Nutrition in Pregnancy

Nutrition Series Part 2

You're pregnant and advice gets thrown at you from every angle.
Whether it be from well meaning friends, family members, or even the person standing behind you in the supermarket queue - everyone has an opinion on what is best for you; which foods to eat, which foods to avoid and which supplements to take.

So with a growing baby and being inundated with advice, where do you even start?

Firstly, lets get back to basics – Your priority is to take care of your own health and that of your baby.

Every woman experiences pregnancy differently. Even if you sail through yours never experiencing morning sickness, constipation, reflux or severe fatigue, that doesn't necessarily mean you are therefore healthier than the pregnant woman who does. You both require a well balanced diet and key nutrients to ensure the increasing demands of your own body and that of your developing baby are met. The nutritional environment in utero is now also thought to play a significant role in the health and disease risk of a child when they reach adulthood.

FIRST TRIMESTER

As mentioned, every woman experiences pregnancy differently, regardless if this is baby number 1 or baby number 5. However, there are common symptoms generally experienced in the first trimester, with varying degrees of mild to moderate severity:
Fatigue (90% experience), nausea (80% experience) and vomiting (50% experience) are the most common symptoms experienced in the first trimester.

DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS & KEY NUTRIENTS
Ginger has a long history of use in the treatment of nausea during pregnancy. Drinking ginger tea by adding ½ tsp grated ginger steeped in hot water for 5-10 mins, may help to reduce nausea. Ginger is also available in supplementation form. Studies on the safety of ginger in pregnancy, has shown doses of 1000mg/day, to be regarded as safe.
Eating small, frequent meals, to maintain blood glucose levels and also reduce nausea, is often tolerated much easier than 3 large meals a day. Particularly, if experiencing nausea or vomiting.
Folic Acid plays a key role in reducing the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida. A folic acid supplement should be taken prior to conception and for the first 3 months of pregnancy. Include dark green, leafy vegetables for sources rich in folate also.

Protein is required not only for the growth of a foetus but also the placenta, uterus and increasing breast and blood cell mass. Sources include chicken, lamb, pork, nuts, eggs.
Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia may occur during pregnancy, due to the body’s increasing demands and inadequate intake of iron rich foods or a woman’s iron status before conception. Anaemia during pregnancy has been associated with low birth weight, premature delivery and may impact brain development and neuro-cognition. Before reaching for an iron supplement, please see your GP. Iron rich foods include red meat, spinach and silverbeet.

FOODS TO AVOID
Strong odours: Avoid any food or drinks with strong odours. These can often trigger nausea.
Raw meats and raw seafood: Oysters, shellfish, sushi, under cooked meats.
Soft Cheese: Camembert, Brie, Ricotta.
Deli Meats: Salami, turkey, ham, pancetta
Eggs: Avoid raw eggs, soft boiled and poached. Ensure eggs are cooked thoroughly.
Processed foods/ High Sugar: Whilst fatigue may leave you craving chocolate or a sugary treat for a pick me up, as your blood sugar crashes, you will be left feeling even more fatigued.
Alcohol: Whilst there is much dispute on this topic, you have a developing foetus, receiving every item of food and drink you consume. You wouldn’t give your 5 year old child a glass of wine so why would you give this to your baby?

SECOND TRIMESTER

By the second trimester, symptoms of fatigue and nausea have generally subsided, due to a decrease in hCG levels and changes in oestrogen and progesterone. An increase in weight gain will also be noticeable and back pain may develop. (For those mothers who are concerned about gaining weight – you will gain weight! This is healthy. What isn’t healthy, is attempting to prevent weight gain in order to have a smaller baby or easier labour. Both untrue!!)

During this trimester, the gums also become spongier and may bleed after brushing. Pregnancy hormones also act to relax the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract; thereby slowing the transit time of food and increasing the chance of constipation. Nasal congestion may also occur due to the effects of increased oestrogen and blood volume. Vaginal secretions will also increase, changing pH levels, leaving you much more susceptible to thrush.

DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS & KEY NUTRIENTS
Protein: Required for the growth of the baby and the woman’s own requirements.
Vitamin D: Required for normal brain development and structure and for bone growth and mineralization, of the foetus. Our best source of Vitamin D comes from the sun. Aim for 10 mins of exposure a day.
Iron: Demand for iron increases due to increased tissue growth, red blood cell mass and haemoglobin production. Iron stores can be monitored through blood tests and supplementation given where required. Iron rich foods include spinach, silverbeet, red meat.
Vitamin C: Combining Iron and vitamin C rich foods, aids iron absorption. Include berries, lemon, oranges, capsicum and kiwifruit.
Water: Staying hydrated is important for many bodily functions and may help to relieve constipation.
Fibre: Including both soluble and insoluble fibre, may also be beneficial in regulating bowel movements and preventing constipation. Dietary sources include fruit, vegetables, seeds and legumes.

FOODS TO AVOID
Coffee and Tea contain Polyphenols, which inhibit iron absorption. Avoid consuming with iron rich meals.
Raw and undercooked meats, raw seafood, raw and undercooked eggs, deli meats, alcohol.
Sugar/soft drinks/processed foods contribute to thrush, by increasing urinary sugar, which in turn encourages the growth of yeast in the vagina. Please see your Doctor if you are experiencing this.

THIRD TRIMESTER

As you now begin the final trimester of your pregnancy, you not only feel incredibly uncomfortable, you may be experiencing reflux (80% of women experience during pregnancy), hot flushes due to your baby radiating heat, swelling of the ankles, hands and face (resulting from an increase in body fluids and sodium retention) and leg cramps.

DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS & KEY NUTRIENTS
Magnesium: Studies have shown women who experience pregnancy associated cramps, have lower levels of serum magnesium. Whilst supplementation may be required, dietary sources include green leafy vegetables, avocado, brown rice and bananas.
Essential Fatty Acids: are required for the growth of the brain and eye tissues. Studies have also shown a high intake of EFA’s whilst pregnant, improves motor and cognitive development. Choose salmon, snapper and sardines, which are low in mercury.

FOODS TO AVOID

Avoid chocolate and coffee, which may reduce lower oesophageal sphincter tone, resulting in symptoms of heartburn, acid regurgitation and nausea. Avoid large meal sizes.
Raising the head of the bed, may reduce the risk of stomach acid entering the oesophagus, thereby reducing the risk of reflux and acid regurgitation.
Raw and undercooked meats, raw seafood, raw and undercooked eggs, deli meats, alcohol.

 

If you are experiencing any symptoms during pregnancy that you have concerns about, please see your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes or Pre-Eclampsia, a tailored dietary program for additional support may be required.

- Janine Watkins, The Holistic Nutritionist

To connect with Janine, click here to find out more about The Holistic Nutritionist

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Love,
Cathy

 

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