By stacey chillemi
Even before your pregnancy begins, nutrition is one of the most important factors in the health of mother and her baby. If you are eating a well-balanced diet before you become pregnant, you will only need to make a few changes to meet the nutritional needs of pregnancy.
A good diet is a very important factor to a healthy pregnancy. Birth defects such as spina bifida have been found to have links to the mother's diet. Having a good quality of nutrients is very important and the foundation of healthy development. Pregnant women must eat well and are expectant to eat a range of foods, so you can get the proper nutrients.
Gaining weight is a normal and important for your health during your pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters (the 14th week through the end of pregnancy). Most women gain a normal amount of weight by eating health diet, being energetic, and allowing their appetite to guide their food intake. During my three pregnancies, I gained an average of 30 pounds each pregnancy.
Doctors generally recommend general guidelines for eating a healthy diet during pregnancy. Your diet should include the basic nutrients necessary to meet the needs of the developing fetus inside your womb. You should try not to eat too much junk food, because it provides little nutrients and more empty calories. If you are not consuming a healthy diet, pregnancy is a good time to start.
You may ask yourself the question, why should I eat healthy?
- Eating healthy will help make sure that the baby will have a healthy birth weight.
- The baby most likely will not be born with infections or other problems.
- It reduces the risk for premature birth.
- Builds up fats and fluids for use during breastfeeding.
- It reduces the risk of complications during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is no time to diet. Every woman is different; depending on body type and weight before conception, the average weight gain for most women who deliver healthy babies is about 25 to 35 pounds or more during pregnancy. Women who are underweight prior to pregnancy should gain a little more and overweight woman, a little less.
You may want to lose weight or go back to your old eating habits right after you have the baby, but the fact is that it is important to eat healthy after the birth of your child. Why?
- It is also important that women continue to eat well after the birth, especially if you are going to breastfeed the baby. The baby consumes what you eat.
Women who do not gain enough weight have an increased risk for delivering babies with low birth weights (less than 5.52 pounds). The National Institutes of Health considers low birth weight, a major public health problem in the United States.
Low birth weight is a major cause of infant death
If you are, breastfeeding not eating well could cause as many childhood developmental, physical, and psychological problems.
Underweight babies are at risk for physical and psychological childhood disorders:
-They are more likely to experience asthma, respiratory tract infections, and ear infections.
-Underweight babies, especially those who are born less than 2.2 pounds are at greater risk for cerebral palsy (a neurological abnormality).
- They are more likely to score low on intelligence tests and are more likely to have delayed development.
Although infant death in the United States has declined over the past several decades, it is still a major public health problem. Among African Americans, about 13 percent of newborns are underweight; among Latinos, 6 percent to 9 percent; among Asian Americans, 5 percent to 8 percent; and among Caucasians, approximately 6 percent of newborns are underweight. Racial variations in birth weight may reflect issues relating to economic development, poverty, healthcare reform and the quality of life.
Gaining too much weight can also be a problem. It can make pregnancy a bad experience, causing backache, leg pain, and varicose veins (varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins near the surface of the skin. Varicose veins can occur anywhere there is increased pressure in a vein close to the skin, but they are most common in the legs and ankles. Varicose veins do not usually cause any symptoms. When there are symptoms, they are often worse after prolonged sitting or standing or late in the day.
Symptoms may include:
- A dull, heavy aching or burning sensation and fatigue in the legs.
- Mild swelling, usually in the feet and ankles.
- Itchy skin over the varicose vein.
- Bulging, twisted veins and a slight bluish outline of the vein you can see through the skin. The area may be sensitive to the touch.
- Cramping in the legs, especially at nighttime.
- Bleeding in the skin over or in the region of the varicose vein.
Varicose veins are common and usually are not a serious medical problem. The ways the veins look are the biggest concern for women. Varicose veins can be treated at home. Ways of treating varicose veins would include exercise, wearing elastic stockings, and elevating the legs. This is all most women with varicose veins need. Some people may choose to have a chemical injection that close the vein. These procedures used are sclerotherapy, laser therapy, or surgery.
