Pregnancy is an exciting period in any woman’s life. Most women are elated with the thought of giving birth to another life and yet this can be a daunting experience. Caring for another life can fill women with anxiety. Pregnancy nutrition is of utmost importance as the unborn baby depends on the mother for the nutrition.
Eating a balanced and healthy diet is the most important part of pregnancy nutrition. Healthy diet includes vegetables, protein, whole grains and fruits. There are however some crucial nutrients that must be included in pregnancy nutrition. Folate is one of these important components. Folate basically helps in preventing any defects in the neural tube.
Folate which is found in supplements is called folic acid. Folate also helps in preventing spinal cord problems and brain abnormalities. Folate deficiency can in fact result in possibility of a preterm delivery. The baby may also be born with other problems like low weight and lack of folate can also cause poor growth of the fetus. Women have to take around 1 milligram of folic acid every day during conception and pregnancy. Some natural sources of folic acid include meat, beans, spinach, asparagus, oranges and cereal.
Calcium is also an important part of pregnancy nutrition. Women need calcium to ensure that the baby has strong teeth and bones. Yogurt, salmon, cheese, milk and spinach are some sources of calcium. Protein is crucial for the proper growth of the baby particularly during the second and the third trimester period. Milk, cottage cheese, eggs, fish peanut butter and poultry items are sources of protein. Protein is important as it helps repair the cells in the body as the body changes.
Carbohydrates provide energy and so is an important part of the pregnancy nutrition. Sources of carbohydrates include cereals, rice, pasta, fruits, potatoes and vegetables. Iron is required for preparation of hemoglobin and in pregnancy the blood volume has to expand so as to accommodate the changes in the body. Sources of iron include cereals, lean red meat, nuts, poultry and fish. While intake of healthy food items is an essential part of pregnancy nutrition it is equally important that harmful and unhealthy food items are avoided.
Vitamin A can be obtained from dark leafy greens, carrots and sweet potatoes and is important for healthy bones, good eyesight and a healthy skin. Citrus fruits, tomatoes and broccoli are excellent sources for Vitamin C. Vitamin B6 and B12 are also important in pregnancy nutrition. Pork, whole grain cereals and bananas contain Vitamin B6 while Vitamin B12 can be obtained from fish and milk along with poultry products. Vitamin D can be obtained from dairy products, breads and fortified milk.
Fats are obtained from meat, dairy products, margarine, vegetable oils and peanut butter. Fish and seafood is rich source of iron, protein and omega -3 fatty acids. However some fish types should be avoided because they may contain high mercury levels. Pregnant women should therefore avoid king mackerel, tilefish, swordfish and shark. Shrimp, Pollock and salmon can be eaten in moderate quantities of around 12 ounces every week. Raw fish and oysters should be avoided.
All poultry items and meat should be well cooked. Avoid eating deli meats and hot dogs or at least ensure that they are steaming hot. Dairy products are an important part of pregnancy nutrition. However pregnant women should avoid consuming unpasteurized milk as this can result in milk borne illness. Soft cheese such as blue cheese, feta and brie should be avoided.
Caffeine consumption in excess can be dangerous for the baby as it can affect the heart of the baby and its breathing. Excess caffeine consumption can result in decrease in the birth weight or even increase the risk of a stillbirth and miscarriage. Caffeine should therefore be avoided in the first trimester. During the second and the third trimester caffeine consumption should be less than 200 mg. Herbal teas should also be avoided as some type of herbal teas can cause contractions. Alcohol should not be consumed.