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After conceiving, the best way a mother can take care of the baby is by taking good care of herself.
This can be done by ensuring a balanced nutritious diet and taking ample rest. You need various nutrients that perform different functions to provide a healthy environment for the baby. The deficiency of these nutrients can result in restricted growth or abnormal structure formation in the baby.
The food that you should eat once pregnant can be split into micro and macronutrients. Both food types essential and serves different functions.
These are as follows:
|Requirement||In minute quantities||In major quantities|
|Example||Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants||Carbohydrate, protein, fats, fiber|
|Function||Body growth, disease prevention, functioning of organs||Building blocks for the body|
Energy supply for the body
|Sources||Fruits, vegetables, leafy greens||Dairy, cereals,meat, fish, nuts, seeds, oil|
Extra calories needed:
An extra calorie intake of 300 kcal per day is needed during the pregnancy period.
Although the intake remains the same as of a non-pregnant woman in the first month, it slowly increases to 340 kcal per day in the second trimester, further increasing to 452 kcal in the third trimester.
These counts are mainly based on the BMI, age, and activity of the women and, therefore, should be individually calculated according to these specifications.
Macronutrients are food that are required in large quantities for the growth and the basic functioning of the body. This includes protein, fat, and carbohydrates,which are a staple part of the diet.
Necessity: Protein is the building block of the body and is required for the baby’s growth.
Daily intake: Protein intake needs to be 1.1 grams/kg/day for pregnant ladies. This reflects an increase from 46 grams/day in non-pregnant women to at least 60 grams/day in the case of pregnant women.
Health effects: Studies from rats showed lower protein content during pregnancy resulted in decreased birth weight, reduced heart weight, increased heart rate, and increased systolic pressure.
• Animal sources include milk and dairy products, eggs, chicken and red meat, fish,etc.
• Plant sources include pulses, lentils, legumes, tofu, soy products, beans, nuts, seeds, and nut butter.
• Healthy fat is an essential factor for fetal development as Omega-3 fatty acids promote brain development and proper retina function.
• DHA is associated with many aspects, including neuronal development and anti-inflammatory functions.
Daily intake: Total fat intake should comprise 20-35% of the total calorie intake.
Sources: Nuts and seeds like walnut, chia seeds and flax seeds, and seafood are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Carbohydrate is an integral part of a healthy diet and are high in energy.
Daily intake: Carbs should comprise of 45-64% of the total calorie intake, which includes 6-9 servings of whole-grain food daily.
• Increased fat and carbohydrate consumption is associated with neonatal fat deposition.
• Increased saturated fats, carbohydrates, and take away food prior to conception can cause poor asthma control during pregnancy, affecting the child’s well-being.
Sources: Bread made of wheat, oats,brown rice, etc., are a good source of carbs.
• The primary function of fiber is to modulate the gut microbiome.
• High fiber diet prevents asthma and helps improve digestion, thereby reducing the chances of constipation.
• Daily intake of 14 grams per 1000 kcal is recommended, and it helps promote a healthy digestive system as well as fights against cardiovascular diseases and maintains the feeling of fullness.
Health effects: Mouse model study conducted with reduced intake of fiber resulted in them developing allergic airway disease, which is the human model of asthma.
Sources: Whole grains, legumes and lentils, high fiber cereals,fruits, like blueberries, raspberries and peaches, vegetables like green leafy, corn, and peas are all good sources of fiber.
Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals that all the living organisms require to perform bodily functions.
Vitamins are needed for the proper functioning of the organs, while minerals are required for growth-related purposes in the body.
Health benefits: Oxygen is delivered through the blood attached to the hemoglobin. The body needs iron to form hemoglobin, which in turn carries oxygen to the baby.
Daily intake: The recommended daily intake for pregnant women includes 27 mg of iron.
• Iron deficiency during pregnancy is associated with cardiovascular risks in the child during adulthood.
• Low intake of iron can cause anemia in the mother, increasing the risk of preterm delivery.
• In animal models, iron deficiency is associated with obesity, hypertension, and adverse cardiovascular outcomes.
Sources: Lean meat, fortified cereals, nuts like almond, vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, and whole grains like wheat are all good sources of iron.
• A synthetic form of naturally occurring vitamin B9 or folate is essential to prevent neural tube defects.
• It is also necessary to support rapid cell growth, cell replication, cell division,and nucleotide synthesis for placental and fetal development.
Daily intake: The recommended dose is 400-800 µg per day, consumed from 2 months prior to conception, and can be continued past the 12th week of pregnancy.
Health effects: Deficiency of folic acid can cause megaloblastic anemia during pregnancy.
Sources: Dark leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, fortified foods including cereals, pasta, and bread, nuts, citrus fruits like oranges and strawberries are all-natural sources of folate.
Precaution: Women with a history of neural tube defects in prior pregnancy should consume a higher dose of 4 mg per day for subsequent pregnancies.
Health benefits: Its primary function is helping in the process of calcium absorption and thus improving bone mineralization and growth.
Daily intake: Recommended daily intake is 15 µg per day for pregnant women, but in case of deficiencies, the input needs to 1000-2000 IU, which is about 25-50 µg per day.
• Less vitamin D is associated with congenital rickets and bone fractures.
• Vitamin D also showed association with abnormal fetal growth pattern, glucose tolerance,preterm birth, and reproductive failure.
• Primary food sources include fish and cod liver oil along with eggs, butter, and cheese.
• The primary source is from skin production upon exposure to ultraviolet light and Vitamin D supplements.
Health benefits: Iodine prevents many health issues related to the thyroid gland. It helps by forming the thyroid hormone, which controls the metabolism.
