Proper nutrition is one of the pivotal considerations in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. While your baby is undergoing rapid development and growth, your own body is changing at an alarming rate, nurturing not one, but two people. Ideally, your pregnancy diet should consist of a wide range of healthy foods, but certain stages of pregnancy call for extra doses of specific nutrients.
An important dietary recommendation during the first trimester is to consume enough folate, a B vitamin vital for cell development and reproduction, to help prevent neural tube defects of the developing embryo. Good sources of folate include dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach, berries, legumes such as garbanzo beans, egg yolks, enriched cereals and sunflower seeds; at the advice of their health practitioner, most women take a folic acid supplement. Another essential nutrient to consume during this stage is calcium, which encourages healthy bone development. Calcium can be found in the same foods as folate, but also in milk and dairy products, such as yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese and other hard, pasteurized cheeses. Many women are hit with morning sickness during the first trimester, making eating unappealing or, at times, almost impossible. If this describes your first trimester, just do the best you can — eat small, frequent healthy meals or snacks and continue taking your folic acid supplement. According to Family Education website, studies have shown that powder-in-capsule supplements have proven to dissolve better than tablets, so choose capsules if you have the option when selecting your folic acid.
For many women, the second semester brings a new-found energy to complement their growing baby’s demands. During this stage continue a well-balanced diet with folate and calcium consumption, but up your intake of iron-rich foods. Iron is an essential component to the development and growth of red blood cells. Your baby is developing her own supply of red blood cells, and requires yours to do so. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, if your iron stores are down, it will make you feel lethargic and can lead to anemia. It can also contribute to low birth weight or premature birth in your baby. Low iron is a common problem in pregnant women and the reason why many practitioners advise their patients to take an iron supplement. Good food sources of iron are lean red meat, liver, figs, spinach, peas, prunes and a variety of beans, such as kidney, navy, black, lima and pinto beans. Vitamin C is a good adjunct to supplemental iron, as it aides it its absorption. Citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C, as are red berries, red and green bell pepper, kiwi fruit, broccoli and honeydew melon.
Third Trimester and Beyond
During the third trimester, competition for space in your body is evident, with your baby pressing on your organs and stomach. Your baby and your digestive system often wage war with one another, with heartburn and acid indigestion being the battle scars. Don’t think this means you need to eat less; it just means you need to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Your baby’s nutritional needs are as high as ever, and what it can’t get from you, it might draw directly from its own stores, possibly leading to stunted growth. This is the time to up your calcium consumption to continue strong bone growth and prepare for lactation. It’s also the time to increase protein, found in eggs, lean meats, cheese, wild salmon, yogurt and nut butters, that will help your baby build muscle mass. Helping to metabolize the increased amounts of protein, and also playing a crucial role in brain and nerve development, vitamin B6 should be added to your diet now. You can get it from poultry, fish, lean red meat, nuts, dark leafy greens, raisins and prunes. Continue a healthy diet post-partum to aid in your own health and well-being and to encourage plentiful breast milk production if are going to breastfeed your baby.