Gaining too much weight during pregnancy may cause fatigue. It may lead to hypertension and diabetes. Gaining too much weight during your pregnancy can also make it more difficult for you to lose the weight after you have the baby.
Too much weight gain may also cause problems for the baby. To be exact, an overweight baby is one who weighs more than 9.9 pounds. Large babies make vaginal deliveries difficult, increasing the risk for cesarean section. There is also a connection between birth weight and adult weight: overweight babies are more likely to be overweight later in life.
Fluid and fat being stored in the body because of eating too much salty or spicy food often causes too much weight gain. Women who are gaining too much weight should follow the guidelines for healthy eating, avoiding salt, and junk food, and talk to a doctor, nurse practitioner, or dietician for advice and direction on what to eat and what to stay away from during your pregnancy.
Every woman's body is different. Determining how much weight a woman should gain, is an educated guess. Pregnant women should increase their usual servings of a variety of foods from the four basic food groups to include the following:
-Four or more servings of fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals
- Four or more servings of whole-grain or enriched bread and cereal for energy
- Four or more servings of milk and milk products for calcium
- Three or more servings of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, dried beans, and peas for protein
Eating a well-balanced diet while you are pregnant will help to keep you and your baby healthy. Most physicians agree that the Recommended Daily Allowances, except those for iron, can be obtained through a proper diet.
The following is a chart that outlines the Recommended Daily Allowances for by age group as well as the Recommended Daily Allowances As for pregnant women.
Use the Recommended Daily Allowances for Female RDA Organized by Age Groups
The nutritional requirements for pregnant women differ based on individual needs. Discuss whether you need to take a pre-natal multi-vitamin with your doctor. I took pre-natal multi-vitamins during all three of my pregnancies. Iron is needed in larger doses, especially during the later stages of pregnancy. This iron is important to the structure of healthy red blood cells. It is difficult for a woman to consume enough of it from foods to maintain a sufficient supply from the mother, often leaving her anemic and worn out. Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood is lacking in healthy red blood cells, the main transporter of oxygen to organs. If red blood cells are also lacking in hemoglobin (hemoglobin is the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen) then your body is not getting enough iron. Symptoms of anemia -- like fatigue -- occur because organs are not getting enough oxygen.
Women in the childbearing years are particularly susceptible to a form of anemia called iron-deficiency anemia because of the blood loss from menstruation and the increased blood supply demands during pregnancy. Anemia can make the mother less able to fight off infections and unable to handle hemorrhaging during the birth. An iron supplement can improve this condition, but first discuss whether you need additional iron with your doctor.
Pregnancy doubles a woman's need for folic acid. Folic acid is important in preventing neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly and is essential to the formation of red blood cells. Severe folic acid deficiency can result in a condition called megaloblastic anemia, which occurs most often in the last trimester of pregnancy.
In this condition, the mother's heart, liver and spleen may become enlarged which and can threaten the life of the fetus. Folic acid is in many foods, including kidney beans, leafy green vegetables, peas, and liver. Women in their childbearing years should consume plenty of these foods.
In fact, folic acid is so important to the health of women and their babies that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently required the addition of folic acid to prepackaged bread and cereals. Nevertheless, there is not universal agreement on the necessity of folic acid supplements for all pregnant women. Some doctors prescribe the folic acid supplements primarily for pregnant women who are smokers, drug users, alcohol drinkers, or strict vegetarians. While research continues, your doctor will continue to recommend supplements based on your individual health profile.
Remember that what you eat and drink can affect your baby. Avoid drinking any alcoholic beverages while you are pregnant. Alcohol can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which is a condition that can affect your baby for its entire life. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a preventable cause of birth defects and mental retardation.
