Pre-conception nutrition is a vital step in preparing for pregnancy.
A mother's pre-pregnancy weight has a direct influence on her baby's birthweight. Women who are underweight are more likely to have small babies at the time of delivery, even if they gain the same amount of weight as a mother to be who falls in the average range for weight. Studies have also shown that overweight women have increased risks for gestational diabetes or high blood pressure. Consult with your Methodist Women's Center provider about whether you need to adjust your weight before becoming pregnant.
Your Methdodist Physicians Clinic Women's Center OB/GYN can answer your nutritional questions and partner with you in your overall dietary plan throughout your pregnancy. It is recommended to select foods emphasizing the nutritional intake of grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein. Although not a food group, some oils, such those from nuts, contain essential nutrients and can also be included.
Folic acid, Iron and Calcium are key nutrients that should be included in your pre-conception diet and continued into your pregnancy.
The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid each day. Folic acid is a nutrient found in some green leafy vegetables, most berries, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified breakfast cereals and some vitamin supplements.
Folic acid is most beneficial during the first 28 days after conception, when most neural tube defects occur. Since many women do not realize they are pregnant before 28 days, folic acid should be taken prior to conception and continue through pregnancy.
When planning to become pregnant, you can prepare your body for the needs of your fetus by increasing your iron stores. Good sources of iron include meats, poultry and fish — however, check with your provider before consuming certain types of fish, as some may contain high levels of mercury. Leafy green vegetables and legumes such as lima beans and green peas are healthy options, along with yeast-leavened whole wheat bread and rolls.
The recommended calcium intake for most non-pregnant women is 1,000 milligrams and an additional 400 milligrams is needed during pregnancy.
A woman needs to add about 300 extra calories each day once she is expecting in order to meet the needs of her body and that of her developing baby. These calories should come from a balanced diet with sweets and fats kept to a minimum. A healthy diet during pregnancy can also help to minimize some pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and constipation.
Fluid intake is also an important part of healthy pregnancy nutrition. Women can take in enough fluids by drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water each day, in addition to the fluids in juices and soups. Talk with your Methodist Womens Center OB/GYN or midwife about continuing a healthy exercise plan as well as restricting your intake of caffeine and artificial sweeteners. All alcohol should be avoided in pregnancy.