Daily intake: The daily intake for pregnant women is about 150 µg per day.
• Iodine deficiency is associated with postpartum hyperthyroidism, perinatal mortality and neonatal hyperthyroidism.
• Insufficient Iodine during pregnancy can increase the risk of spontaneous abortion, higher mortality,birth defects, neurological disorder, and brain damage.
Sources: Fish, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, eggs,meat, and iodized salt are good sources.
Health benefits: Calcium is vital for bone health in both the mother and the baby.
Daily intake: It is essential to maintain a daily intake of 1000 mg per day.
Health effects: Deficiency of calcium is related to birth weight, risk of preterm labor,and appropriate blood pressure.
Sources: The primary source of calcium is milk and milk products (50%) like yogurt or cheese, vegetables (11%) like kale and broccoli and cereals (11%).
Daily intake: The recommended daily intake is 770 µg per day for pregnant women.
Health effects: Deficiency of vitamin A causes a higher mortality rate and may be associated with decreased immune function.
Sources: Vitamin A is found in food sources like leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, fruits, carrots, broccoli, and squash.
Precaution: High doses (greater than 10000 IU) of Vitamin A can cause damage to the baby, including cranial face and cardiac birth defects. The limit is not to exceed 8000 IU per day.
Some common Micronutrients and their daily intake quantity during pregnancy
Studies have revealed that if the mother doesn’t provide adequate nutrients for fetal transfer, the baby can face birth defects, and it can even retard fetal growth.
Some of the food sources which should be consumed once you become pregnant, are mentioned below.
Nutrients: Legumes such as chickpeas, peas, lentils, nuts, beans, and soybeans are all good sources of fiber, folate (vitamin B9), calcium, protein, and iron.
• Fiber prevents constipation during pregnancy and reduces cardiovascular disease as well as weight.
• Folate is vital to prevent neural tube defects in the baby and to reduce the chances of low birth weight issues.
Nutrients: Milk and Milk products (yogurt, cheese, butter) are a great source of protein along with nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, Riboflavin, vitamin B12, and zinc.
Nutrients: Green leafy vegetables are a major plant-based source of iron. They also contain calcium, vitamin C and K, folate, and fiber.
Health advantages: Iron during pregnancy promotes normal fetal growth and brain development and helps prevent anemia.
Health effect: Iron deficiency during pregnancy poses an increased risk of intrauterine growth retardation, prematurity, feto-placental miss ratio, and higher risk for peripartum blood transfusion.
Nutrients: Fruits are low in sodium and are a great source of potassium, vitamin C, folate and dietary fiber.
Nutrients: Eggs are a significant source of protein, and along with other minerals and vitamins, it is also a good source of choline.
Health advantages: Choline is important for spinal cord and brain development.
• Inadequate choline quantity can cause a high risk of neural tube defects and long term memory function.
• It can also have an impact on liver disease, atherosclerosis,and possibly neurological disorders.
Nutrients: They are a favorable choice for pregnant women due to its high content of mono-saturated fats, vitamins (K, E, C, B9), minerals, and fiber.
Health advantages: Folate(Vitamin B9) helps increase the birth weight of the child.
Increase in Blood: The amount of plasma content in the body increases by an average of 1250ml, which means the body naturally requires more fluids in the day.
Health benefits: Consuming extra water, as much as 1.5 to 2 liters with 25 grams of fiber daily, will significantly reduce the problem of constipation, which is common during pregnancy.
Nutrients: It is one of the natural sources of Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Health advantages: Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for brain development.
Some of the most harmful foods that can adversely affect the baby are mentioned below.
Health effects: Mercury is highly toxic for both adults and children alike. It is neurotoxic, nephrotoxic, and immuno-toxic and poses a high risk to the fetus during the growth stage.
Remedy: Big fishes like mackerel, swordfish, and shark commonly have a high content of mercury in them, and their consumption should be limited.
Health effects: Listeria, a deadly germ, is capable of passing through to the fetus from the mother and can cause stillbirth, miscarriage, and new-born deaths.
• Avoid raw or uncooked fish, as they are usually hosts to many viruses and diseases that can cause severe infections.
• Cook the fish properly.
• Listeria infection can also occur through blue cheese, brie, or through uncooked packaged food. They need to be avoided.
• 30-60% of infections related to toxoplasmosis were attributed to uncooked meat.
• Salmonella is present in uncooked meat and can cause infections in the mother.
Remedy: Make sure to cook the meat until it is steaming hot and avoid processed meat.
Health effects: Raw eggs contain salmonella that can cause severe damage to the digestive system, inducing diarrhea and dehydration.
• Avoid food that contains raw or uncooked eggs like mayonnaise, cake icings, poached eggs etc.
• Cook the eggs properly and try to use pasteurized eggs for the meals.
Caffeine is naturally present in coffee, tea, chocolates, and other drinks.
Health effects: Excess caffeine can increase the risk of fetal growth restriction.
• Limit caffeine consumption to not more than 300 mg per day for pregnant women.
• One can also choose to avoid caffeine altogether.
• Check with the doctor when consuming medication that might contain caffeine.
• Check the ingredients list when buying products form the market.
Health effects: Raw milk is a source of bacteria and viruses, including Salmonella and E. coli, which can cause miscarriages and life-threatening situations for the fetus.
• Consume only pasteurized milk and milk products.
• Boil the milk thoroughly before consumption to kill any bacteria or virus.
• Alcohol can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and increase the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, preterm delivery, and sudden infant death syndrome.
• The risk of stillbirth is 80% higher in drinking mothers compared to non-drinkers.
Remedy: Avoid alcohol consumption altogether from conception till after the breastfeeding phase.
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