There are many things for pregnant women to worry about, nutrition being only one of them. Pregnant women are under an incredible amount of pressure to do everything right for their baby, and it might often seem that everyone has an opinion – and of course, there is a reason for that. Pregnant women have an enormous responsibility to face, and it is hard to know just where to look for trustworthy information.
Nutrition for pregnant women is incredibly important, both for the pregnant woman herself and for her future child – the food that a pregnancy woman eats can affect both the development of her fetus, and how she experiences her pregnancy. The foods which pregnant women choose to eat provide all of the nutrition and energy for her fetus, as well as supporting her own somewhat changing health needs. The concept of “eating for two” is not quite accurate, since the needs of pregnancy are not quite the same as easting for a whole separate person – and many of the restrictions and specific dietary needs of pregnant women are over looked in that analogy – however the concept itself is more or less true. Pregnant women are eating more and differently to support the second potential person inside them.
Pregnant women do need to eat more, and should expect to gain some weight. Twenty-five pounds or somewhat more should not be surprising for healthy women. Individual weight gain can vary, with overweight women generally needing to gain less weight and thinner women often finding they need more to support their energy levels. In most cases, neither of these is wrong. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy, however, should be avoided as it will not do either the baby or the woman any good.
A good way to think of where that extra nutrition for pregnant women should be coming from is thinking about what the fetus needs as it is growing. The fetus needs minerals and vitamins for its growth, particularly calcium, iron and folic acid. Drinking an extra glass of milk each day, early in pregnancy, is a good start and all of the increase most women need in the first few months. In the later months, an additional piece of fruit or bread, along with the milk, are healthy ways to meet this extra energy need and provide calcium.
Many pregnant women find that having three small, plain, light meals a day and then snacking frequently helps them maintain energy better and suffer fewer of the digestive discomforts associated with pregnancy, such as nausea and heartburn. In thinking of snacks, fruit and healthy dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese are much better than pastries and other treats. Pastries often have hidden calories and fats in them, and do not often support the nutritional needs of pregnant women particularly well.
Pregnant women do need some additional fat – particularly important to nutrition for pregnant women are Omega-3 fatty acids. These are also somewhat controversial as the toxicity of the fish which are such a good source of Omega-3s has been called into question. Pregnant women might, however, try to eat lower toxicity fish which are high in fatty oils in moderation to support brain development. Sardines, mackerel, and wild caught salmon are often viewed as good choices when consumed in moderation.
Pregnant women should avoid alcohol. Alcohol has been thoroughly shown to affect the development of fetuses negatively, especially when consumed in excess during the early months of pregnancy. Some doctors may allow some moderate alcohol consumption for pregnant women, but normally in the form of a small amount of wine on occasion.