Nutrition Before and After Pregnancy

May 9, 2012 at 8:29 pm Leave a comment

by D’Andra Bingham, MDImage

Most moms to be will change some things about their nutrition while they are pregnant.  In fact, dietary changes should actually begin prior to conception.  One of the most important things to do prior to pregnancy is to begin taking a multi-vitamin or prenatal vitamin with folic acid.  Women need at least 0.4 to 0.8 mg of folic acid daily for a minimum of one month prior to pregnancy to prevent certain types of birth defects.  It is best to visit your health care provider prior to pregnancy to see if there are any additional things you may need to change based on your health and history.

Eating the right foods will help your baby’s development and help you have a healthier pregnancy.  Eating the wrong foods could harm your baby.  The best diet for a healthy pregnancy and baby includes lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and protein.  Women who do not eat much dairy will need to take a calcium supplement as well.

Pregnant women need to be careful about avoiding germs in food.  Beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and other meats need to be fully cooked.  Fresh fruits and vegetables need to be rinsed under lots of running water before eating them.  Listeria is a bacteria that can be especially dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause miscarriage and fetal death.   It can be found in ready to eat foods and can grow at refrigerator temperatures where most other foodbornebacteria do not.

Here are some specific things regarding nutrition that pregnant women need to know:

Fish:  You should avoid fish that may have high levels of mercury in them.  These include swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark. (Fortunately, not found too often on the menus around here, but may be if you travel during your pregnancy.)  It is okay to eat other cooked fish and seafood during pregnancy.  Women can safely eat 12 ounces of cooked fish per week during pregnancy.  A typical serving size is 3 to 6 ounces, so this is around 2 to 3 servings per week.  This includes shrimp, canned light tuna, and catfish.  Tuna steaks should be limited to one serving per week.  Raw fish (sushi) or raw shellfish (oysters) should be avoided.

Sprouts:  Alfalfa, clover, and radish should be avoided.  Bacteria can get into the sprout seeds before the sprouts grow.

Juice:  Fresh squeezed juices sold by the glass may not be pasteurized or otherwise treated to ensure safety.  Pregnant women should avoid all unpasteurized juices.

Lunch meats and hot dogs:  These should be heated well prior to eating.

Soft cheeses:  These include feta, brie, camembert, queso blanco, and quesofresco.  These are typically made with unpasteurized milk and should be avoided during pregnancy.

Caffeine:   There has been an observation between high caffeine intake and several adverse pregnancy outcomes.  Caffeine consumption should be limited to less than 200 mg a day (between  2 to 4 beverages).

Artificial sweeteners:  There is no clear cut evidence that use of these are associated with increased risk to the developing baby.  Studies are conflicting on risks with high doses of saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low) so most clinicians recommend trying to avoid it.  Aspartame (Nutrasweet) and sucralose (Splenda) are currently considered safe to use in pregnancy.

Herbs:  It is recommended to avoid herbal preparations during pregnancy.  The strength and purity can vary widely and there is limited data on their safety .  It is also important not take vitamin supplements in addition to your prenatal vitamin unless approved by your health care provider.  Certain vitamins can be toxic if taken at too high dosages.

Eating the right foods (and avoiding the wrong ones) is important for your health as a mother and for your baby’s development.  A well-balanced, common sense diet with a prenatal vitamin both before and during pregnancy is one of the best gifts you can give your new baby.


Entry filed under: Prenatal. Tags: , , , , .

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