General Nutrition. With a tiny extra passenger to care for and nourish, your nutritional needs will shift during pregnancy. If you haven't been very careful about your diet previously, now is a great time to revamp your eating habits. Make sure you get a variety of foods from all different food groups, focusing on nutrient rich foods like fruits, veggies, lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. For women who are in a normal weight range, you typically do not need to increase the number of calories that you eat during your 1st trimester. During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, you need to add an extra 300 calories into your diet a day. This can be as simple as having 1 cup of yogurt and a medium apple, a piece of whole wheat toast with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, or a bowl of cereal with a medium banana. You may be "eating for two," but remember that you aren't eating for two full grown adults. So avoid using that as an excuse to overeat or eat foods that are low in nutritional value (fast food runs are okay on a limited basis, just not every day!). However, if you were underweight, overweight, or obese before you got pregnant or you are carrying multiples, your nutritional and caloric needs will be different, so be sure to talk to your care provider about what you should be eating.
Weight gain. Regardless of your weight before you pregnancy, it is healthy and necessary to gain a certain amount of weight throughout your pregnancy. Depending on how much you weighed before you got pregnant, you should gain anywhere from 15 lbs. (if you were obese before) to 40 lbs. (top of the range if you were underweight before) if you are carrying one child. Gaining too little weight during pregnancy can deprive your baby of necessary nutrients and the ability to grow properly. Gaining too much during pregnancy can put you at risk for labor complications and other health issues. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about not gaining enough or gaining too much weight during your pregnancy. Also, NEVER ACTIVELY TRY TO LOSE WEIGHT WHILE YOU ARE PREGNANT. This can put your baby at serious risk.
Prenatal vitamins. If you haven't started already, begin taking a prenatal vitamin. Be sure to look specifically for prenatal vitamins because the needs of a pregnant or lactating woman are different than the average woman, so if you are taking non-prenatal vitamins or supplements, it may not be providing you with all the necessary amounts of vitamins and minerals that you and your baby need. Talk to your doctor and see if he/she has any suggestions for a specific supplement or brand. Check the labels and see if they have the necessary daily amount of vitamins/minerals. Keep in mind, more expensive doesn't necessarily mean better. Compare bargain brands or store brands to see if they meet the recommended requirements. It can get expensive with name brands to supply enough pills for the approximately 280 days you will be pregnant and for however many months you decide to breastfeed (about 183 days if you breastfeed for 6 months). The basic daily guidelines are as follows:
- 400-800 mcg Folic Acid
- 400 IU of vitamin D
- 200-300 mg of calcium
- 70 mg of vitamin C
- 3 mg of thiamine
- 2 mg of riboflavin
- 20 mg of niacin
- 6 mcg of vitamin B12
- 10 mg of vitamin E
- 15 mg of zinc
- 17 mg of iron
Foods and Drinks to Avoid during Pregnancy
- Alcohol. There is no safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy. The risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is high regardless of the amount of alcohol.
- Caffeinated beverages. Any coffee, teas, or sodas that are caffeinated should be avoided. Switch to a non-caffeinated version of your favorite beverage or drink water, low-fat milk, or fruit juices.
- Fish with high levels of mercury (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish). Don't eat more than 12 ounces of fish per week (equal to about 2 cans of tuna a week).
- Raw or undercooked fish, meat, or poultry. If you love your steaks practically mooing, it's time to become a well-done diner until after your pregnancy. Avoid sushi or sashimi that contain raw fish and be sure to thoroughly cook your eggs (they should not look runny at all).
- Cold deli meat (including hot dogs), anything unpasteurized, and soft cheeses (feta, Brie, Camembert, and blue-veined cheeses). Cold cuts, other deli meats, and unpasteurized milk may contain listeria, a bacteria that causes serious illness in 1,700 people and kills 260 people a year in the U.S. The Center for Disease control says that pregnant women are 20 times more likely to become infected by listeria than healthy, non-pregnant adults. If you would like to eat deli meat or hot dogs, be sure they are heated up until they are steaming hot (literally, watch it to see if you can see steam rising from the meat) to kill any bacteria they may contain.
Benefits of exercise. It is important to remain active throughout your pregnancy. However, you may not be able to continue your regular workout regime or schedule during pregnancy. Before you start or continue any kind of exercise, talk with your healthcare provider to ensure your health and safety. Staying active during pregnancy has many benefits including reducing pregnancy discomfort, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, improving your mood, and sometimes even promoting a quicker and easier delivery.
Activities during pregnancy. If you were not previously active before pregnancy, start slowly and work your way up. Start with something simple like taking walks around your neighborhood or taking a prenatal yoga class (or buy a DVD you can do at home). If you have a relatively sedentary lifestyle, you can also get up and walk around the house often or do light exercises while you watch TV. If you were previously active or very active before pregnancy, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to continue your regular workout and if there are certain modifications that you need to make. Avoid activities that require physical contact or present a high risk of falling (contact sports, skiing, snowboarding, horseback riding, tennis, basketball, and inline skating).
Safe Exercise Tips
- Listen to your body. If you get tired, slow down or stop. If you feel dizzy, sick, or overheated, stop the activity immediately.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after working out.
- Wear comfortable clothing. Avoid anything that may pose a risk of tripping you or getting caught on something.
- Choose low- to moderate-activity levels depending on your stage of pregnancy, doctor recommendations, and level of comfort.
- Spend enough time stretching before your workout. During pregnancy, your ligaments and muscles are going through a variety of changes. It makes stretching to avoid injury that much more important.
- Don't overdo it. Even if you have been an athlete all your life, pregnancy changes your body, not to mention your center of balance. Add that in to your changing ligaments, you may find that you are more clumsy than usual. So don't push yourself to perform at the same level you were at pre-pregnancy.
Sources: webmd.com, americanpregnancy.org, win.niddk.nih.gov
Disclaimer: The "Pregnancy, Babies, and Birth" blog series is meant as a source of general information only. It's intended use is to encourage women to further consider and discuss reproductive and birthing decisions themselves with their partners and with their medical care providers. Information included in this series is not intended to be professional medical advice or a substitution for a relationship with a licensed physician or practitioner. Any serious questions or concerns about reproductive, prenatal, and/or perinatal health should be directed to your primary care physician or other licensed specialist. Women's Services and Resources does not promote any particular brand, medical provider, birthing location, or any other specific birthing decisions. We strongly encourage women to become as educated about their choices as possible so they are empowered to make educated decisions for themselves and their babies.