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Pregnancy, Nutrition and Exercise

Updated on September 11, 2010

Proper nutrition in pregnancy is required

  • to maintain maternal health
  • to meet the needs of growing fetus
  • for the strength and vitality required during labour
  • for successful lactation

Since there is increased calorie requirement due to growth of maternal tissues, fetus, placenta and basal metabolic rate, an extra 300-400 calorie over non-pregnancy state is required from second half of pregnancy. The pregnancy diet should be light, nutritious, easily digestible and rich in proteins, minerals and vitamins. Supplementary iron is recommended from 16 weeks onward as the dietary iron can't meet the daily requirement. Also, as the essential vitamins are lacking in foods or are destroyed during cooking, supplementary vitamins are to be given daily from 20th week onwards. Besides these, a sound diet will provide all other nutrients.

A nutritionally sound diet during pregnancy must ensure that you are getting food from all the following major five groups:

1) Carbohydrates

Grain products provide carbohydrates, your baby's main source of energy. Try more unrefined or complex carbohydrates like brown rice, whole grain bread, peas and potatoes since they provide fibre, essential B vitamins, trace minerals and protein as well. Avoid nutritionally weak, simple or white bread, cookies, white rice, cake, syrups and refined cereals.

2)Fruits and Vegetables

They provide important vitamins and minerals and aid in digestion as well. Vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B and calcium which are required for normal organogenesis are provided by fruits and vegetables.

3) Proteins

Proteins are body building nutrient which are essential for normal fetal growth. Skimmed milk, yoghurt, lean meat, eggs, fish, tofu, nuts, dried beans are rich source of protein.

Daily dietary allowances for woman of reproductive age and pregnancy

Pregnancy second half
Protein, fat, carbohydrate
50 gm
65 gm
Meat, fish, poultry, dairy product
18 mg
30 gm
Meat, egg, grains
500 mg
1500 mg
Dairy products
12 mg
15 mg
Meat, egg, seafood
Vitamin A
5000 I.U
8000 I.U
Vegetables, liver, fruits
Vitamin D
200 I.U
400 I.U
Dairy products
1.1 I.U
1.5 mg
1.1 I.U
1.5 mg
Meat, liver, grains
Nicotinic Acid
15 mg
17 mg
Meat, nuts, cereals
Ascorbic Acid
60 mg
70 mg
Citrus fruits, tomato
Folic Acid
200 microgm
400 microgm
Leafy vegetables, liver
Vitamin B12
2 microgm
2 microgm
Animal proteins
It's not an absolute recommendation but simply a guide

Good Fast Foods

  • Yoghurt
  • Raisins
  • Vegetable salad
  • Fortified fruit juice
  • Low fat mozzarella cheese sticks

Avoid following fast foods

  • Instant noodles

  • Pre-prepared frozen meals. They contain large amount of salt and fat
  • Confectionary items like cakes, pastries, chocalates for they have calories for low nutritional value.
  • Sodas

4)Dairy products

These help build your baby's bones and teeth. In case you have lactose intolerance, lactose free milk and calcium fortified fruit juice help you get required calcium. At least half liter of milk should be taken to meet the daily requirement of calcium.

5) Fat

Limiting fat consumption to no more than 30 percent of your daily calories is a wise decision. Otherwise you may add pounds. Majority of fat should be animal type since they contain vitamins A and D.

Adequate hydration during pregnancy has several benefits; healthy pregnancy, avoidance of early labor, decrease urinary tract infections and constipation. It's better to avoid or limit caffeine containing beverages like coffee, tea and soft drinks.

Smoking and alcohol is a complete no.

If you feel sick of taking health foods and can't resist temptation to have tasty foods, you should be cautious enough not to take food full of preservatives as they may have adverse effects on fetal development. (See box for good and bad fast foods.)

A little extra care on what you eat during pregnancy ensures both yours and your baby's health.

Contraindications of exercise during pregnancy

Before starting an exercise routine, a pregnant woman should be evaluated by a doctor to avoid any risk or injury or harm to both mother and baby.

Absolute contraindications: These are conditions in which a pregnant woman should not exercise at all.

  • Heart disease
  • Multiple gestation
  • Placenta previa
  • History of miscarriage
  • Incompetent cervix

Relative contraindications: Can exercise only with approval of physician.

  • Thyroid disorder
  • Palpitations
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • History of intrauterine growth retardation
  • Hypertension

Exercise and Pregnancy

Each woman is different. Exercise regimen should be designed according to individual needs. A sensible exercise during pregnancy has many benefits. Exercise

  • reduces the severity of back pain
  • improves digestion and reduces constipation
  • enhances prenatal weight management efforts
  • helps reduce postpartum belly
  • may help prevent conditions like deep vein thrombosis, gestational diabetes and hypertension.
  • reduces stress and anxiety levels

Basic precautions for exercising when pregnant:

A simple guideline is that a pregnant woman should stop exercising when she perceives fatigue and avoid exhaustion. This 'training to tolerance' is not aimed to improve strength but emphasize on toning and light-moderate exercise throughout pregnancy. Some tips are:

  • Duration of exercise should be less than 30 minutes otherwise blood flow to uterus gets compromised.
  • Long exercises lying on back should be avoided
  • Avoid prolonged motionless standing as it may cause deep vein thrombosis.
  • Intensity of exercise (light to moderate) should be adjusted in such a way that you feel fully recovered within 15-20 minutes after completing the exercise plan.
  • Adequate hydration and sound diet plan.

Specific exercise regimen should be determined based on physician's and fitness expert's opinion.


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    • steve-bc-ca profile image

      steve-bc-ca 7 years ago from West Kelowna, BC, Canada

      It must take an enormous amount of willpower to avoid many of these fast foods while being pregnant never mind watching calories. If only my wife could have control her cravings when I was driving to Max for Hogandoss at 2am.

      A lot of really good information in your hub. Thanks