Pregnancy is a journey of 9 months where a new life grows inside the mother. Pregnancy in a healthy mother is a prediction of a healthy baby. The most important part of delivering a healthy newborn is played by diet. The nutritional needs during pregnancy are increased to meet the high metabolic demands of the growing fetus as well as due to the physiological changes in the mother who is going carry the child and prepare for lactation.
“Gestational Programming” is a concept that denotes that the metabolic, hormonal and the nutritional environment provided by a mother may permanently alter the organ structure, cellular responses and gene expression and may alter the metabolism and physiology of her offspring.
Sufficient maternal nutrition can critically modulate the development of the fetus thus reducing the risk of birth defects.
Baby eats what the mother eats. Eat food as medicine.
Undernourishment and obesity prior to conception can lead to a variety of adverse outcomes compared to women with normal weight. Maternal malnutrition is a risk factor for low-birth-weight infants or small for gestational age infants, premature birth, or fetal growth retardation. This may result in perinatal morbidity and mortality and in addition, an inclination to certain chronic illnesses such as diabetes mellitus type II, coronary artery disease, stroke, and hypertension in adulthood. On the other hand, the increased prevalence of obesity among pregnant woman is associated with both obstetric complications such as hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and caesarean sections as well as high birth weight infants.
Folate- most important nutrient for neural development of the baby. Three months before conceiving the folic acid should be started. All pregnancies should be planned pregnancies. Hence pre-conceptional counselling should be taken before planning a pregnancy. Foods high in folate are dark leafy vegetables, asparagus, beans, broccoli, lentils.
Iron- The growing fetus needs iron from the mother and if the mother is already deficient the baby born will be anaemic. For preventing anaemia get yourself checked for haemoglobin before pregnancy and follow diet tips in pregnancy. All females lack in proteins and iron intake. Haemoglobin is a combination of haem (iron) and globin(protein). A diet which has both iron and protein can increase the haemoglobin of the woman. Non-vegetarian diet is rich in protein and vitamin B 12. Anaemia leads to low birth weight and anaemic babies.
Protein - Protein is the building block for the babies. Only one thing a mother can remember is to eat protein. Every day she should count the amount of protein she has eaten. 61 gm per day is the requirement but many don’t even take half of this. Vegetarians need to take lots of paneers, tofu, soybean, dals, rajma, lobhiya, cheese, whey protein to catch up with their protein intake. Non-vegetarians have the choice of fish and chicken.
Calcium - though all women should take care of their calcium and bones by taking more milk products, in pregnancy, it is essential to take extra calcium from 14 weeks onwards.
Other nutrients- zinc, iodine, magnesium, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids(fish), dietary fibre, vitamin B; bright coloured fruits are rich in vitamins. Faux nuts are rich in magnesium, vitamin d needs to be supplemented.
Foods that should be avoided- raw meat or fish, sea fish (can have mercury), energy drinks, caffeinated drinks, raw papaya, Ajinomoto, smoked fish, unpasteurized milk or juice, some variety of cheese, deli meats (listeria bacteria), artificial sweeteners
Tips- small frequent meals, avoid heavy meals, plenty of fluids and fruits, sleep in time for better digestion and walk after each meal to avoid postprandial hyperglycemia and indigestion, avoid constipation and use a lot of fibre.
Weight gain in pregnancy- 10-15 kgs of weight gain is adequate but depending on your pre-pregnancy weight and diabetes status you might not gain, lose or just gain around 5 kg only in pregnancy. The weight is not the criteria to judge a healthy pregnancy. Your BMI decides your weight gain in pregnancy.
Energy requirements – DRI, Dietary Reference Intakes says no extra requirement of energy during 1 st trimester, 340 calories during 2 nd trimester and 452 calories during 3 rd trimester.
Deficiency of any micronutrient and macronutrient has an impact on the rapid development of the fetus and may lead to specific birth defects.
Pregnancy is going to alter your thinking and it’s going to make you realize how fragile and important life is and why it must be protected at all cost. As the mother, the need to be healthy is a duty and a responsibility for the future of a healthy generation. Consult the gynaecologist and follow the nutrition guide for the pregnant lady.
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