Developing fetuses get almost all of their nutrition directly from their mothers. As such a pregnant woman needs to be aware of which foods will provide proper and healthy nutrition for her precious growing baby.
Elements Of Proper Nutrition During Pregnancy
Good foods contain carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals and come from the following food groups: fruits, vegetables, grain products, milk and milk products, meat or other protein foods. Fatty or overly sugared foods or drinks, such as pastries, doughnuts and soda, contribute little in the way of proper nutrition but only add extra calories.
Protein Requirements During Pregnancy
One of the most important nutrients for pregnant women is protein, which provides the growth element for body tissues, including for the growing baby, the placenta, the increase in the mother’s blood volume and the amniotic fluid. During pregnancy, a total of 2 to 3 servings a day is recommended (one serving of protein is 100 gm.). Lean meats, eggs and other foods such as beans and tofu are excellent natural sources of protein.
Other Essential Nutrients During Pregnancy
The other 3 nutrients that are essential to the health of a mother and her growing baby are calcium, iron and folic acid. These require special attention, because most women don’t get enough through their normal diet.
- Calcium, which makes bones and teeth strong, is found primarily in milk products, although the vegetable, broccoli, and canned fish are also good sources.
- Iron is needed for both mother’s and baby’s blood. Although good sources of iron are available in such foods as liver, red meats, and dried fruits, most pregnant women cannot obtain enough iron from diet alone. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that pregnant women take a supplement containing 30 milligrams of iron daily during the second and third trimesters.
- The thrid vital nutrient is folic acid, a vitamin essential for the process of cell division and the development of healthy tissues. Like iron, folic acid can be found in many foods, including leafy green vegetables, liver and eggs. Because studies show that folic acid can help prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spine – called neural tube effects – the US Public Health Service recommended in September 1992 that all women of chidbearing age who are capable of becoming pregnant should consume 0.4 milligrams (400 micrograms) of folic acid a day. This is the current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of folic acid for non-pregnant women and is contained in many off-the-shelf multi-vitamins. Studies also suggest that folic acid reduces the risk of spina bifida (open spine) and anencephaly (a lethal defect involving absence of a major portion of the brain and skull), and related birth defects by about 50%. It is important to begin taking folic acid at least a month before you become pregnant, as these birth defects develop in the first month after conception, before most women realize they are even pregnant.
- Any woman who has already had a baby with neural tube defect should consult her doctor before attempting to conceive again. The doctor may recommend that you consume a larger amount of folic acid, 4 milligrams, from at least one month prior to pregnancy through the first three months of pregnancy.
- Studies reveal that this dosage of folic acid reduces recurrences by more than 70% in babies of women who have already had a chid with a neural tube defect. (This higher dose of folic acid should not be obtained by taking extra multi-vitamins, but rather by prescription of a pure folic acid supplement. Check with your physician!).
A moderate salt intake is important for pregnant women. Fluids also are essential, and the recommended daily intake of six to eight glasses can be met by drinking water, juice or milk.