Caffeine is a stimulant found in colas, coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, and some over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs. Consumed in large quantities, caffeine may cause irritability, nervousness, and insomnia as well as low-birth-weight babies. Caffeine is also a diuretic and can dehydrate the pregnant woman's body of valuable water. Some studies do indicate that caffeine intake pregnancy can harm the fetus. Caffeine is an ingredient in many OTC and prescription drugs. Before taking any drugs, a pregnant woman should consult her physician. As a pregnant woman, you need more nutrients to help your baby grow and be healthy. Besides folic acid and iron, which we have already discussed.
There are other dietary additions you will need:
Calcium: Pregnant and lactating adult women require an additional 40 percent of calcium a day (1200-1500 mg per day). Almost all of the extra calcium goes into the baby's developing bones. To get this extra calcium, three extra servings (3 cups) of milk or dairy products. If you are lactose intolerant, you can still get this extra calcium. There are several low-lactose or reduced-lactose products available. In some cases, your doctor might even prescribe a calcium supplement.
Sodium: This is important during pregnancy. 2,000 to 8,000 milligrams of sodium a day during pregnancy. There are 2,325 milligrams of sodium in one teaspoon of salt, and because salt is in most foods, the increased need for it during pregnancy is not too difficult to achieve. Sodium helps to regulate the water in the body.
Fluids: During pregnancy drink plenty of fluids; especially water. A woman's blood volume increases dramatically during pregnancy. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day can help prevent common problems such as dehydration and constipation.
To find out what other nutrients are important during pregnancy. How much you need, ask your doctor any questions you may have.
The "pickles and ice cream" choices and other appetite cravings of pregnant women may be reflections of the changes in nutritional needs. The fetus needs nourishment and the mother's body begins to absorb and metabolize nutrients differently. These changes help guarantee normal development of the baby and fill the demands of lactation (nursing) after the baby is born.
While you are pregnant, you will need additional nutrients to keep you and your baby healthy. However, that does not mean you need to eat twice as much. An increase of only 300 calories per day. For example, a baked potato has 120 calories, so getting those extra 300 calories should not be that difficult. Make sure not to restrict your diet during pregnancy because you might not be getting the right amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals that are necessary to nourish your unborn baby. Low-calorie intake can cause the mother's stored fat to break down, leading to the production of substances called ketones. Ketones, which in the mother's blood and urine are a sign of starvation or a starvation-like state. Constant production of ketones can result in a mentally retarded child.
Diabetic women should be closely monitored to make sure their blood sugar levels are at or near normal. If maternal blood sugar rises too high, the increased sugar crossing into the placenta can result in a large, over developed fetus with defects or an infant with blood sugar level abnormalities. Diabetic women may also suffer from a greater loss of some nutrients. It is important to maintain tight control of blood sugar before and during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that begins during pregnancy and generally goes away after the birth of your newborn. Gestational diabetes is a high amount of sugar in the pregnant women's blood. Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It is a relatively common problem, striking 2 percent to 4 percent of all pregnant women.
You are more likely to develop gestational diabetes if you:
- Are overweight when you become pregnant
- Have high blood pressure or other medical complications
- Have given birth to a large baby before
- Have given birth to a baby that was stillborn or suffering from certain birth defects
- Have had gestational diabetes before.
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Come from certain ethnic backgrounds, including African, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or Pacific Islander
- Are older than 30 years
However, half of women who develop gestational diabetes have no risk factors.
If untreated, gestational diabetes can cause severe complications for your newborn. For instance, babies of untreated mothers may grow too large (called macrosomia), increasing the risk of problems during birth, such as injuries to their shoulders and arms.
Having a very large baby may also increase your risk for requiring a cesarean section or other assistance during delivery (such as a forceps or vacuum delivery). Your baby may also experience a sudden, large drop in blood sugar after birth, requiring treatment with a sugar solution given through a needle in the vein.
Your newborn baby may also have a larger chance of developing jaundice (a condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes are yellowish in color. About half of all newborns develop mild jaundice in the first few days. In premature babies, jaundice may start early and last longer than in full-term babies). Gestational diabetes can cause the breathing problems in the newborn if untreated.
