Nutrition And Pregnancy – Involves Three Stages

Nutrition and pregnancy should address the time prior to conception, the pregnancy and post pregnancy. For both the mother and the fetus pregnancy creates a time of tremendous physiological changes demanding a healthy diet and healthy life choices. There is an increase in energy needs, and the need is not so much a need for increased calories as it is a need for increased vitamins and minerals, and these must be obtained from foods that are nutrient dense. Nutrition and pregnancy must work together to produce a positive outcome for both mother and infant.

In addition, there are certain habits that must be eliminated such as tobacco and alcohol since both are known to cause damage to the developing fetus. It is also recommended that caffeine be limited during pregnancy.

For a woman in reproductive age whether she is considering pregnancy or not and about 49% of these pregnancies are unplanned. That is why any female in reproductive age whether she is contemplating getting pregnant or not should be nutritionally prepared at all times for what may be an unplanned conception. Thus there are three stages that should be considered by any female in reproductive age that will produce a healthy baby.

By having good nutrition throughout the reproductive years this will optimize maternal health when conception does occur and reduce the risk of birth defects in the fetus, suboptimal fetal development and health problems for the children.

Nutrition Before Conception

Some actions that promote maternal health prior to conception are:

• Appropriate weight gain

• Appropriate physical activity

• Consumption of a variety of foods in accordance with the new myplate dietary guidelines

• Appropriate and timely vitamin and mineral supplementation

• Avoidance of tobacco

• Avoidance of alcohol

• Limiting caffeine

• Safe food handling

There are three of these actions in particular which should be payed particular attention to related to nutrition and pregnancy and these are:

Appropriate Maternal Weight

Every individual should be concerned about maintaining a healthy weight, but women in particular contemplating pregnancy should be proactive about weight before conception occurs. Obesity can complicate a pregnancy and delivery for an obese woman can complicate the baby’s delivery. Being too thin also has its own risks. In addition to having babies that are premature or stillborn, women who are obese are at a higher risk for:

• High blood pressure

• Gestational diabetes which is associated with pregnancy

• Preeclampsia which is a condition that is noted by high blood pressure and protein in the urine

• Prolonged labor

• An unplanned cesarean section

• Difficulty initiating and continuing breastfeeding

Weight management should begin before conception both for obese and thin women since trying to diet or put on weight creates its own stresses on the body and the growing fetus.

Appropriate Vitamin Supplementation

Even when the diet is a good one producing the required nutrients, it may not contain enough of certain nutrients such as folic acid which is needed to prevent the birth defects that produce the neural tube defects that are found in spina bifida, where the spinal cord protrudes through the spinal column causing the infant problems with varying degrees of paralysis, and lack of bladder and bowel control. In order to reduce the risk of neural tube defects it is recommended that women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of synthetic folic acid every day from supplements or fortified foods. This recommendation affects all women of child bearing age because neural tube development occurs before the sixth week of fetal development and during this period a female may not know that she is pregnant or may not yet have made the proper dietary changes.

Vitamin A in drugs such as acne medications should be avoided because too much vitamin A can be teratogenic causing birth defects. Fruits and vegetables containing beta carotene and other Carotenoids should be eaten instead. Avoidance of Harmful Substances

Women should give up cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs both licit and illicit long before getting pregnant since these substances are known to cause pregnancy related complications and more health problems for the infant. Caffeine should be limited.

Nutrition During Pregnancy - Requirements For Rapid Growth
Nutrition After Pregnancy - Supporting Infant Nutrition
Infant Nutrition - The Lactation Stage

For more information about nutrition and pregnancy click on the link to

For other information on nutrition including nutrition and pregnancy some great references are:

• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein

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Nutrition Eating Disorders
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Nutrition and Exercise
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