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Why is it important to eat healthy when I'm pregnant?

Updated on November 20, 2015
With all the changes that a pregnant woman must go through, it is important that she continues to eat foods high in fiber and different types of nutrients throughout her pregnancy.
With all the changes that a pregnant woman must go through, it is important that she continues to eat foods high in fiber and different types of nutrients throughout her pregnancy. | Source

Vocabulary

A fetus is an unborn baby.

The placenta is an organ that allows the transfer of the maternal nutrients to the fetus via the umbilical cord.

An embryo is what the fetus is called during the first trimester.

Nutrition and Pregnancy

Growth of the fetus may be affected by various maternal factors, such as, the ingestion, digestion, and absorption of nutrients by the mother during pregnancy. Before the birth of the fetus, the fetus is completely dependent on the processes of it's mother and on the maternal metabolism of the absorbed nutrients and the transfer of nutrients through the placenta. It is important for the growth of the baby that the placenta be intact and of good size.

The mother's nutritional choices continue to affect the child even after birth through breastfeeding and health for optimal infant care. Breastfeeding, preparation for a future healthy pregnancy, and the feeding of the infant are all affected by the mother's nutrition. Plus a well-nourished mother is better able to cope with with all of the demands of infant care.

Nutrition and How it Affects the Outcome of Pregnancy

The first trimester of a pregnancy is the most critical point in the pregnancy concerning lifestyle and nutrition. During the first trimester the embryo develops and it is in this time period that the formation of all organs begins, such as the heart, brain, liver, and intestinal tract.

Because the first trimester is so important, and many women do not realize that they are pregnant until they are well into their first trimester, it is extremely important to begin preconception health and nutrition is so important. Therefor if a woman is planning on conceiving, she needs to begin changing her lifestyle and diet before she become pregnant. Some doctors suggest taking pre-natal vitamins up to six months before conceiving. As for women who were not originally planning a pregnancy, it is equally important that they change their lifestyle immediately and make sure that they are receiving the proper nutrients.


Foods high in Folate:

  • dark leafy greens
  • edamame
  • sunflower seeds
  • beans
  • asparagus
  • peanuts
  • liver

The Importance of Folate in Pregnancy

Adequate nutrition can help to prevent some birth defects, for example, spina bifida is associated with inadequate folate intake. Spina Bifida is a neural tube birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. Neural tube defects are among the most common and the most serious birth defects. Vitamin B12 affects the absorption of folate, and newly pregnant women should make sure to ingest plenty of vitamin B12 and folate rich foods.

Women who had inadequate folic intake and increased plasma levels of homocysteine have an increased risk in delivering a baby with Down syndrome.

Foods high in Vitamin B12:

  • liver
  • clams
  • cheese
  • fish
  • beef
  • cheese

How Can I Prevent Cleft Palate while Pregnant

An orofacial cleft is an abnormal opening of the lips and/or palate, and appears to be related to inadequate intakes of B vitamins: folic acid, thiamin, niacin, and pyridoxine. Vitamin E levels also tend to be lower in mothers of children affected with clefts.

Therefor, to attempt to prevent a cleft lip in her child, a pregnant woman should make sure to eat a well balanced diet with plenty of leafy greens, eggs, whole grains, nuts, and other highly nutritious/low processed foods.

Women in Bangladesh attend a pre-natal education class in which they learn proper nutrition, hygiene, and health tips for their pregnancy.
Women in Bangladesh attend a pre-natal education class in which they learn proper nutrition, hygiene, and health tips for their pregnancy. | Source

Where can I Learn More About Pre-Natal Nutrition

There are many government programs in the United States that are put into place to support proper nutrition for pregnant women and young children.

  • Women, Infants, and Children support low income families in proper nutrition through classes, and vouchers to supplement the income of the families. They also offer breast feeding classes.
  • Local governments have specific programs put in to place that run on a local level, such as baby pantries and organizations that support nutrition and pre-natal medical treatment.

There are usually local non-governmental agencies that run on local levels to support women and children as well, places to check for these organizations would be:

  • WIC offices, even if you are not eligible for WIC assistance they can point you in the direction of other places that can help.
  • Local education centers offer programs to educate newly pregnant women on nutrition.
  • Check with local colleges. They sometimes have non-credit nutrition and health classes available.
  • Birth centers, OBGYNs, and hospitals all offer classes on proper nutrition, hygiene, and health before, during, and after pregnancy.They will also have information on classes by third parties.

Did you take any pre-natal education classes while pregnant?

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What can I eat while I'm pregnant?

A store shelf showing different types of vitamins. Even if a woman eats a well balanced diet, it is still suggested that she takes high quality prenatal vitamins during her pregnancy.
A store shelf showing different types of vitamins. Even if a woman eats a well balanced diet, it is still suggested that she takes high quality prenatal vitamins during her pregnancy. | Source

What vitamins should I take when I'm pregnant?

However, even though the body can increase absorption of nutrients, it is still important for a pregnant woman to maintain a healthy diet and take her pre-natal supplement. It is important to remember that the pre-natal vitamins are insurance against low nutrient level and should not be solely relied upon.

During pregnancy and while breast feeding it is important to eat a well balanced diet that is high in unprocessed fresh food, which has higher levels of nutrients. The suggested daily food intake for a pregnant woman is: 3 cups or more of milk, 2 servings of veggies or fruits high in vitamin C, 1 serving of dark green, leafy veggies, 2 servings of other fruits and veggies, 3 or more servings of 6 oz of protein, and 6 or more serving of whole grain cereal and bread.

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