The risk of birth defects in newborn babies whose mothers have gestational diabetes is very low because most gestational diabetes develops after the 20th week of pregnancy, when the fetus has already fully developed. The risk increases only if you had undiagnosed diabetes before pregnancy or if you run high, out-of-control blood sugar levels during the first six to eight weeks of pregnancy.
If you have gestational diabetes, your baby does not have a higher risk of developing type I diabetes during childhood. Type I diabetes is a lifelong disease that develops when the pancreas stops producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone that lets sugar (glucose) move from the blood into the body's cells, where it can be used for energy or stored for later use. If sugar cannot move from the blood into the cells, the person's blood sugar rises above a safe level and the cells cannot function properly.
Your child is more likely to develop type II diabetes later in life as well as be overweight throughout life. If you are wondering why type II diabetes is a never-ending disease that develops when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin or when the body's tissues become resistant to insulin. Insulin lets sugar (glucose) enter cells, where it is used for energy. It also helps the body store extra sugar in muscle, fat, and liver cells. The stored sugar can be released and used for energy when needed.
When insulin is not available or is not used properly, the blood sugar level rises above what is safe. If blood sugar levels remain high for years, blood vessels and nerves throughout the body may be damaged, and the person is at increased risk for eye, heart, blood vessel, nerve, and kidney disease.
Common symptoms of diabetes are:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Extreme fatigue
However, in type II diabetes, blood sugar levels rise so slowly that a person usually does not have symptoms and may have had the disease for many years before diagnosis.
Most women's blood sugar levels return to normal after delivery. Once you have had gestational diabetes, however, you are more likely to develop gestational diabetes again if you get pregnant again in the future. You also have an increased risk of developing diabetes later in your lifetime; you stand a 50 percent chance of developing diabetes within 10 years of delivery. This form of diabetes can be helped through diet management (eating the proper foods for diabetes), medication, and exercise but if left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health problems for both you and your baby.
Weight gain during pregnancy should be gradual with the most weight being gained in the last trimester. You should gain about 2 to 4 pounds during the first three months of pregnancy and then 3 to 4 pounds per month for the rest of your pregnancy. Total weight gain should be about 25 to 30 pounds. This will decrease the risk of delivering a low-birth-weight baby. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women who have a low Body Mass Index (BMI) - the ration of weight to height - should gain 28 to 40 pounds during pregnancy and women who have a higher Body Mass Index should gain 15 to 25 pounds. Check with your doctor to determine how much weight gain during pregnancy is healthy for you.
Weight gained includes 6 to 8 pounds for the weight of the baby. The remaining weight consists of a higher fluid volume, larger breasts, larger uterus, amniotic fluid, and the placenta. Make sure to visit your doctor throughout your pregnancy for an assessment of your weight gain. Your doctor can make recommendations about how much weight you should be gaining to ensure that your pregnancy is progressing smoothly and that you are getting the right amount of nutrients.
It can be if there is too much weight gain. During pregnancy, fat deposits may increase by more than a third of the total amount a woman had before she became pregnant. If the weight gain was normal, most women lose this extra weight in the birth process and in the weeks and months after birth. Breastfeeding helps to reduce the fat deposited during pregnancy. Mothers who breastfeeds during her pregnancy is expected to burn up at least 500 more calories than a woman who does not breastfeed. The woman who nurses her baby also has increased needs for specific nutrients, and should not be on a weight loss diet.
Morning sickness, nausea, occasional vomiting, tiredness, and exhaustion are common to about 70 percent of pregnant women. Most nausea occurs during the early part of pregnancy and, most women who experience morning sickness will settle once you begin your second trimester. Morning sickness does not always happen in the morning. You can get morning sickness for no apparent reason at all. For some women, it might last longer than the early stages of pregnancy. Some women experience morning sickness throughout the entire nine months. No one understands exactly what causes morning sickness, but there are many factors known to contribute to morning sickness, such as:
Low blood sugar
Low blood pressure
Nutritional deficiencies (especially in vitamin B6 and iron)
Even nutritional excess (especially of spicy, sugary, and refined foods).
