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PARENTING PLUS MORE

Nutrition for Expecting Moms

"Proper nutrition so you don't eat too little or too much"
By: Ma. Jocelyn A. Niere-Quidlat, MD, FPPSNutrition for Expecting Moms

Being pregnant is such an exciting phase of a woman’s life. Proper nutrition during this period is a great priority.

The first trimester of pregnancy is crucial since it is the time when the baby’s organs and systems develop. The energy used to create these systems comes from the nutrients in the mother’s circulation and later on from the lining of the uterus. A pregnant woman not only has to satisfy her own nutritional requirements but also that of the growing fetus.

In the early part of the 21st century, it was noted that almost half of the pregnant women had weight gain above the guidelines (Catalano, 2007). Obesity is associated with higher risks such as:

  • hypertension during pregnancy,
  • preeclampsia,
  • gestational diabetes,
  • infants that are large for gestational age, and
  • Caesarean delivery.

On the other hand, a number of studies of the long-term consequences of children born to undernourished mothers were done. Among the findings were:

  • adults who were shorter, lighter,
  • higher incidence of decreased glucose tolerance,
  • hypertension,
  • reactive airway disease,
  • dyslipidemia,
  • coronary heart disease,
  • increased brain anomalies,
  • schizophrenia, and
  • personality disorders.

Despite those figures, it is not wise to take prenatal vitamins without the doctor’s advice because it may lead to intakes more than the necessary recommended allowances, causing nutrient toxicities during pregnancy. Among those with possible toxic effects are iron, zinc, selenium, vitamins A, B6, C, and D. 

  • Around 5 to 6 grams of protein is deposited per day and this amounts to 1000 grams during the second half of pregnancy. Animal sources of protein are preferred like meat, milk, eggs, cheese, poultry, and fish since they supply amino acids in optimal combinations.
  • A complete balanced diet has all needed nutrients... except for iron. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that 27 mg of iron supplement be given to pregnant women. Iron supplementation is not necessary during the first four months of pregnancy because the iron requirements are minimal and supplementation may aggravate nausea and vomiting. After the first trimester, taking the iron supplement at bedtime or on an empty stomach helps in better absorption and decreases stomach upset.
  • A pregnant woman retains around 30 grams of calcium, most of which is used by the fetus late in pregnancy. Most of the total maternal calcium is found in the bone and may be used for the growth of the fetus.
  • The recommended daily zinc intake for pregnant women is approximately 12 mg. Severe lack of zinc results in poor appetite, suboptimal growth, and poor wound healing.
  • Pregnant women have increased iodine loss through the kidneys. There is also increased the requirement for fetal development. Iodized salt and bread products are recommended during pregnancy. Severe iodine deficiency in mothers has resulted in babies with cretinism, characterized by multiple severe neurological defects.
  • A lack of folic acid results in neural-tube defects. A daily intake of 400 ug of folic acid during pregnancy may prevent around half of all neural tube defects.­
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