Pregnancy is a unique time when women tend to be especially concerned about nutrition. From the early stages of pregnancy, when morning sickness and food aversions can make getting a regular diet challenging, to later pregnancy, when heartburn and constipation can make eating downright uncomfortable, nutrition during pregnancy is often far from the blissful icon of the glowing mother who is happily “eating for two.”
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That said, it is a special time when a mother’s choices can have a remarkable impact on the health of the growing baby. Her choice to eat a balanced, nutritious diet, include plenty of water, exercise moderately and avoid substances that can harm her baby will have long-lasting benefits on the baby’s growth and development as well as preparing the mother to be healthy for delivery.
Weight gain during pregnancy
Most women only need to gain 2-4 pounds during the first trimester and approx 1 pound per week during the second and third trimesters. Each woman is unique and should discuss her weight gain with her healthcare provider to ensure she is on track for a healthy pregnancy.
Adequate weight gain is essential to support the development of the baby as well as the fluids and tissues needed to support pregnancy. On the other hand too much weight gain can make delivery more difficult, make it more challenging to lose weight after pregnancy and it is associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes (high blood sugars during pregnancy).
Calorie needs during pregnancy
While most women don’t really need to increase their dietary intake during the first trimester, adding an extra 250-300 calories during the second and third trimesters is sufficient to meet the increased needs of pregnancy. This can easily be met with a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of nonfat milk, a fruit smoothie, crackers and cheese, or some trail mix on the run. A well-balanced diet including whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit as well as low-fat dairy and lean meats will provide the essential nutrients needed for mom and baby.
Fluid needs during pregnancy
Fluid needs increase somewhat during pregnancy. Women are encouraged to drink plenty of fluids — at least 8-12 glasses (8 ounces each) during pregnancy. While water is the best, low-calorie option out there, all fluids contribute to your fluid intake. Also for women who experience constipation during pregnancy, increased fluid intake along with fiber can go a long ways to alleviate symptoms. Caffeine drinks should be limited since it crosses the placenta into the baby’s blood stream. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your caffeine intake.
Exercise during pregnancy
Most authorities agree that women should be able to maintain their prior level of activity throughout pregnancy. If you were not active prior to pregnancy it is recommended that you check with your doctor and start slowly increasing activity as tolerated. Avoid high-impact activities and any exercise that puts excessive strain on your back or abdominal area. Walking, swimming, riding a stationary bike, prenatal aerobics and prenatal yoga are good choices. Exercise during pregnancy helps build stamina and endurance; it can help with excessive weight gain and can improve blood sugars that may be elevated as a result of pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a wonderful time to give your baby a healthy start on life. It is also a perfect time to build healthful habits that you can continue after pregnancy to ensure a healthful future for you and your family.