The changes in your body might cause you to become nauseous
A study at Cornell University in New York suggested that morning sickness might have a helpful function. When researchers analyzed different studies involving over 80,000 pregnancies they found that nausea and vomiting are most common just after your baby has gone through its most sensitive development period (also common at this time are aversions to certain foods ˇV usually meat, fish, eggs, poultry and strong tasting vegetables).
Nausea and vomiting, said the researchers, may be your body's way of getting rid of chemicals and bacteria that can be harmful to your body. It is important to keep the woman and her baby safe from food-borne and other types of illness. Researchers also found that in cultures where the diet is mainly vegetarian, and where dairy foods are not staples, morning sickness is uncommon.
Many women worry that morning sickness is a sign of something wrong with their babies. This is not true . A study, published in the Journal - Obstetrics and Gynecology observed that morning sickness is associated with better pregnancy outcomes, decreased risk of miscarriage, pre-term birth, low birth weight, and prenatal death. Researchers believe, though they do not yet know how, morning sickness may support the healthy growth of the placenta ˇV your baby's lifeline while it is inside you.
Reassuring maybe, but it is no immediate help when you are feeling miserable. Over the years, doctors have tried many medical solutions to morning sickness. One of the most disturbing was Thalidomide (Thalidomide affects the immune system. The exact way that it works is not known. Thalidomide is used to treat and prevent the debilitating and disfiguring skin sores associated with erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL), an inflammatory complication of leprosy, wHich caused severe deformities in babies whose mothers took it. Since that, time doctors and midwives have been reluctant to prescribe drugs (which are often not that effective anyway) for the transient nausea so common in early pregnancy. Most women are also reluctant to take drugs at this time; pregnant women look for natural methods if they can.
Severe nausea accompanied by relentless vomiting requires medical help because this can dehydrate and rob your body of essential nutrients. For common nausea, experienced by 60 percent of pregnant women, you could try some of the following self-help remedies and see which work best for you.
Try taking two or three teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (not any other kind) in warm water first thing in the morning. Apple cider vinegar is pH neutral and may help to neutralize excess stomach acid.
Ginger tea can be used freely to help. Ginger has been thoroughly researched over the years. A recent review of scientific evidence, published in the British Journal of Anesthesia, found that ginger was beneficial in treating all kinds of nausea. To make a tea, pour-boiling water over a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger root. You can also add the juice of half a lemon and sweeten with honey if you like. In winter, it is a warmer, in the summer it can be a refreshing iced tea. This mix has the bonus of helping to ward off low blood sugar, headaches and fatigue as well as relieving nausea.
If you are out of the house and cannot brew up, any food item containing ginger should help. Some women swear by stale ginger ale, others prefer the crystallized ginger available in some specialist cook shops. Others use it liberally in cooking in both sweet and savory dishes.
Acupressure can also be very effective. Several recent studies, including those published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine and the Journal of Nurse Midwifery, show that pressure on the pericardium 6 (or P6) point can provide fairly quick relief from nausea, though it may not help to reduce vomiting. To find this point place your hand palm up and measure two thumb widths above the most prominent wrist crease; P6 is just above this point, in line with your middle finger. Some chemists sell wristbands, which stimulate the P6 point. These have also been shown to work for some women.
Nausea in early pregnancy is a condition that often can be fixed by taking care of your body nutritionally.
What can you do to help your nausea in early pregnancy?
Eat small meals
Do not skip meals or avoid going long periods without food
Drink fluids between, but not with, meals
Avoid foods that are greasy, fried, or highly spiced
Avoid foul and unpleasant odors
Rest when you are tired
Severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is rare, but if it occurs, it may cause you to become dehydrated. If you feel that your nausea or vomiting is keeping you from eating right or gaining enough weight, consult your doctor.