Healthy diet during pregnancy
Lecturer, Chung Shan Medical University, WENG YU QING
Pregnancy is a great and hard process. What a woman eats and drinks during pregnancy is her baby’s main source of nourishment, so a mother-to-be should learn how to organize her diet to provide the important nutrients a baby needs for growth and development.
Pregnancy as a whole is a very exciting thing. Once got pregnant, the birth of a healthy baby is the greatest hope of all prospective mothers.Many people have the concept of healthy diet nowadays due to the improvement of education and knowledge. The prospective mothers can fully understand that diet during pregnancy provides the nutrients not only to themselves, but is key to their babies’ healthy growth and development.
Therefore, one of the major questionsa mother-to-be cares about is "Am I eating healthily or not? Is it enough to supply the growth of my baby?" One big myth around eating in pregnancy is that you need to “eat for two”. What the prospective mother eats indeed affects the nutrition for the fetus, however, it is simply not true if it is interpreted as consuming twice. Eating lots of extra food during pregnancy will not help the baby, and will leave the mother-to-be with extra weight that she may suffer from higher risks of hypertension, gestational diabetes and hyperlipidemia, difficult of delivery due to fetus with overweight, and struggle to lose when the baby is born. Therefore, a balanced diet during pregnancy is recommended.
How to plan the diet during pregnancy? The nine months of pregnancy are usually divided into three trimesters (approximately three months per trimester). According to the dietary recommendations published by the Department of Health, Executive Yuan in 1992, in the first trimester, basically maintain the same intake of calories as before pregnancy (appropriate increase in calories is allowed for the mother-to-be is underweight before pregnancy). A small increase in protein and vitamin B6 and B12, double the intake of folic acid, and maintain the intake of other nutrients as before pregnancy.
In the first trimester, the nutrition demand is satisfied without increasing the total calories, as long as more animal internal organs, peeled chicken, fish, eggs, dark green vegetables and whole grains are consumed, and no imbalanced diet. In the second and third trimesters, there is a significant increase in calories, protein and various vitamins and minerals (see Appendix 1). In terms of total daily calorie intake:An increase of 300 calories is recommended for both second and third trimesters (appropriate increase in calories is allowed for the mother-to-be is underweight before pregnancy). This calorie recommendation can help pregnant women to achieve moderate rate of weight gain (approximately 0.35 to 0.4 kg per week).
Some nutrition factors that affect the success of pregnancy
- Nutritional status before pregnancy
Many studies have indicated demonstrated less frequent complications and premature but healthier babies delivered forthose who get proper nutrition before pregnancy. Therefore, a mother-to-be should pay attention to get balanced diet for pregnancy. On the other hand, there are also many studies pointed out the major effects of maternal obesity as irregular ovulation, decreased pregnancy rate, higher occurrence of fetal macrosomia, and increased risk of complications at the time of labor and delivery. Therefore, for women with obesity, proper weight loss is also one of the important issues before pregnancy.
The smoking rate for women has increased significantly in recent years. Studies in the United States and Canada have pointed out that approximately 20 to 40% of babies born underweight are caused by the maternal smoking. The more cigarettes smoked during pregnancy, the greater the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby. Exposure to nicotine and the combustion products, i.e., carbon monoxide, in tobacco smoke,may contribute to fetal hypoxia and abnormal development, maternal smoking also increases the abortion rate and newborn death. Previous studies have shown that smoking less than one pack per day during pregnancy led 25% risk of complications such as uterine bleeding, the incidence of bleeding elevated to 92% in heavy smokers, i.e., daily consumption of more than one pack of cigarettes. Taken together, we highly recommended pregnant women avoid smoking or minimize the amount of smoking.
Fatal alcohol syndrome (FAS),the leading alcohol injury in the Western world, occurs in about 30% to 40% of babies born to chronic alcoholics. Infants with FAS are characterized by abnormal prenatal and postnatal growth (usually underweight and growth retardation), impaired skull development, mental impairment, small head circumference, small dyes, a short, unturned nose, and a smooth skin surface between the nose and upper lip, etc. Based on the fact that there is so far no definitive safe amount of alcohol consumption, we highly recommend any mother-to-be avoid drinking to ensure the fetal health.
What’s the impact of foods and drinks high in caffeine, e.g., coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, etc., on fetal development after consumed by the pregnant women and passed quickly through the placenta to the fetus? Animal studies have shown that high dose of caffeine resulted in defective newborn mice, whereas moderate caffeine did not. In a study of 12,000 people, no association was found between the intake of caffeine and newborns with abnormalities or underweight.However, in order to eliminate unnecessary risks, it is still recommended that pregnant women minimize their consumption of caffeine.
Adequate nutrition and the development of a healthy body are established by a normal and balanced diet and healthy daily habits. Seeking for folk medicine while ignoring the basics may result in regrets difficult to compensate. In summary, we highly recommend here that every pregnant mother-to-be and who are preparing to conceive, plan their diet as soon as possible to get healthiest condition for conception.