What To Eat During Pregnancy?
The popular saying is that pregnant women "eat for two," but now we know that it's dangerous to eat twice your usual amount of food during pregnancy. Instead of "eating for two," think of it as eating twice as healthy.
If you are pregnant with one fetus, you need an extra 340 calories per day starting in the second trimester (and a bit more in the third trimester). Eating well is one of the best things you can do during pregnancy. Good nutrition helps you handle the extra demands on your body as your pregnancy progresses. The goal is to balance getting enough nutrients to support the growth of your fetus and maintaining a healthy weight.
Eating a healthy, varied diet in pregnancy will help you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need. However, we may need to supplement our diet during pregnancy with a few essential vitamins like, folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins.
The best time to start taking prenatal vitamins is before conception. Folic acid It is a B vitamin that may help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida. You should begin taking a 400 micrograms folic acid tablet every day at least 1 month before you try to get pregnant until you're 12 weeks pregnant.
Higher-dose folic acid:- If you have a higher chance of your pregnancy being affected by neural tube defects, you will be advised to take a higher dose of folic acid (5 milligrams). You will be advised to take this each day until you're 12 weeks pregnant.
You may have a higher chance if: You or the baby's biological father have a NTD or family history of neural tube defects you have had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect you have diabetes you take anti-epilepsy medicine you take anti-retroviral medicine for HIV.
Iron in pregnancy:- Iron is used by your body to make the extra blood that you and your fetus need during pregnancy. Iron is important for your baby's growth and brain development. Women who are not pregnant need 18 mg of iron per day. Pregnant women need more, 27 mg per day. This makes iron supplementation imperative in most women.
To make sure one is getting enough iron in addition to taking a prenatal vitamin with iron, you should eat iron-rich foods such as beans, lentils, enriched breakfast cereals, beef, turkey, liver, and shrimp. You should also eat foods that help your body absorb iron, including oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, broccoli, and peppers.
Calcium in pregnancy:- Calcium supplementation during pregnancy can reduce your risk of preeclampsia, a serious medical condition that causes a sudden increase in blood pressure. Calcium also builds up your baby's bones and teeth. Pregnant adults should get 1,000 mg (milligrams) of calcium a day.
Pregnant teenagers (ages 14-18) need 1,300 mg of calcium a day Its not possible to get this amount from diet alone. Hence, supplementation becomes mandatory in pregnancy. Sources of calcium include: Milk, cheese and yoghurt, green leafy vegetables, such as rocket, watercress or curly kale, tofu. Vitamin D in pregnancy:- Helps the calcium to build up the baby's bones and teeth. All women, pregnant or not, should be getting 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day. However, do not take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful.
Vitamin D is also found in some foods like, oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines), eggs, red meat. Because vitamin D is only found in a small number of foods, whether naturally or added, it is difficult to get the desired amount from foods alone. Many people do not get enough vitamin D. Hence, Vitamin D supplementation is required in some women.
If your ob-gyn thinks you may have low levels of vitamin D, a test can be done to check the level in your blood. If it is below normal, you may need to take a vitamin D supplement.
There have been some reports about vitamin D reducing the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19). But there is currently not enough evidence to support taking vitamin D solely to prevent or treat COVID-19.
Do keep in mind that taking too much of a supplement can be harmful. For example, very high levels of vitamin A can cause birth defects. Only take vitamins and mineral supplements that your health care provider recommends. Do not take cod liver oil or any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol) when you're pregnant. Too much vitamin A could harm your baby.
Vitamin C in pregnancy
Vitamin C protects cells and helps keep them healthy. It's found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, and a balanced diet can provide all the vitamin C you need. Good sources include: oranges and orange juice, red and green peppers, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes.
What are omega-3 fatty acids and what foods contain omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat found naturally in many kinds of fish. Omega-3s may be important for brain development before and after birth. Flaxseed (ground or as oil) is also a good source of omega-3s. Other sources of omega-3s include broccoli, cantaloupe, kidney beans, spinach, cauliflower, and walnuts.
How much fish should one eat to get the omega-3 fatty acids that I need?
Eat at least two servings of fish or shellfish per week before getting pregnant, while pregnant, and while breastfeeding. A serving of fish is 8 to 12 ounces (oz).
Which types of fish should be avoided?
Some types of fish have higher levels of mercury than others. Mercury is a metal that has been linked to birth defects. Do not eat bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, or tilefish. Limit white (albacore) tuna to only 6 oz a week. Also check advisories about fish caught in local water
What are B vitamins and what foods contain them?
B vitamins, including B1, B2, B6, B9, and B12, are key nutrients during pregnancy. These vitamins give you energy supply energy for your fetus's development, promote good vision, help build the placenta. Eating foods high in B vitamins is a good idea. Infact most of your daily requirement can be taken care of with a well balanced diet which includes liver, pork, chicken, bananas, beans, and whole-grain cereals and breads
Now, a word about Vegetarian, vegan and special diets in pregnancy A varied and balanced vegetarian diet should provide enough nutrients for you and your baby during pregnancy but you might find it more difficult to get enough iron and vitamin B12. If you're vegan or you follow a restricted diet because of a food intolerance (for example, a gluten-free diet for coeliac disease) or for religious reasons. Please speak to your doctor if this is your concern.
Dr Priyanka Ahuja
MBBS- MAMC Delhi, MS(Obstetrics & Gynaecology)