Nutrition in Pregnancy
You’re pregnant, and now everyone is telling you to eat for two. But what does that mean? I mean, you can double up the beef patties on your cheeseburger, if that’s what you’re craving. But it’s also likely your pregnant body is craving a healthy diet. Pregnancy nutrition is essential for a healthy mother and baby. In this article, we look at the reasons why it’s important, which nutrients are essential and how to achieve good nutrition in pregnancy.
Why is nutrition important for pregnant women?
Nutrition is important for everyone, whatever their age or condition. But pregnancy nutrition is crucial for both foetus and maternal health. It’s true to an extent: when you’re pregnant, you are eating for two. However, it’s not really about the amount you eat. A pregnant body requires double nutrition – to support the mother’s health and to provide essential nutrients to your growing baby.
Good nutrition can support a pregnant mother’s immune system, improve her energy levels, and reduce pregnancy nausea. It can support safer pregnancy and labour with less risk of complications. A healthy pregnancy diet can have several positive impacts on your baby too, including healthy birth weight, lower risk of birth defects, and strong brain development.
What does good nutrition include?
Contrary to what some may believe, good nutrition doesn’t require a special diet. Simply increase your daily intake of fruit, vegetables, grains and healthy fats, so your body receives the essential vitamins and minerals it needs. Your healthy pregnancy diet should include the following nutrients:
Vitamin C boosts your immune system and your body’s ability to heal, and at the same time helps your baby make collagen for their skin, tendons and bones. This vitamin is readily available in most fruit and vegetables, but most densely in citrus fruits (oranges, kiwis, lemons), strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, etc.
Protein supports the healthy growth of your baby and its cells, including their brain, tissues and other organs. You can find many protein-rich foods including fish, poultry, meat, tofu, beans and pulses. And yes, this can include that occasional cheeseburger.
Calcium is essential for the development of your baby’s bones and teeth, as well as for supporting your pregnant body too. Dairy products provide a lot of calcium, so milk, yoghurt, and cheese are good options. If you have a dairy-free diet, you can find calcium-fortified options.
Iron is important for your baby’s blood supply and oxygen levels. There are plenty of iron-rich foods, such as red meat, beans and pulses, dark leafy greens and dried fruit. Your body becomes better at absorbing iron in later trimesters, so iron-rich foods are great for a healthy pregnancy diet.
The more commonly known nutrient needed in pregnancy is folic acid, which can help prevent certain birth defects. You should already be taking folic acid before conception or as soon as you are pregnant, but you can also eat foods with high-folate content, such as dark leafy greens, beetroot, lentils, asparagus and so forth.
Vitamin D is essential for the healthy maintenance of your bones and the development of your baby’s bones, and it also helps to absorb calcium. Some foods provide vitamin D, such as oily fish, red meat, liver and other fortified foods. However, a vitamin D supplement will also be necessary, especially in the UK where the sun is only strong for a few short months.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fatty acids are important for the development of your baby’s brain and eyes, specifically DHA. You can find DHA in oily fish, although this should be limited to two portions a week to avoid a build-up of mercury. You can also take fish oil, if specified it’s safe for pregnant women.
Choline is another supplement you should take whilst pregnant, to support your growing baby and protect them from certain birth defects. Whilst you can find choline in eggs, meat and some fruits and vegetables, it’s recommended to take a choline supplement for effective results.
A healthy pregnancy diet supports your pregnant body and your growing baby and can help you have a safer pregnancy and birth. Pregnancy nutrition is essential for the healthy development of your baby. Make sure to speak to your doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements to confirm they are safe for pregnant women and contain all the necessary nutrients you need.
The Muslim Village provides support to pregnant women and mothers online and in-person in Nottingham. Join us for advice, support and great conversations.
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