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Pregnancy Diet, Nutrition and Exercising
What a pregnant woman eats and drinks during her
pregnancy is her baby's main source of nourishment. So,
experts recommend that a mother-to-be choose a variety of
healthy foods and beverages to provide the important
nutrients a baby needs for growth and development. In
addition to exercising during her pregnancy as it lifts spirits
and prepares the woman for labor and childbirth. Doctors
find it ideal if the women went through Hemoglobinopathies
and Anemia test before getting pregnant.
Key pregnancy nutrition
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a pregnant
woman needs more calcium, folic acid, iron and protein than a woman who is not expecting,
here is why these four nutrients are important.
Folic acid, also known as folate when found in foods, is a B vitamin that is crucial in helping to
prevent birth defects in the baby's brain and spine, known as neural tube defects.
Leafy green vegetables, fortified or enriched cereals, breads and pastas, are different sources
of Folic acid, but it may be hard to get the recommended amount of folic acid from diet alone.
For that reason the March of Dimes, an organization dedicated to preventing birth defects,
recommends that women who are trying to have a baby take a daily vitamin supplement
containing 400 micrograms of folic acid per day for at least one month before becoming
pregnant. During pregnancy, they advise women to increase the amount of folic acid to 600
micrograms a day, an amount commonly found in a daily prenatal vitamin.
Calcium, is a mineral used to build a baby's bones and teeth. If a pregnant woman does not
consume enough calcium, the mineral will be drawn from the mother's stores in her bones and
given to the baby to meet the extra demands of pregnancy, explains the Academy of Nutrition
and Dietetics. Milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified juices and foods, sardines or salmon with
bones, some leafy greens (kale, bok choy) are Calcium sources. Many dairy products are also
fortified with vitamin D, another nutrient that works with calcium to develop a baby's bones and
teeth. Pregnant women age 19 and over need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day.
Iron, According to ACOG. Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron a day, which is double
the amount needed by women who are not expecting. Additional amounts of the mineral are
needed to make more blood to supply the baby with oxygen. Getting too little iron during
pregnancy can lead to anemia, a condition resulting in fatigue and an increased risk of
For better absorption of the mineral, include a good source of vitamin C at the same meal when
eating iron-rich foods, ACOG recommends. For example, have a glass of orange juice at
breakfast with an iron-fortified cereal.
Food sources: meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereal.
Protein, More protein is needed during pregnancy, which can be found in: meat, poultry, fish,
dried beans and peas, eggs, nuts, tofu.
During pregnancy, the goal is to be eating nutritious foods most of the time, Krieger told Live
Science. To maximize prenatal nutrition, she advises emphasizing the following five food
groups: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy products.
When counseling pregnant women, Krieger recommends they fill half their plates with fruits and
vegetables, a quarter of it with whole grains and a quarter of it with a source of lean protein, and
to also have a dairy product at every meal.
During pregnancy, the goal is to be eating nutritious foods most of the time to maximize prenatal
nutrition, it is advisable to emphasize the following five food groups: fruits, vegetables, lean
protein, whole grains and dairy products.
When counseling pregnant women, it is recommended to fill half the plate with fruits and
vegetables, a quarter of it with whole grains and a quarter of it with a source of lean protein, and
to also have a dairy product at every meal.
Foods to avoid
Raw Meat: Uncooked seafood and rare or undercooked beef or
poultry should be avoided because of the risk of contamination with
coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella.
Deli Meat: Deli meats have been known to be contaminated
with listeria, which can cause miscarriage. Listeria has the ability to
cross the placenta and may infect the baby, which could lead to
infection or blood poisoning and may be life-threatening. If you are
pregnant and you are considering eating deli meats, make certain
that you reheat the meat until it is steaming.
Fish with Mercury: Fish that contain high levels of mercury should
be avoided. Mercury consumed during pregnancy has been linked to
developmental delays and brain damage. A sample of these types of
fish includes: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Canned, chunk light tuna generally
has a lower amount of mercury than other tuna, but still should only be eaten in moderation.
Smoked Seafood: Refrigerated, smoked seafood often labeled as lox, nova style, kippered, or
jerky should be avoided because it could be contaminated with listeria. (These are safe to eat
when they are in an ingredient in a meal that has been cooked, like a casserole.) This type of
fish is often found in the deli section of your grocery store. Canned or shelf-safe smoked
seafood is usually fine to eat.
Fish Exposed to Industrial Pollutants : Avoid fish from contam inated lakes and
rivers that may be exposed to high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls. This is
prim arily for those who fish in local lakes and stream s. These fish include bluefish,
striped bass, salm on, pike, trout, and walleye. Contact the local health department or
Environm ental Protection Agency to determine which fish are safe to eat in your
area. Rem ember, this is regarding fish caught in local waters and not fish from your
local grocery store.
Raw Shellfish: The m ajority of seafood-borne illness is caused by undercooked
shellfish, which include oysters, clams, and mussels. Cooking helps prevent som e
types of infection, but it does not prevent the algae-related infections that are
associated with red tides. Raw shellfish pose a concern for everybody, and
they should be avoided altogether during pregnancy.
