You know it’s important to eat right when you’re pregnant. But what does that mean? Mom probably told you to eat your vegetables, which is a good start. But if you’re pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, it’s time to learn more about nutrition during pregnancy.
Good nutrition is important for overall health during our entire lives. But pregnancy is a time to be aware of specific nutritional needs. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant women need to pay special attention to their additional calcium, folic acid and iron requirements. It is also important to be aware of food borne illnesses that pose risks to developing babies.
Be sure to consume enough of these three vital vitamins and minerals during pregnancy:
- Calcium is a mineral that helps to form a baby’s bones and teeth. Pregnant women should get between 1,000-1,300 mg daily. Calcium is found in dairy products, broccoli and dark leafy greens. Calcium supplements may also be recommended by your doctor.
- Folic Acid. Folic acid is essential during a baby’s development in his or her mother’s womb. Neural tube defects are a result of incomplete development of the brain or spine. Folic acid is necessary to prevent these types of defects. Current guidelines suggest pregnant women get 600 micrograms of folic acid daily. Folic acid is also known as folate (a B vitamin). It is difficult to measure the amount of folic acid in our food alone. Because of this difficulty, pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should take a daily supplement.
- Another mineral, iron, is especially important during pregnancy. Iron helps carry oxygen to the organs. During pregnancy, you should get 27 mg daily. That is about twice the amount suggested for non-pregnant women. Iron is in lean red meats, fish, poultry, dried peas and beans, and iron-fortified cereals. A daily supplement is usually still required to reach the daily amount that’s recommended during pregnancy. Eating foods high in Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, helps the body to absorb the iron more easily.
Food borne illness should be carefully considered during pregnancy. Food borne illness poses risks to both mother and baby.
- Diarrhea or vomiting brought on by food borne illness can cause your body to lose too much water. It can also disrupt your body’s chemical balance.
- Other complications of food borne illness such as listeriosis can have more serious effects. Listeriosis can lead to premature labor, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
- Pregnant women are 13 times more likely to get listeriosis, a certain kind of food borne illness, than the general population. To help prevent listeriosis, pregnant women should avoid these foods:
- Soft cheeses
- Cold cuts or cold hot dogs
- Refrigerated meat spreads
- Raw or undercooked eggs, meat, or seafood
If you are pregnant, you should be aware of the specialized nutritional needs you and your baby have. By following these guidelines, you will increase your chances of delivering a healthy child. And you’ll be doing good for you own body too.
Good nutrition is something that should start even before we are born. Eating a healthy diet carries us through all phases of our lives. It gives us the best possible foundation for good health and a long life!