Nutrition Before, During, and After Pregnancy

This article provides a comprehensive guide to nutrition and childbearing.
Guide to Nutrition and Childbearing

Weight gain and adjusting your eating

Nutrition Before, During, and After Pregnancy

Nutrition should always be a priority, but when you're having a baby it becomes even more important. At this period in your life it is vital to stick to good health habits. Ensuring you receive all of the nutrients your body needs will help to promote a safe pregnancy and a healthy environment for your baby.

More: Mom’s Pre-Pregnancy Diet Could Impact Baby’s Genes

Pregnancy and Weight Gain
Proper weight gain is vital to a healthy baby and a safe pregnancy. A baby's birth weight is directly related to the weight you gain throughout your pregnancy. A woman who is at a healthy weight at the onset of pregnancy should expect to gain anywhere from 25 to 35 pounds during the course of the pregnancy. Women who are underweight are advised to gain 28 to 40 pounds, and women who are overweight are advised to gain 15 to 25 pounds. If you are expecting twins, your doctor may advise a weight gain of 35 to 45 pounds.

Essential: Restricting weight gain can result in a baby with a lower birth weight. Babies who are born weighing less than 5½ pounds are at greater risk for developing difficulties and illnesses than babies who weigh more.

Not only is gaining a healthy amount of weight important, but the rate at which you gain is also notable. Woman should expect about a two- to four-pound weight gain during the first trimester and about a one-pound gain per week for the remainder of the pregnancy.

Baby 7-8 pounds
Placenta 1-2 pounds
Amniotic fluid 2 pounds
Breasts 1 pound
Uterus 2 pounds
Increased blood volume 3 pounds
Body fat 5 or more pounds
Increased muscle tissue and fluid 4-7 pounds
Total minimum 25 pounds

Pregnancy and Calorie Needs
Calorie needs increase during pregnancy to help support a woman's maternal body changes and the baby's proper growth and development. The RDA for energy intake during pregnancy is an additional 300 calories per day for the second and third trimester, in addition to maintenance needs. For example, if you require 2,000 calories per day to maintain your weight, you will need about 2,300 calories during pregnancy.

All the calories you consume during pregnancy should be healthy calories that contain plenty of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Complex carbohydrates such as fruit, whole-grain starches, cereal, pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, and legumes should be the main source of energy.

ALERT! Dieting or skipping meals during pregnancy can have serious effects on the development of the baby. It takes more than 85,000 calories over the course of a nine-month pregnancy, in addition to the calories the mother needs for her own energy needs, to produce a healthy, well-developed baby.

Protein Power
Protein needs increase when you are pregnant, to help develop the body cells of the growing baby. Other changes that are taking place in your body during pregnancy also require protein, such as the building of the placenta. You need an extra 10 grams of protein above your extra daily calories, or about 70 grams of protein daily, compared with 60 grams for women who are not pregnant. Ten grams of protein is equivalent to a an ounce-and-a-half serving of lean meat, about 10 ounces of fat-free milk, or 1½ ounces of tuna canned in water.

Most women do not have a problem meeting their protein requirements. Consuming plenty of lean meats, fish, tuna, eggs, and legumes, as well as increasing your dairy servings, will ensure you meet your protein needs. If you are a vegetarian, consume a variety of legumes, grain products, eggs, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, vegetables, fruits, and soy foods to ensure proper protein intake.

Adjusting Your Eating Plan
Getting the extra calories your body needs for pregnancy just takes a small adjustment in a healthy eating plan. Adjust your eating plan using the following guidelines for the minimum number of servings in each food group:

  • Bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group: 6-7 (or more) servings daily
  • Vegetable and fruit groups: 5 or more servings daily
  • Milk, yogurt, and cheese group: 2-3 servings daily
  • Meat, poultry, fish, dried beans, eggs, and nut group: 5-7 ounces daily
  • Unsaturated fats: 3 servings daily
Also be aware of increased fluid needs. Water is an important nutrient and is essential for the nourishment that passes through the placenta to the baby. Drink at least 8 to 12 cups daily, and more if you are thirsty.

ALERT! Raw foods can increase your risk for bacterial infection. Avoid anything raw, including sushi and other raw seafood, undercooked meat or poultry, beef tartar, raw or unpasteurized milk, soft-cooked or poached eggs, and raw eggs (possibly found in eggnog).

  • The Everything Nutrition Book
    The Everything Nutrition Book
    The Everything Nutrition Book