional guidance which you can get in an actual prenatal check-up. For customised recommendations about nutrition in pregnancy, get help from an OBGYN as soon as possible. You can also reach out to the Dr Pamela Tan Medical Clinic for an appointment. Call us at +65 6254 2878 today.
Dr Pamela Tan is a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist in Singapore. She finished her undergraduate studies at the National University of Singapore and earned her post-graduate degree at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK. She is an accredited specialist by the Specialist Accreditation Board (Ministry of Health), and a fellow of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore. She subspecialises in colposcopy and is certified to perform Level 3 minimally invasive keyhole surgeries such as laparoscopic hysterectomy, myomectomy and cystectomy. Dr Pam also supports the natural birthing method and she strives to provide a personalised care and treatment for each patient.