When a woman is pregnant, she is in a unique time in her life when her actions have a direct impact on the health and well-being of another.
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Her lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise and emotional state will all have some bearing on the developing baby.
Most moms have questions about what they should do to ensure a healthy pregnancy as their bodies change to support the needs of their child.
Contrary to popular opinion, being pregnant is not a free-for all when it comes to dietary intake. Most moms only need to consume approximately 300 extra calories a day as they enter the second and third trimester to meet their increased needs.
These calories should come from nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, beans, lean meats, fruits and vegetables. Added fats and refined and processed foods provide “empty calories” that provide very little nutritional value to mom and baby.
Some moms sail through pregnancy with minimal nausea. Others feel like they’re spending all their time in the restroom.
For most, feeling some nausea in the first few months is common. Usually having small meals or snacks throughout the day does the trick to keep nausea at bay.
Crackers and dry toast work well, especially first thing in the morning (especially if eaten before getting out of bed).
Other strategies include having higher protein foods and avoiding high fat, greasy foods. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid getting dehydrated. Sometimes diluted juice or carbonated water can help settle a heaving stomach.
Avoid cooking odors and cigarette smoke which can exacerbate problems with nausea.
A well-rounded diet is the key to ensuring adequate nutrition. Since whole, minimally processed foods provide the most fiber and nutrients, they should form the base of the diet. Whole grains, vegetables and fruit should be daily staples.
Protein needs are somewhat higher so it’s a good rule of thumb to include some protein with every meal or snack. Besides meat, eggs, cheese and dairy products; beans, peas and lentils are good sources of protein to include since they supply additional fiber which helps combat constipation that many moms experience.
Most physicians also recommend moms take a daily prenatal vitamin to meet the additional nutrient needs during pregnancy.
All expecting moms should avoid alcohol during pregnancy. There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy and any alcohol intake increases the risk for miscarriage, premature birth and complications.
Caffeine is also problematic for the developing infant. It is a stimulant that crosses into the baby’s blood stream and isn’t eliminated as quickly as for adults. This carries additional risks for the baby.
The recommendation is to limit total caffeine intake to no more than two cups of coffee per day.
Food safety should be a top priority since the developing baby is more sensitive to bacteria and contaminants in food. Moms should ensure that they only choose pasteurized milk products (avoid soft cheese such as feta, brie, blue cheese and soft Mexican cheese). Raw milk and juice (such as raw unpasteurized apple juice) shouldn’t be consumed.
Be careful in situations where cross contamination with raw meat and eggs might occur and be wary at deli counters. Be sure that fresh fruits and vegetables are washed well.
Finally moms should be careful with seafood products that might have higher levels of mercury. Larger fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish may have higher levels of mercury. Moms should be able to safely eat up to 12 ounces of other fish such as canned light tuna or salmon.
There is an increasing prevalence of a special type of glucose intolerance, called gestational diabetes, among moms. This risk is higher in moms of advanced maternal age, obesity and those with a family history of diabetes.
This might contribute to an increased risk for the development of diabetes and/or obesity in the child.
Doctors will screen pregnant moms for this condition as part of their regular maternal care. If diagnosed, your doctor will likely refer you to a Sweet Success program, a special program where experts in managing the condition will guide you with education and a meal plan to ensure the best outcomes for a healthy pregnancy.
Moms face many challenges as they make the choices that shape the future for their child. Making the choice to offer their baby the best nutrition during pregnancy will give their child the best chance at a happy and healthy future.
The Marshall Medical Center Diabetes and Nutrition Education program offers an accredited Diabetes and Nutrition program as well as a Sweet Success program staffed with certified nurse educators and dietitians who specialize in supporting moms from diagnosis through the early post partum time period.