“Of all the rights of a woman, the greatest is to be a mother”, so said the influential writer and linguist Lin Yutang. But we must not forget that every right comes with a responsibility. A pregnant woman has the charge of nurturing the baby; who is entirely dependent upon her for survival. Diet and nourishment are central and should be taken seriously throughout the pregnancy.
Unlike the common saying that you need to eat for two when you are pregnant, the basics of healthy eating remains the same. However, due to the increased physiological needs the basal requirement of certain nutrients increases and they deserve special attention. Here are the most important ones that you need to keep track of.
Folate and folic acid:
Folic acid is a B vitamin that is naturally found in fruits, vegetables and legumes. Its synthetic form is called folic acid, and is taken as a supplement. Folate is important to prevent developmental problems in the baby’s nervous system (a.k.a. neural tube defects). Women need an additional 600-800 micrograms of folic acid a day for three months before conceiving and during first trimester of pregnancy. Its sources are leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, dried beans, liver, soya products and nuts like almond.
Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth and is vital for bothmother and baby. It helps in normal development of the nervous system and blood circulation. Calcium absorption rate naturally increases during pregnancy and therefore the requirement remains the same as for non-pregnant women, i.e. 1000 mg. per day. However, in teenage pregnancy the calcium requirements are higher, approx. 1300 mg per day. Dairy products are the best sources of calcium as they have a higher iron absorption ratio. Broccoli, kale, fortified juices and breakfast cereals are other sources.
Vitamin D improves calcium and phosphorous activity thus strengthening the bones and teeth. Deficiency of vitamin D during pregnancy may cause severe skeletal deformities at birth and may even have an impact on birth weight. The daily Vit D requirement is 400 IU of supplement and a decent exposure to morning sun. Fortified dairy and orange juice, eggs and fish liver oil are good sources of vitamin D. Fatty fishes are also rich in vitamin D, but the intake has to be limited to twice a week, as sea food poses an increased risk of mercury toxicity during pregnancy.
Protein is critical during pregnancy as it supports the baby’s growth and the changes in mother’s body such as increased breast tissue and blood volume. The protein requirement significantly increases towards the end of second trimester and remains high till the end of gestation. Dietary sources of protein include lean meat, mature legumes, dairy, soy and nuts.
Iron requirement increases significantly during the second and third trimester as the volume of mother’s blood increases to meet the needs of the placenta and a growing baby. Iron is also important for a strong immune system. Common symptoms of iron deficiency are constant fatigue, decreased blood volume and poor haemoglobin profile. Including iron rich foods like chicken, fish (in moderation) and whole eggs will help meet the daily iron requirements. Vegetarian food sources of iron include legumes, nuts and seeds, dried fruits and whole grains.
Zinc is important for the normal synthesis of DNA, the basic building block of cells. It is therefore, extremely important to maintain sufficient zinc intake to support the rapid cell growth that occurs during pregnancy. It also improves immunity, accelerates wound healing, and is required for strong bones and normal brain development. Fortified cereals and meat are good sources of zinc. Other sources include shellfish, poultry, beans, whole dried grains and dairy products.
Iodine is important during pregnancy as it is essential for the baby’s brain and nervous system development. The requirement of iodine nearly doubles during pregnancy and can be easily fulfilled by adding iodine rich food in daily diet. Dairy products, eggs, vegetables and sea foods are good sources; however the actual amount of iodine in these foods is dependent upon the real iodine content of the soil or water they are grown in. Although fish and other sea foods are good sources of iodine, their intake should be carefully monitored to avoid mercury toxicity. Iodine fortified foods like iodized salt is the easiest and most safe way to meet daily requirements.
CADANGAN SET HAMIL SHAKLEE
- Vitalea with iron (multivitamin/multimineral)
- B complex
- Ostematrix (kalsium)
- Vitamin c
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Dr. Meenakshi Attrey , B.Sc., M.Sc, B.Ed.
Dietitian & Nutritionist