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Nutrition During Pregnancy

A balanced diet is a basic part of good health at all times of your life. During pregnancy, your diet is even more important. The foods you eat during pregnancy are the main source of nutrients for you and your baby. As your baby grows, you will need more of most nutrients. This article will help you learn more about: Good food choices for you and your baby, nutrients you need, and foods to avoid.

eating right while pregnant

As stated before, a balanced diet is beneficial at all times of your life, but the best time to begin eating a healthy diet is before you decide to become pregnant. This helps you and your baby start out with storage of the nutrients you will both need. If you are planning on getting pregnant in the near future, make a visit to your doctor. Getting good health care before you are pregnant will pay off throughout your pregnancy. As part of your visit, you can discuss your family environment, work schedule and lifestyle habits including your diet. You and your doctor can discuss how to form healthy habits to maintain your energy level and health, and what to eat in preparation for and during your pregnancy. Certain nutrients are especially important to expecting mothers such as folic acid.

The first step toward healthy eating is to look at the foods in your daily diet. Early in pregnancy morning sickness may alter your eating habits because you may not feel like eating. On the flip side, you may crave certain foods too. In either case, you should still try to maintain a healthy diet by eating a variety of foods, each day, to help ensure you are getting ample nutrition. If you appetite is lacking, having healthy snacks that you can eat during the day is a good way to get the nutrients and the extra calories you and your baby need. You may find it easier to eat snacks and small meals throughout the day rather than three big meals a day. Healthy eating also means avoiding things that may be harmful. This includes illegal drugs that may cause birth defects and other problems for the baby, and alcohol. Smoking cigarettes is especially harmful to a pregnant woman and her baby. You also may want to cut back on caffeine intake, during pregnancy, or avoid it all together.

Pregnant women need extra nutrients such as; iron and folic acid. These are usually prescribed in pill form or supplements. Sometimes, a prenatal vitamin that contains these two nutrients, plus vitamins and minerals is recommended. Ask your doctor or nurse how you and your babie’s needs should best be met. “It is recommended that women should take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, in addition to a well balanced diet, for at least 1 month before pregnancy and during the first three months of pregnancy.” This can help prevent neural tube defects, which adversely affect the spine and skull of the fetus. Furthermore, women who have already had one child with a neural tube defect are more likely to have another child with this same problem again. If you are a woman who has already delivered one baby with a neural tube defect, higher doses of folic acid (4milligrams daily) is needed. It should be taken for at least one month before pregnancy and during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Women who need 4 milligrams should take folic acid as a separate supplement, not as part of a multivitamin. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements, herbs, or vitamins that were not prescribed specifically for you.

Special Diet Concerns while Pregnant

Vegetarian Diets – If you are a vegetarian, you can continue your diet during your pregnancy. However, you will need to plan your meals with care to ensure you get the nutrients you and your baby need. Be sure you are getting enough protein and that it is the correct type. You may want to add additional supplements containing vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and especially iron.

Lactose Intolerance – Milk and other dairy products can be a good source of calcium in your diet, however, some women experience unpleasant symptoms called lactose intolerance. The most common symptoms are bloating, diarrhea, gas and indigestion. Surprisingly, during pregnancy, these symptoms can often improve or disappear all together. If you still seem to be experiencing problems after eating or drinking dairy products, talk with a dietitian or doctor about how to get the calcium your baby will need to grow. Calcium supplements may be a good option, so don’t be discouraged. Calcium can also be found in yogurts, sardines, cheese and certain types of vegetables such as broccoli and spinach.

Listeriosis – Listeriosis is an illness caused by bacteria that can occur in and soft cheese, unpasteurized milk, prepared and uncooked meats, shellfish, and poultry. Listeriosis can prove particularly harmful to pregnant women and their fetus. Symptoms can occur even several weeks after eating the offending food. They can include back pains, chills, fevers, and muscle aches. In some cases there may be no symptoms at all. When a pregnant woman becomes infected with listeriosis, the disease can cause stillbirth or miscarriage. Listeriosis can be difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms may be mistaken for morning sickness or the flu. If you have flu like symptoms, or a fever, check with your doctor immediately. If the bacteria are found present in your system early, you and your baby can be treated effectively with antibiotics. If there is a chance that a newborn is infected, he or she can also be tested and treated. Ways to prevent contracting listeriosis is to always wash any fruits and vegetables before eating them. While you are pregnant, always wash your hands and any utensils, cutting boards or counter tops that have been in contact with uncooked meats. Also, avoid soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk, processed and uncooked meats, shellfish, and poultry.

Mercury – Shellfish and fish are usually good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, protein and other nutrients. However, pregnant women should avoid certain kinds of fish while pregnant because they contain high levels of a form of mercury that can harm a developing fetus. Fish that should be avoided during your pregnancy are shark, swordfish, king mackerel, albacore tuna and tilefish. These large fish contain high levels of Mercury. Other types of fish are fine in limited amounts. Other fish can be eaten in moderation. Eat up to 12 ounces of safe fish per week. Check your local advisory reports about fish caught in local streams and rivers. If there is no warning, it may be safe to eat up to 6 ounces per week of fresh fish from local waters.

Eating right during your pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby. Take a look at the foods in your daily diet. Make sure they provide the nutrients you and your baby need. It is never too late to start eating a healthy diet.

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            Master of Science in Nutrition Education

            At American University, our smart, passionate and engaged students and faculty focus their knowledge to create meaningful change. Our strengths in international service and public affairs inspire our sense of social responsibility and a dedication to cultural and intellectual diversity. We’re defined by our global perspective, practical idealism and a dedication to public service.

             

            American University is a private, college-centered research university located in the nation’s capital. It was chartered by the United States Congress in 1893 to build public service, and is now home to a prestigious faculty, guest speakers and visiting world leaders who are influential practitioners and prominent thought leaders.

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