There is no doubt that pregnancy is a special condition that calls for special care for expectant mothers. During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through drastic changes. Often, the body goes through hormonal, physiological and physical changes in preparation for the coming baby (Carroll, 2009, p. 327).
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Medical professionals say that during this time, every expectant mother must nourish their body with the right nutrients and in sufficient quantities for her own health and that of the unborn baby. It is extremely important for expectant mothers to start consulting health experts early enough for the advice on nutrition for a healthy pregnancy. The following sections give general guidelines on what is expected of expectant mothers in terms of nutrition as well as the do’s and don’ts during pregnancy
Normally, the nutritional requirements of the body increase during pregnancy. Though a pregnant woman does not necessarily need to consume food for two individuals, the body requires an increased intake of both macro and micronutrients including proteins, fluids, calories, iron, folic acid, and calcium (Jill & Romm, 2011, p. 34). The intake of these nutrients must feature in the additional daily requirements that pregnant women need.
A good and balanced diet is the most appropriate way through which a pregnant woman can meet the additional nutritional needs. One can ensure a balanced diet by eating a variety of foods that supply proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
One of the most important nutrients a pregnant woman needs is folic acid. This is a B-group vitamin that helps in the correct development of cells of the unborn baby as well as the placenta (Whiney et al., 2010, p. 309). It also helps in preventing brain and heart conditions in babies. Pregnant mothers should at least take 400 mg of this nutrient daily. The foods rich in folic acid include animal products such as beef, chicken and liver, vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, fruit juice like orange and grapefruit. Pulses and cereals also are good sources of folic acid.
Pregnant women also require minerals and trace elements with the most important being Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Manganese and Zinc. Calcium helps in the formation of strong bones and teeth while magnesium is needed for cell multiplication and development in the fetus (Pillitteri, 2009, p. 299). Pregnant women should consume about 1.5 grams of calcium daily and 300 mg of magnesium daily. Fruits and vegetables such as fortified orange juice, milk and kale as well as pulses are good sources of calcium. Bananas, chocolate, pulses and milk on the other hand are good sources of magnesium.
Iron mainly helps in the manufacture of red blood cells while manganese helps in developing the hearing system. Zinc on the other hand helps in the development of major organs such as the brain and pancreas. Pregnant women should take 30 mg of iron, 2.5 mg of manganese and 10 mg of zinc daily. Fruits such as strawberries, vegetables such as spinach, pulses and animal products such liver are good sources of iron. Strawberries, kale, and cereal are good sources of manganese while watermelon seed and most animal proteins are good sources of zinc (Carroll, 2009, p. 328).
During pregnancy, the body needs a higher quantity of vitamins including, vitamins B-9 and B-6 and Vitamin D, and C (Jean, 2008, p. 115). Vitamin D helps in bone and teeth formation while vitamin C helps in fighting infections. Most fruits are good sources of vitamins. Other sources include animal protein, cereals, pulses and vegetables.
Proteins and carbohydrates
Proteins help in the formation of new tissues and the reconstruction of old ones. 80 grams of proteins is appropriate during pregnancy (Debruyne, 2011, p. 43). The richest source of proteins is animal products such as meat products and eggs. Carbohydrates on the other hand help in providing the body with energy. Cereals and vegetables such as potatoes are good sources of carbohydrates.
Taking a balanced diet in pregnancy varies from one person to another. So long as the foods taken contain the right nutrients in the right quantities, there isn’t really a specific formula to apply. On a typical day for instance, a pregnant woman may take oatmeal, cinnamon and sugar, grapefruit and low-milk during breakfast. Lunch may include baked potato, chicken, cheese, orange and a glass of low-fat milk. Dinner may include green beans, canned peaches, low-fat milk and an apple.
Exercise is very crucial to proper circulation of blood in the body of a pregnant woman and regulation of body weight. Exercise also helps in relieving backache, reducing constipation, and ensuring better sleep. There is also sufficient evidence that exercise helps a pregnant woman prepare for birth (Jill & Romm, 2011, p. 40). It is advisable to discuss exercise options with a physician but generally, simple household chores such as ironing clothes and taking short walks are appropriate during pregnancy.
It is important for any pregnant woman to bear in mind that the health of the unborn baby depends on her health habits. Besides nutrition, pregnant women should drink a lot of water, between 8-10 glasses per day, avoid alcohol, nicotine, drugs and caffeine and always watch for any unusual signs. Such signs include vaginal bleeding, abnormal contractions and premature rapture of membranes (Debruyne, 2011, p. 51).
The most important thing for pregnant women however is to ensure she makes regular visits to their doctor for check ups and advice on nutrition, exercise and lifestyle. Information contained in this brochure is general advice and that is why it is advisable for pregnant women to seek precise medical advice form qualified physicians.
Carroll, J. (2009). Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity. New York: Cengage Learning.
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Debruyne, L. (2011). Nutrition & Diet Therapy. New York: Cengage Learning.
Jean, C. (2008). Handbook of Nutrition and Pregnancy. New York: Springer.
Jill, A. & Romm, D. (2011). The Natural Pregnancy Book: Herbs, Nutrition, and Other Holistic Choices. London: Thomson Learning.
Pillitteri, A. (2009). Maternal and Child Health Nursing: Care of the Childbearing and Childrearing. Los Angeles: Francis & Taylor.
Whiney, E. et al (2010). Nutrition for Health and Health Care. London: Sage Publication.