Good nutrition is always important, but especially so during pregnancy when you are also nourishing your growing baby. Meeting your nutritional needs and staying active during pregnancy are essential for you and your baby's health now and in the future. It is very important to have a well balanced diet, this helps alleviate some of the unpleasant physical symptoms that are often associated with pregnancy.
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Below are a few things to keep in mind during your pregnancy:
All women who are pregnant or who could become pregnant should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day to reduce the risk of having a baby affected with Spina Bifida, anencephaly, or other neural tube defects (abnormal or incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord). Folic acid is also essential for protein synthesis, the formation of new cells, and the production of new blood. It is required for increasing a pregnant woman's blood supply and for the growth of both maternal and fetal tissues.
Sources of folic acid include green, leafy vegetables, oranges, bananas, milk, dry beans and peas, grains, and organ meats (such as chicken livers). It may be difficult to consume the required amount of folic acid through diet, so your doctor also may suggest taking a vitamin containing folic acid.
All meals should include the five basic food groups. Daily you should consume 6-11 servings of grain products, 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit, 4-6 servings of milk and milk products, and 3-4 servings of meat and protein foods. Foods low in fat and high in fiber are important to a healthy diet.
Women of childbearing age should eat a diet rich in iron.
During pregnancy, extra fluids (water is best) are needed to increase blood volume. Six to eight glasses of water, fruit juice, or milk are encouraged daily.
Maternal phenylketonurea (PKU): women diagnosed with PKU as infants have an increased risk for delivering babies with mental retardation. However, this adverse outcome can be prevented when mothers adhere to a low phenylalanine diet before conception and throughout pregnancy.
Women who do not gain enough weight have an increased risk for delivering low birth weight babies (less than 2500 gm, or five and a half pounds), putting the newborn at risk for multiple health complications.
40% of U.S. women are overweight or obese. Women who are overweight before becoming pregnant should not gain as much weight as women who are normal or underweight. Your health care provider can discuss with you the amount of weight you should gain during pregnancy.
Excessive pregnancy weight gain is associated with large infants and abnormally large heard circumferences, with adverse outcomes for mothers and infants.
Weight loss before pregnancy reduces the risks of neural tube defects, preterm delivery, diabetes, cesarean section, hypertension and thromboembolic disease.
If a woman gains too much weight during her pregnancy, she may have a longer labor and a more difficult delivery, backache, leg pain, varicose veins, and extreme tiredness.
Being underweight or obese puts pregnant women at higher risk of pre-term labor and delivery.