Raw Eggs: Raw eggs or any foods that contain raw eggs should be avoided because
of the potential exposure to salm onella. Som e hom em ade Caesar dressings,
m ayonnaise, hom em ade ice cream or custards, and Hollandaise sauces m ay be
m ade with raw eggs. If the recipe is cooked at som e point, this will reduce the
exposure to salm onella. Commercially m anufactured ice cream, dressings,
and eggnog is m ade with pasteurized eggs and do not increase the risk of
Soft Cheeses: Imported soft cheeses m ay contain listeria. You would need to avoid
soft cheeses such as brie, Cam em bert, Roquefort, feta, Gorgonzola, and Mexican
style cheeses that include queso blanco and queso fresco, unless they clearly state
that they are m ade from pasteurized milk. All soft non-imported cheeses m ade with
pasteurized milk are safe to eat.
Unpasteurized Milk: Unpasteurized milk m ay contain listeria. Make sure that any milk
you drink is pasteurized.
Caffeine: Although m ost studies show that caffeine intake in m oderation is
perm issible, there are others that show that caffeine intake m ay be related to
miscarriages. Avoid caffeine during the first trimester to reduce the likelihood of
a miscarriage. As a general rule, caffeine should be limited to fewer than 200 mg per
day during pregnancy. Caffeine is a diuretic, which m eans it helps eliminate fluids
from the body.
This can result in water and calcium loss. It is important that you are drinking plenty
of water, juice, and milk rather than caffeinated beverages. Som e research shows
that large am ounts of caffeine are associated with miscarriage, prem ature birth, low
birth weight, and withdrawal symptoms in infants. The safest thing is to refrain from
Alcohol: There is NO am ount of alcohol that is known to be safe during pregnancy,
and therefore alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. Prenatal exposure to
alcohol can interfere with the healthy developm ent of the baby. Depending on the
am ount, timing, and pattern of use, alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead
to Fetal Alcohol Syndrom e or other developm ental disorders.
If you consum ed alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, stop drinking now. You
should continue to avoid alcohol during breastfeeding. Exposure of alcohol to an
infant poses harmful risks, and alcohol does reach the baby during breastfeeding.
Unwashed Vegetables: Vegetables are safe, and a necessary part of a balanced diet.
However, it is essential to make sure they are washed to avoid potential exposure to
toxoplasm osis. Toxoplasmosis m ay contaminate the soil where the vegetables were
Pregnancy diet misconceptions
When a mother-to-be is experiencing morning sickness, the
biggest mistake she can make is thinking that if she doesn't eat,
she'll feel better. The exact causes of morning sickness are not
known, but it may be caused by hormonal changes or lower
blood sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can bring on waves
of nausea and vomiting in some women, especially during the
first three months of pregnancy.
And it's definitely not happening only in the morning, it's any time
of day. It's better to eat small amounts of foods that don't have
an odor, since smells can also upset the stomach.
It is common for women to develop a sudden urge or a strong dislike for a food during
pregnancy. Some common cravings are for sweets, salty foods, red meat or fluids. Often, a
craving is a body's way of saying it needs a specific nutrient, such as more protein or additional
liquids to quench a thirst, rather than a particular food, she said.
Eating for two
When people say that a pregnant woman is "eating for two," it doesn't mean she needs to
consume twice as much food or double her calories.
A woman is not eating for two during her first trimester, during the first three months, the calorie
needs are basically the same as they were before pregnancy, because weight gain is
recommended to be between 1 and 4 pounds in this early stage of pregnancy.
Pregnant women can add 200 calories to their usual dietary intake during the second trimester,
and to add 300 calories during their third trimester when the baby is growing quickly.
Weight gain during pregnancy
Weight gain during pregnancy often has an ebb and a flow over the nine months. It's hard to
measure where pregnancy weight is going, adding that a scale does not reveal whether the
pounds are going to a woman's body fat, baby weight or fluid gains.
When it comes to pregnancy weight gain, Krieger advises mothers-to-be to look at the big
picture: During regular prenatal checkups, focus on that the baby is growing normally rather
than worrying about the number on a scale.
The total number of calories needed per day during pregnancy depends on a woman's height,
her weight before becoming pregnant, and how active she is on a daily basis. In general,
underweight women need more calories during pregnancy; overweight and obese women need
fewer of them.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) guidelines for total weight gain during a full-term pregnancy
Underweight women, who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18.5, should gain 28 to 40
lbs. (12.7 to 18 kilograms).
Normal weight women, who have a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, should gain 25 to 35 lbs. (11.3 to
Overweight women, who have a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9, should gain 15 to 25 lbs. (6.8 to 11.3
Obese women, who have a BMI of 30.0 and above, should gain 11 to 20 lbs. (5 to 9 kg).
