Nutrition for Pregnancy
Getting ready for your pregnancy:
- As with many of the really special events in our lives, having a baby means lots of change and excitement. During the pregnancy, your baby depends on you for the nutrition it gets so it is very important to eat well and safely.
- Even before you are pregnant, you should begin to get your body in shape and good condition. A healthy pregnancy will be a happy pregnancy and taking good care of yourself is vital.
- If you normally eat well and enjoy a wide variety of foods you will probably have to make only a few changes to your diet. If your diet isn’t as good as it could be, now is a good time to make some changes - both you and your baby will benefit.
- During the pregnancy, your baby will grow rapidly during the last three months and you may need to eat a little more food than usual.
- If you feel nauseated (morning sickness), try to eat small meals more often. Toast or dry biscuits, with perhaps a little jam, may be better tolerated than more fatty foods.
6 Essential vitamins and minerals needed for pregnancy
1. Folic Acid
Until recently, the importance of folic acid was not understood. We now know that it helps to prevent babies from developing disorders called neural tube defects i.e. Spina Bifida.
Folic acid supplements should be taken throughout your pregnancy for the healthy development of your baby.
It is recommend that supplements should be taken at least three months before you become pregnant & up until the 12th week of pregnancy.
During pregnancy, an additional amount of iron is needed especially if you have ever had anaemia (low blood iron).
It is important to eat iron-rich foods regularly – twice a day. The most readily available iron is found in meat (haem-iron), e.g. beef, lamb, and pork, and in oily fish (e.g. mackerel and sardines).
Iron from vegetables is referred to as non-haem iron, found in cereals, pulses (peas, beans, lentils), eggs and leafy green vegetables (e.g. spinach) and broccoli. Non-haem iron is less well absorbed as haem iron
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps you to absorb iron from foods if taken at the same meal. Vitamin C is required for tissue repair & wound healing especially for the development of the baby’s teeth & bones. Citrus fruits such as oranges, strawberries, fresh fruit juices, and vegetables e.g. red peppers (capsicums) all contain Vitamin C.
Tea & Coffee contain tannins which prevents iron from being effectively absorbed in the body; so make it weak, try not to drink tea with meals or better still, opt for the decaf option.
Calcium requirements increase when you are pregnant. Calcium has many roles to play such as muscle contraction, bone formation and enzyme and hormone functioning.
Dairy produce (milk, cheese and yoghurt) and sardines or tinned salmon are good calcium-rich foods. Three servings of these foods should be taken daily during pregnancy and for the duration of breast feeding.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps you to absorb calcium & plays a role in calcium and bone metabolism.
Vitamin D can be made in the body through the action of gentle sunlight on the skin and is found in oily fish and fortified milk and even mushrooms.
Consuming enough foods rich in long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty-acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is important for the brain and eye development.
During pregnancy, 1 to 2 portions of oily fish should be consumed weekly such as mackerel, salmon & trout. Other sources include linseed, rapeseed oil and walnuts.
If lacking Omega-3 in the diet, there are Omega-3 supplements available. Again, your doctor will best advise you on supplementation during pregnancy.
The intake of some foods should limited during pregnancy including:
- Raw shellfish & under-cooked meats.
- Soft ripened cheeses or unpasteurized dairy
- All pâtés, including vegetable, liver and liver products.
- Pre-prepared salads e.g. coleslaw, egg mayo, etc.
- Caffeine – should be limited to 200mg a day (2 mugs of coffee or 3 cups of tea a day)
- Alcohol – is best avoided during pregnancy.
- Certain species of fish, such as swordfish and marlin, fresh tuna steaks, someoily fish (sardines and mackerel) and shellfish
- Fish such as tuna should be limited because of the amount of mercury, which can cause risk to your unborn baby.
- Oily fish may contain pollutants such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls in them, which if eaten too frequently may be harmful to your unborn baby.
- Raw shellfish can have harmful bacteria, viruses or toxins in them which may cause food poisoning.
A Healthy Balanced diet is important for new mums to be
Healthy eating is essential for good health and is achieved by eating a balanced diet. To ensure your body gets all the nutrients it requires you should combine a variety of foods from each of the main food groups.
The following foods should make up the majority of a balanced diet:
1. Fruit & Vegetables: Fruit & vegetables are very important for pregnant women as they contain lots of essential vitamins and minerals. Use as a snack between meals or for dessert. Vegetables should be included in both lunch and dinner and try not to over-cook them as some vitamins may be destroyed.
2. Wholegrain foods: A wide range of breads, cereals, rice and pasta are now available to add variety to your meals and snacks. Choose cereals and porridge with fruit and milk for a nutritious breakfast option. Include whole meal cereals and breads, potatoes, pasta or rice with each meal.
3. Dairy foods: Three servings of calcium-rich foods are very important throughout the duration of pregnancy. Examples include a pot of yoghurt, a glass of milk or a slice of cheese
4. Protein foods: Good source of iron and zinc and should be eaten twice a day. Take a small portion as part of your light meal (lunch) and a more substantial helping for dinner.
The content in this section is taken and/or adapted from accredited and reputable sources for nutritional and health information such as the HSE, INDI, SafeFood and FSAI