For a pregnant woman to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy, she needs to have a healthy eating pattern which contains a balanced diet consisting of all necessary classes of food (Carbohydrate, fats and oil, vitamins, minerals, protein and water) to help the mother and baby develop properly throughout the pregnancy period.
But what really are the types of food the mother should eat during this sensitive period putting into consideration their cravings for a variety of food. Let’s take a look at each class of food, their functions and what they do or provide for our baby and the mother during this period.
Starch and sugar get broken down into simple sugars like glucose, which pass easily across the placenta and provide energy to support your growing baby during pregnancy. Many carbohydrates also provide other important nutrient for the baby’s development including calcium, iron and Vit B. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy in our diet. Examples are Rice, Bread, Potatoes, Yam, cake etc.
NB: Cooked rice at room temperature can be a breeding ground for bacteria and make you ill. To minimize any risk, cook these food ready for when you are about to eat them or you reheat them before consuming them.
During pregnancy, the protein you eat helps your baby grow normally while contributing to other important areas of their development which includes:
- Growth and repair of new and damaged tissues that help in the making of skin, muscle, hair, fingernails etc.
- Making anti bodies for their immune system.
- Helping muscles function properly.
- Transporting oxygen through their blood.
NB: The pregnant woman needs to increase her Protein consumption due to the various changes her body is going through. A healthy intake of protein during pregnancy supports the baby’s growth and helps their rapidly multiplying cells to function normally. It is also important to eat a variety of protein sources because different proteins provide different amino acids. Examples of protein giving foods are chicken, red meat, fish, eggs, beans etc.
- VITAMINS AND MINERALS.
This class of food contains folic acid, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Vitamin D, Omega-3, Fatty acids, Vitamin B, Vitamin C etc.
- Vitamin C: It helps to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia, intra-uterine growth restriction, maternal anemia etc.
- Folic Acid: If you do not get enough folic acid before and during pregnancy, your baby is at higher risk for neural tube defect (these are serious birth defects that affect the spinal cord or brain and may lead to death). Examples of food that contain folic acid are Rice, pasta, orange juice, enriched bread, spinach etc.
- Iron: This is a mineral the baby uses to make hemoglobin, a protein that helps to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. You need twice as much iron during pregnancy than you did before pregnancy. When you are pregnant, your body needs iron to make blood so it can carry it to every part of the body while your baby needs Iron to make its own blood. Poultry, sea-food and green vegetables are some examples of food that contain iron.
Some of the complications of not getting enough Iron during pregnancy are:
Infections, Anemia, Fatigue, Premature baby and low birth weight of the baby after delivery etc.
- Calcium: This helps your baby’s bones, teeth, heart, muscle and nerves develop during and after pregnancy. Some source of calcium are Milk, almonds, Dates, orange juice, fruits like strawberries, tangerines, kiwis are also rich in calcium. Your doctor may also recommend calcium citrate supplements to boost your level of calcium.
NB: If you don’t get enough calcium during pregnancy, your blood takes it from your bones and gives it to your baby which can lead to health conditions like osteoporosis later in life i.e. your bones become thin and breaks easily.
- Vitamin D: Helps your body absorb calcium. Also helps your body nerves, muscles and immune system function properly, hereby helping your immune system protect you and your baby against infection. Some vitamin D rich foods are eggs, dairy products, cereals, cheese, soy milk, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines etc. You can also get vitamin D from skin coming in direct contact with sunlight.
- FAT AND OIL.
They support your baby’s brain and eye development both before and after birth. Fat also help the placenta and other tissues grow and some fats may also help to prevent preterm and low birth weight. It can be found in various foods like meat, fish, eggs, vegetables. Etc. They also serve as source of energy and temperature regulation.
This is necessary for digestive processes as it helps to maintain the body PH at the right level and helps to sustain the body fluids. You need more water that an average person in order to form amniotic fluid, produce extra blood, build new tissue, carry nutrient to all parts in the body, enhance digestion, flush out waste and toxins from the body etc.
- TRANSPORT NUTRIENT TO BABY: Water helps the body to absorb enough nutrient and transport vitamins and minerals from the food the mother consumes and transport it to the fetus.
- DECREASE YOUR RISK OF INFECTIONS AND DISCOMFORT: It prevents urinary tract infections, constipation, hemorrhoids by staying hydrated. Drinking enough water also helps to present an ideal level of amniotic fluid in the body and also helps fetal kidney function by dissolving waste and flushing it out from the kidney. Keeps your urine diluted and moves solid waste speedily down the digestive path.If your trips to the bathroom are frequent and your urine is pale and colorless, then your water consumption is on track.
- PREVENT DEHYDRATION AND MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER: For some women, drinking water helps to alleviate morning sickness, heartburn and indigestion. Staying properly dehydrated becomes even more important especially during 3rd trimester because dehydration can trigger contractions which can lead to preterm labor. Water can help to keep your body’s cooling system running smoothly by dispersing Sulphur heat in form of sweat to prevent overheating. It also minimizes swelling of the feet or ankles during pregnancy.
OMOSEBI OLUWASEFUNMI ESTHER
MERCY GROUP CLINICS, ABEOKUTA, OGUN STATE.