By Nancy Panter, MD/FACOG
Nutrition during pregnancy is foundational, and medical experts have come a long way toward understanding what’s important for the health of expecting moms and of the baby that is coming. There are many blog articles out there about what you should and shouldn’t eat during pregnancy, so I thought I would focus on some lesser-known information. Here are some facts and tips about healthy nutrition during pregnancy:
- We now know that the nutritional depletion of pregnancy and breastfeeding can affect the nutrition available for the next pregnancy, which is why the WHO has recommended the spacing of pregnancies to be 4 years. Most Americans consume at least the recommended amount of protein and calories, but if babies are going to be spaced closer than 4 years, parents must make an effort to focus on excellent nutrition.
Supplements can help with dietary deficiencies, especially the increased need for folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients have been shown to help with a baby’s neurologic and brain development from very early in the pregnancy. This can be crucial before a woman even knows that she is pregnant.
- I often recommend prenatal vitamins and 400mg of omega-3 fatty acids for women to take daily who can conceive – even if they’re not actively trying yet – just so this crucial interval of time isn’t missed.
- Discuss any new supplements with your healthcare provider before adding them into your diet. This may seem like over-caution, but it’s important to have a professional evaluate whether these supplements are safe for pregnancy and whether they may interact with any medications you might be taking already.
To quote the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, “Eating for two does not mean eating twice as many calories. It means being twice as healthy in our diet.” Most women who are not severely underweight or severely overweight only need about 300 extra calories a day during pregnancy. This goes up to 800 calories a day during normal breastfeeding.
- These calories should be made up of proteins and vegetables with some fruits.
- What constitutes a protein? These include eggs, dairy products, red meat, chicken, fish, protein drinks. Portions should be moderate. Be careful about yogurt as most commercial brands are very high in sugar, more like a dessert. Beans and tofu do not count as a protein unless you are a strict vegetarian or vegan.
- In the third trimester, babies are not only continuing to develop, but they’re also laying down their fat cells. Genetics can sometimes play an important role in this, but we do know that if you have a fatty diet in the third trimester, there is an increased likelihood of obesity for that child starting in the teen years. The last stretch of pregnancy (no pun intended!) is the time to “gift” your child’s development with healthy nutrition.
Special groups are going to need special attention to diet during pregnancy.
- This includes women with diabetes, women who have had bariatric surgery, women with Crohn’s disease or other malabsorption issues, women with twins and triplets. A consultation with a dietitian may be very helpful in these situations.
Your primary healthcare provider or obstetrician can help you navigate the ins and outs of your nutritional needs during pregnancy, so don’t be afraid to ask us.
To make an appointment with me or any other Valley-Wide provider, please call 1-833-350-1113. (Dr. Panter sees patients in our Arkansas Valley region. To see a provider in our San Luis Valley region, Buena Vista or Cañon City, please call us.