Health Topics Information

Nutrition in Pregnancy

What do you think of when asked about food and nutrition? For some, they may think of the fact that it is necessary to survive on a day to day basis. Others may think about their favorite meal. And for others yet, they may think about how difficult it is to manage some of their cravings and how it relates to having a healthy diet. Whatever your thoughts may be, these thoughts are still there in pregnancy and may even become another thing to worry about as one goes through the pregnancy.

For women who are thinking about becoming pregnant, there are some minor changes that can be made to improve nutrition. The first would include having a healthy diet that has a large amount of diversity with various fruits and vegetables as well as lean proteins such as turkey or chicken breast, lean ground beef or pork, and eggs. It is ok to have carbohydrates, but may be beneficial to limit portions of these foods. It is also beneficial to have several servings per week of fish and shellfish as these contain omega-3 fatty acids which are needed for the development of the baby’s brain.

It is also important to start taking a prenatal vitamin as this provides extra folic acid that helps to decrease the risk of developing conditions such as spina bifida in the baby.

Prior to pregnancy, some women may be concerned about their weight and what the ideal body weight is before becoming pregnant. Weight loss prior to pregnancy can help to reduce some of the complications during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes (diabetes in pregnancy) or reduce the chances of having a large baby. It is recommended to try to achieve a normal BMI between 18.5 and 25 but reduction of weight by even 5% has been shown to have a positive impact on the health of mom and baby. During the pregnancy, the amount of weight gain depends on a woman’s starting BMI and this can be discussed with your obstetrical provider.

A woman’s diet does not need to change significantly from prior to pregnancy. One important aspect to remember when it comes to diet during pregnancy is that a woman is not “eating for two” as many people may believe. The calorie requirements during pregnancy do not increase much until the second and third trimester, and even during this time, goes up by only about 300 calories per day. The calorie need while breastfeeding does go up a little bit more, to about 500 calories per day.

During pregnancy, all meats and eggs should be well cooked to reduce the chance of developing food poisoning. You should also wash all produce thoroughly prior to eating. Women should also avoid drinking unpasteurized milk or eating unpasteurized cheese. And for women who enjoy sushi, it should only be made with cooked fish.

There are certain types of seafood that you may want to avoid in pregnancy such as shark, swordfish and king mackerel that have higher levels of mercury present. It is ok to have up to 6 ounces of tuna in a week.

And for women who drink coffee or other caffeine-containing drinks, it is ok to have a moderate amount of caffeine. Recommendations are that women have less than 200 mg of caffeine each day which equates to about 12 ounces of coffee, 32 ounces of tea or about 32 ounces of soda.

By Dr. Craig Wolf, OB/GYN, CHI St. Alexius Health Dickinson