Rate of weight gain
The IOM guidelines suggest that pregnant women gain between 1 and 4.5 lbs. (0.45 to 2 kg)
total during their first trimester of pregnancy. The guidelines recommend that underweight and
normal-weight women gain, on average, about 1 pound every week during their second and
third trimesters of pregnancy, and that overweight and obese women gain about half a pound
every week in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
The IOM guidelines for pregnancy weight gain when a woman is
having twins are as follows:
Normal weight: 37 to 54 lbs. (16.7 to 24.5 kg).
Overweight: 31 to 50 lbs. (14 to 22.6 kg).
Obese: 25 to 42 lbs. (11.3 to 19 kg).
It’s important to be extra cautious during your workouts. Whether you're a
reformed couch potato or a conditioned athlete, following these 13 rules can
keep you – and your baby – healthy and safe.
Check with your healthcare provider first
Always check with your healthcare provider before starting, continuing, or changing an exercise
routine. If you exercised regularly before getting pregnant and your pregnancy is uncomplicated,
you can probably continue working out as before, with a few modifications (noted below).
However, in some cases it's not okay to exercise during pregnancy, so talk to your provider
about your fitness routine to make sure your activities don't put you or your baby at risk.
If you didn't work out much before conceiving, see our pregnancy exercise guide for beginners,
and talk to your healthcare provider about starting an exercise routine.
Get enough calories
Exercise burns calories, so be sure to eat well to nourish and strengthen your body. When
you're pregnant, you naturally gain weight as your baby grows. The amount you need to
gain varies based on your pre-pregnancy weight.
If your body mass index (BMI) is in a healthy range (between 18.5 and 24.9), you'll need to eat
about 340 more calories a day in the second trimester than before you were pregnant and about
450 more calories a day in the third trimester – and possibly more than that depending on your
exercise routine. If you're underweight or overweight, you may need to gain a little more or less
than someone with a healthy BMI and adjust your calorie intake accordingly.
Your doctor will monitor your weight as your pregnancy progresses and can help you keep your
weight gain on track.
Skip dangerous sports
Avoid sports that involve lots of contact (like basketball and soccer) as well as activities that
might throw you off balance and cause a fall, such as horseback riding, surfing, water skiing,
gymnastics, downhill skiing, or mountain biking. Cycling early in your pregnancy should be okay
if you're already comfortable on a bike, but it's probably best to stick to stationary bikes later in
Avoid racquet sports if you never played them before getting pregnant because the rapid
movements and sudden changes in direction could affect your balance and make you fall.
All pregnant women should avoid scuba diving – babies in the womb aren't protected from the
effects of pressure changes and may not develop normally as a result.
See our list of the best kinds of exercise for pregnancy.
Wear the right clothes
Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing. Dress in layers so it's easy to peel off a layer or two after
you've warmed up or if you get overheated. Make sure your maternity bra is supportive enough,
and choose athletic shoes that fit properly.
If your shoe size has changed because of mild swelling, stash away your pre-pregnancy
sneakers and buy a new pair. You may want to swap out the liners they came with for gel liners
that provide better shock absorption.
Warming up prepares your muscles and joints for exercise and increases your heart rate slowly.
If you skip the warm-up and jump into strenuous activity before your body is ready, you could
strain your muscles and ligaments and have more aches and pains after your workout.
A good way to warm up is to start your chosen activity at a low intensity and slowly increase it
during the first five to eight minutes. This prepares the muscles you'll be using for more vigorous
movement. For example, if your workout is walking, go slowly for the first few minutes and
gradually pick up the pace.
Drink plenty of water
Drink water before, during, and after exercising. Otherwise you can become dehydrated, which
can set off a chain of events that leads to a reduced of amount of blood reaching the placenta.
Dehydration can also increase your risk of overheating or even trigger contractions.
There's no official recommendation for how much water pregnant women should drink while
exercising, but many experts recommend a simple technique to gauge whether you're drinking
enough: Check the color of your urine. Dark yellow urine is a sign of dehydration. If that's the
case for you, have one or two glasses of water every hour until your urine is pale yellow or
Find out more about staying hydrated during pregnancy.
Don't lie flat on your back
After the first trimester, avoid exercising while lying flat on your back. The weight of your uterus
puts pressure on a major vein called the vena cava, which can reduce blood flow to your heart
and may diminish blood flow to your brain and uterus. This can make you dizzy, short of breath,
Some women are comfortable in this position well into their pregnancies, but this isn't
necessarily a good indication of whether blood flow to your uterus is affected. Putting pillows or
a foam wedge behind your back to prop up your upper body while you exercise enables you to
be almost flat on your back without compressing the vena cava.
Remaining motionless or standing in one place for prolonged periods – when you're lifting
weights or doing yoga poses, for example – can reduce blood flow to your heart and uterus and
cause blood to pool in your legs, lowering your blood pressure and making you dizzy. Keep
moving by switching positions or walking in place.
Don't overdo it
Don't exercise until you're exhausted. Slow down if you can't carry on a conversation
comfortably. In general, the best guideline is to listen to your body. Always stop if something
You should feel like you're working your body, not punishing it. If you feel completely drained
instead of invigorated after a workout, you're probably overdoing it.