Pregnancy is a very beautiful phase in a female’s life. She is loved and cared for even more than before. With it comes the responsibility of having a correct lifestyle and a healthy diet. Our adults always used to propagate the concept of eating for two; which is obsolete now. Guess you all will agree with me on this point.
The entire duration of pregnancy is divided into three trimesters; one trimester with three months each. Fetal growth is slow in the first, increases marginally in the second and exponentially in the last trimester. To cope with this growth calorie, protein and intake of other nutrients also need to be increased. A woman who has been well-nourished before conception begins her pregnancy with reserves of several nutrients so that the needs of the growing fetus can be met without affecting her health. These reserves help her during the first months when nausea makes it difficult to get proper nutrition from diet.
Additional calories are required during pregnancy to support the growth of the fetus, placenta (support system of the fetus inside the womb) and maternal tissue. Extra calories (approximately 300 kcal which is like our one meal) should be added only in the second and third trimesters (in lieu of fast fetal growth). So that means only one extra meal and not one extra person.
Proteins are equally important; if a female is deficient in proteins it may lead to several risks like fetal growth at the mother’s expense or poor growth of baby or number of cells in tissues particularly in the brain may be less. Out of the total protein consumed per day at least 50-60% should come from good quality proteins. (to know more)
A generous fat intake is needed (only for those who are gaining weight normally) to meet the essential fatty acid requirements not only to provide energy but for brain development of the fetus and storage for future use (read milk production).
Talking about vitamins and minerals; the need for all the nutrients which are essential for blood formation increases. This includes folic acid (deficiency of this can lead to severe malformation of the brain and/or spinal cord of fetus), vitamin B12 and iron. To meet the additional needs gynecologists recommend the intake of supplements during pregnancy. Calcium is another nutrient of utmost importance. The deficiency of calcium during pregnancy can weaken the bones of the mother, poor stores for the fetus which continues with poor milk production in lactation.
Not only in case of pregnancy but all of us should include iodized salt in our diet as it is the only daily source of iodine for us besides seafood. But more so during pregnancy because poor iodine intake can lead to the birth of a cretin child (poorly developed brain).
Apart from the regular sonographies (generally thrice during the entire period), weight gain is considered as the best indicator of a healthy pregnancy. A total addition of 10-12 kg to the pre-pregnancy weight is considered healthy. The progressive weight gain during pregnancy: 1.5 kg in the first three months. In each subsequent months: the average gain should be 1.5 kg/month. Maximum weight gain occurs only during the second and third trimesters. Excess weight gain can also adversely affect the health of both mother & fetus and may also increase the risks during labour.
Coming back to our original issue of eating for two. What is important is to eat enough so as to have a sufficient amount of nutrients in the body to meet the increasing demands of the growing fetus which can be met by having a balanced diet. Let me share a small secret; when I was carrying my daughter I don’t remember eating one square meal; initially because of nausea and later due to acidity. Still, she managed with a decent birth weight; thanks to eating small frequent protein and fiber-rich snacks.
What was your secret? Why don’t you share yours?
Image Courtesy: Stuart Miles