Pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding?
Tips for a healthy mom and baby.
Prior to Conceiving
You probably already know that in order to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, it’s important to eat a healthy diet throughout your pregnancy. Did you also know that it’s important to have a healthy diet and lifestyle in the days and weeks leading up to becoming pregnant? Many women don’t learn they are pregnant for weeks or even months after conceiving. The first two months of development are critical, when most tissues and organs are formed. What you do or don’t do prior to becoming pregnant can not only impact fertility, but can also lead to potential problems for your baby. Make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet full of lots of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, prior to becoming pregnant. You should also avoid things like alcohol, smoking, and excessive amounts of caffeine—all of which can put your pregnancy and baby at risk.
Nutrition During Pregnancy
Having a healthy diet is one of the most important things you can do to help ensure a healthy baby and pregnancy. “Eating for two,” does not mean you need double the calories you consumed prior to pregnancy. For most, an additional 350-450 calories per day are adequate for the 2nd and 3rd trimesters respectively. These amounts are higher or lower if you are underweight or overweight. Certain vitamins and minerals are especially important during pregnancy. Folic Acid can help prevent certain birth defects and help growth and development. It’s important for anyone pregnant or planning to become pregnant to consume 400 mg of folic acid each day in food or supplement form. Along with pregnancy comes increased needs for iron. Iron is important for brain development and low iron can lead to preterm delivery and/or low-birthweight infants. A 30 mg iron supplement is recommended daily during pregnancy. Iron supplements can lead to constipation so make sure you are drinking plenty of water and getting adequate fiber from eating at least 5 servings of a combination of fruits and vegetables each day.
Are there foods that are unsafe during pregnancy?
Yes. During pregnancy your body is more susceptible to infections and other illness. Some can cause harm to your baby. To prevent foodborne illness, you should avoid raw or smoked fish, oysters, unpasteurized cheese and milk. You should also avoid raw or undercooked meats or eggs, raw sprouts, and cook/heat all luncheon meats to 165˚ before consuming. It is also recommended that you avoid consuming all fish that is high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, marlin, and orange roughy since high amounts of mercury are toxic.
Healthy Mom = Healthy Baby
Your overall health impacts the health of your baby. Living a healthy lifestyle is important to you and your baby. Mild to moderate exercise during pregnancy can help you feel better, help prevent excessive weight gain, help prevent gestational diabetes, help with back pain, and in some cases can shorten the duration of labor. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can affect fetal growth and development, lead to gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preterm delivery. Smoking and drinking alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. You should check with a health care provider before using any herbal supplements as some are not safe to use during pregnancy. Beverages with caffeine should be limited to 3 cups (24 oz) or less per day.
Nutrition while Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition that you can provide to your baby. The benefits to both mom and baby are numerous. It increases bonding between mother and baby, it can help protect infants from infections and diseases, helps prevent sudden infant death, leads to greater cognitive function in infants and children, and can help mom return to pre-pregnancy weight faster. Human milk provides all the nutrients your baby needs and the composition changes naturally as your baby grows. In order to ensure you are producing the highest quality milk for your baby, it’s important that you consume the proper nutrients. Milk production requires an extra 500 calories each day for the first 6 months for moms at normal weight and 400 calories after 6 months. It’s important to consume a well-balanced diet, rich in protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and foods high in calcium and vitamin D. You may find your thirst increases while breastfeeding so be sure to drink plenty of fluids as well. Total fluid recommendations for lactating mothers is 3.8 liters, or about 128 oz.
Motherhood is a journey that begins long before your baby is born. It starts with pregnancy and lasts a lifetime. Taking care of yourself, eating well, and living a healthy lifestyle can help ensure your baby has a healthy beginning that leads to a bright future. We wish you and your family a lifetime of good health!
Source: Judith E. Brown. Nutrition Through the Life Cycle. 6th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning; 2017.
Denver Wellness and Nutrition Registered Dietitians provide useful blog post about health and tips for success. Our RD's are committed to greatness at every step towards your optimal health.