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Pregnancy Nutrition for Mother and Baby

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Mother’s nutrition has a huge effect on the outcomes of her pregnancy. Complications like low-birth-weight and pre-term labor are commonly associated with nutritional status, and have a larger incidence of neonatal deaths. The good thing about this link is that mother’s nutrition can be altered by the choices she makes, and positively affect the health of her baby.

The first trimester of pregnancy is pretty crucial in terms of fetal developments, which may be a scary feeling for mothers who are unaware or find out later on that they are pregnant. If conception is planned, a healthy diet and a mutivitamin with folate or folic acid is particularly important. Folate is the form in which the vitamin is found naturally in foods, and folic acid is the fortified version found in grains and vitamin supplements. Natural folate can be found in beans (kidney, black, navy, lentils), dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, collard greens), and fruits (oranges, strawberries, avocados).

It is important to include folate or folic acid in the diet to protect against neural tube defects like spina bifida. Complete closure of the neural tube will help protect the spinal cord, and all of this takes place within the first month of pregnancy. It is recommended that all women capable of becoming pregnant should consume 0.4mg (or 400 micrograms) of folic acid daily (this can be in either fortified foods like cereals or supplements) in addition to a healthy diet with natural folate-rich foods.

Nutrition needs vary during the stages of pregnancy. During the first trimester the embryo or fetus is very small, and mothers nutritional needs to not increase much compared to her pre-pregnancy needs. By the third trimester there is noticeable fetal growth and the women’s nutrient needs increase significantly.

Many women are concerned about proper weight gain throughout pregnancy. There really isn’t a magic number or percentage, and each woman is different. Guidelines generally base an index compared to the woman’s pre-pregnancy height and weight.

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HERWriter Guide

Thank you for this post, Claire!

I disagree with the opinions of health care experts to keep a diary of weight gain, unless recommended for specific reasons. Seriously, women are hounded enough in general, about their weight. Being pregnant is hard enough without adding the pressure of a weight gain diary. I never did it and would not recommend it unless medically necessary.

However, I do think women use pregnancy as a reason to overeat. They regret it mightily when they give birth and find they have 40lbs of fat to remove. I think any woman who eats a fresh and healthy diet (and yes! with some treats thrown in there!) and exercise should find themselves somewhere between 20-40 lbs (when pregnant with a single baby) and should begin an exercise regime again within two months of birth, depending on the kind of birth had and doctor recommendations.

One month, (my 7th) I gained 7 pounds and it was "mentioned" to me by a midwife. It made me feel horrible and embarrassed, and I don't embarrass easily! All in all, I gained about 33 pounds (and gave birth to a boy a little under 10 pounds!) so it was an overreaction, to say the least.

All in all, some great information in your post, Claire, thank you!

April 21, 2010 - 11:57am
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