Nutrition Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
If you are currently pregnant, congratulations! This is an exciting time, and it is common to have many questions about what to do during pregnancy to best support your health and the health of your baby. Some of these simple guidelines can be helpful.
It is important to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet during pregnancy. A pregnant woman’s body will require more calories while carrying a child and it is recommended that she increase her caloric intake by 340 calories/day in the first and second trimester and 452 calories/day in the third trimester.
All food that is consumed by a pregnant woman should be fully cooked, and she should avoid unpasteurized dairy products or juices. It is also recommend that she avoid eating raw sprouts or soft cheeses. Good hygiene, including washing of all fruits and vegetables, is important to avoid food borne illnesses.
Fish consumption should be limited to no more than 12 ounces per week, and all consumed fish must be cooked. Pregnant women should avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tuna (just steak and albacore, canned light tuna is acceptable), and tilefish, even if cooked.
The available studies on caffeine use in pregnancy are limited, but it is recommended that a woman who is attempting to conceive or is pregnant limit her consumption to less than 200 to 300 mg per day.
Artificial sweeteners come in many different forms and are present in many products, but there is no evidence that consumption of these increases the risk of birth defects. Task forces of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Food and Drug Administration have concluded that aspartame is safe for both mother and baby, but recommend that use does not exceed a moderate level.
Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbal Supplements
Folic acid is one of the most important vitamins in pregnancy, responsible for the closure of the spinal canal during the first trimester. It is recommended that a woman attempting conception take 400 mcg daily and continue this throughout pregnancy, although certain past history or current medication use may affect this recommendation. Be sure to ask your doctor.
DHA or the omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish oil, have been shown to help with the baby’s brain and eye development and are important components of your prenatal vitamins.
Fluoride supplementation is not recommended during pregnancy, and no conclusive trials exist either for consuming extra zinc. Taking additional calcium has not been shown to be beneficial in otherwise healthy women, and the data is still not conclusive on whether it may contribute to the prevention of preeclampsia.
Herbal remedies are very popular in our society, with an estimate of up to 5 to 10 percent of pregnant women using these products. Some of these are well understood and have good research supporting their usefulness, such as vitamin B6 or ginger for the reduction of nausea. For many of the others, however, adequate data does not exist to support their safety or effectiveness.
Also of concern are the lack of standardization of strength or purity of individual preparations and the possibility of interactions – potentially serious – with other medications. For these reasons, it is recommended that pregnant women avoid the use of herbal remedies unless specifically discussed with their doctor.
These are simply some basic guidelines, and may need to be altered for an individual patient based on her specific needs. As always, please ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns, or if you are experiencing any pregnancy complications.
Congratulations again and please let us know if we can assist you in any way in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at The Jackson Clinic. It would be our pleasure!
Dr. Christopher Welsch