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My Pregnancy

Nutrition During Pregnancy


Will I need to change the way I eat when I am pregnant? 
Probably. In fact, you will probably need to change the way you eat before you’re pregnant. You will also need to start taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid.
Eating the right foods will help with your baby’s development. Your baby will need nutrients from these foods to develop normally and grow. Eating the wrong foods could harm your baby. For example, if you eat cheese made from unpasteurized milk or raw or undercooked meat, you could get an infection that could lead to a miscarriage. Likewise, if you take too much vitamin A (more than 10,000 international units a day) in a vitamin supplement, your baby could be born with birth defects.
Making healthy food choices is also important for your own health. As your baby grows and changes inside you, it will take nutrients from your body. You will have to replace these nutrients to stay healthy and have all the energy you need.
Which foods should I eat? 
The best diet for you and your baby will include fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, some low-fat dairy products, and a few sources of protein, such as meat, fish, eggs, or dried peas or beans. If you don’t eat dairy foods, you will need calcium from other sources.
If you’re a vegetarian, speak to a dietitian (food expert) about your food choices. Vegetarian diets can sometimes be missing nutrients that are important for a growing baby.
Should I prepare food differently? 
Maybe. You need to be extra careful about avoiding germs in your food. Getting an infection while you are pregnant can cause serious problems. Here's what you should do to avoid contaminated food:
Wash your hands well with soap and water before you handle food. Make sure to fully cook fish, chicken, beef, eggs, and other meats.
Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under lots of running water before you eat them.
When you are done preparing food, wash your hands and anything that touched raw meat or deli meats with hot soapy water. This includes countertops, cutting boards, and knives and spoons.
To reduce the risk of unsafe food, you should also avoid foods that can easily carry germs, including:
Raw sprouts (alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean), milk, cheese, or juice that has not been pasteurized.
Which foods should I avoid? 
You should avoid certain types of fish and all forms of alcohol. You should also limit the amount of caffeine in your diet, and check with your doctor before taking herbal products.

    • Fish – See Weekly Servings of Fish and Shellfish guidelines.  

    • Alcohol – You should avoid alcohol completely. Even small amounts of alcohol could harm a baby.

    • Caffeine – Limit the amount of caffeine in your diet to one to two cups of coffee each day. Be aware that tea and cola also have caffeine, although not as much as coffee.

    • Herbal products – Check with your doctor or nurse before using herbal products. Some herbal teas might not be safe.

What are prenatal vitamins? 
Prenatal vitamins are vitamin supplements that you take the month before and through pregnancy. These vitamins, which also contain minerals (iron, calcium), help ensure your baby has all the building blocks he or she needs to form healthy organs. Prenatal vitamins help lower the risk of birth defects and other problems.
What should I look for in prenatal vitamins? 
Choose a multivitamin that’s labeled “prenatal” and that has at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. Folic acid is especially important in preventing certain birth defects. Show your doctor or nurse the vitamins you plan to take to make sure the doses are right for you and your baby. Too much of some vitamins can be harmful.

How much is too much in pregnancy weight gain?

As pregnancy progresses, an expanding waistline and increasing weight gain may be a source of anxiety for some moms-to-be. Although weight gain is a natural side effect, some may wonder how much is healthy as they transition through each trimester?

Recommendations for pregnancy weight gain may depend on your pre-pregnancy weight. This, and for many other reasons, is why women are encouraged to seek counseling from an obstetrician in advance of becoming pregnant.

While addressing these issues in advance isn’t always possible, it’s important to note that the obstetrician will monitor the expectant mother’s weight over the course of her pregnancy and will work with her to help manage expectations, as well as help treat any health issues (including weight-related ones) that may come up.

For single-birth pregnancies, the following list of target weight ranges is based on pre-pregnancy BMI (body mass index):

  • With a BMI less than 18.5, recommended weight gain is 25 – 40 pounds.

  • With a BMI of 18.5 – 24.9, recommended weight gain is 25 – 35 pounds.

  • With a BMI of 25 – 29.9, recommended weight gain is 15 – 25 pounds.

  • With a BMI greater than 30, recommended weight gain is 11 – 20 pounds.

Evidence tells us that weight gain above the target weight criteria is associated with larger babies, increased risk of C-sections, pregnancy-related hypertension, and gestational diabetes.

Weight gain in pregnancy may fluctuate from month to month. Some gain weight early in the first trimester, while others gain more in the third trimester. Often, weight gain can be managed by engaging in healthy eating habits and incorporating 30 minutes of exercise a day. During pregnancy, your obstetrician may be able to counsel on diet and exercise programs to help keep you and your baby healthy.

Everyone has different experiences during pregnancy, so it is important to hold judgment about weight gain until trends can be observed over a longer period of time. Most of all, show your body a little grace as you grow your little bundle of joy – the best is yet to come.


The United States Department of Agriculture has made it easier to plan meals during pregnancy by creating a website that can help you make healthy food choices at each meal time:
Food choices can be tailored to your trimester of pregnancy. The amounts of food are determined by your height, pre-pregnancy weight, due date, and how much exercise you get during the week.
There are 5 food groups:
Grains: breads, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, and tortillas are all grains
Fruits: fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. Juices that are 100% fruit juice also count
Vegetables: vegetables can be raw, cooked, frozen, canned, dried, or 100% vegetable juices.
Protein foods: meats, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, soy, nuts, and seeds.
Dairy: milk and products made for milk, like cheese, yogurt, or ice cream.

Choose MyPlate provides practical information to individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators, and the food industry to help consumers build healthier diets with resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition information.

Although not a food group, oils and fats do provide important nutrients.  During pregnancy, the fats that you eat provide energy and help build many fetal organs and the placenta. Most of the fats and oil in your diet should come for plant sources.
Vitamins and minerals to take when your pregnant
Vitamins and minerals play an important role in all bodily functions. During pregnancy, you need more folic acid and iron than a woman who isn’t pregnant.
Kelsey-Seybold recommends that you take a prenatal vitamin supplement daily during and after pregnancy. This and a well-rounded diet will supply the needed vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy pregnancy.

    • Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B vitamin that’s important for pregnant women. It is often found in a prenatal vitamin. Before and during pregnancy, a mother needs 400 mcg daily. This will help prevent major birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

    • Iron is used by the body to make substances in red blood cells that carry oxygen to your organs and tissues. During pregnancy, you need extra iron – about double the amount when not pregnant. Daily recommendations are 27 mg of elemental iron daily. This also may be in the prenatal vitamin, but you will have to check and add this if it’s not.

    • Calcium is used to build your baby's bones and teeth:  1,000 mg of calcium daily is recommended.

    • Vitamin D works with calcium to help build bones and teeth in the developing baby: 600 IU are recommended daily.

    • Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of fat found naturally in many kinds of fish.  They may be important factors in your baby's brain development both during pregnancy and after delivery. Look for a prenatal vitamin that contains DHA (the active ingredient of Omega 3). About 200-500 mg daily will help.

If you’re taking supplements, minerals, or vitamins before or during pregnancy, discuss this with your doctor.