What Birthmothers Need to Know About Pregnancy and Nutrition

How can you stay healthy during your pregnancy? What you eat and drink doesn’t just impact your body — it also affects your baby’s growth and development. Take a look at what you need to know about pregnancy and nutrition.

Why Is Nutrition Important During Pregnancy?

Even though you crave gummy bears, milkshakes, and chips, empty calorie foods and salty snacks won’t help you or your baby right now. Your diet during pregnancy can:

  • Help your baby develop. An overall healthy diet and some vitamins/minerals can help your baby’s development. Nutrients such as folic acid (which is found in leafy greens, nuts, citrus fruits, and berries) can reduce the risks of brain and spinal cord defects.
  • Reduce the risks of some illnesses. Hot dogs, lunch meats, and unpasteurized cheese products may contain Listeria or other types of bacteria. Pregnant women are more susceptible to Listeria-related illness. This increases the chances of premature delivery or miscarriage.
  • Help you manage your blood sugar. High blood sugar during pregnancy (also known as gestational diabetes) can result in preterm birth, stillbirth, and health issues for the mother. If your doctor diagnoses you with gestational diabetes, diet can help control your blood sugar.

As you navigate nutrition during pregnancy, explore new foods and try options you may not have considered in the past. Healthy whole grains may seem bland, and kale might not seem like it compares to candy. But these (and other healthy foods) are tasty and fulfilling — if you choose wisely and prepare the picks correctly. Discuss a healthy diet with your doctor and try new choices daily.

How Much Should You Eat?

You’re eating for two now. Does that mean you need to double your food or calorie intake? While you do need to eat more right now, pregnancy doesn’t give you license to indulge on anything and everything you want. Again, a nutritious diet is important for your baby’s development and your health.

The amount of food you need to eat depends on several factors. These include:

  • Calorie intake. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women with a healthy pre-pregnancy BMI (body mass index) need between 2,200 and 2,900 calories daily during pregnancy.
  • The trimester. Your calorie (and food intake) requirements increase as you progress through your pregnancy. While you might not need to eat more during your first trimester, many women need an extra 340 calories daily during the second trimester and 450 in the third.
  • Pre-pregnancy weight. Even though you shouldn’t diet while pregnant, women who are overweight or obese before pregnancy won’t need to gain as much as weight as women who were underweight or an average weight.
  • Health needs. Pregnancy isn’t the time to start or continue on a restrictive diet. While you do need to maintain a healthy weight, you shouldn’t skip meals or cut calories to look slimmer. These weight-reducing strategies can put your health at risk during pregnancy.

If you’re not sure how your expected calorie count translates into food needs, talk to your doctor. The OB can help you better understand how many calories you should eat daily (based on your individual needs) and what foods to choose.

What Should You Eat?

Again, even though candy, cookies, and other snack foods add calories to your daily diet, these foods won’t do anything to help your health or your baby’s development. If your pre-pregnancy diet was less than healthy, foods to eat right now include:

  • Dairy. The calcium, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin D in dairy foods add to your overall health and nutrition. Skip ice cream, flavored yogurts, and other sugar-filled dairy products. Instead, eat pasteurized cheese and low-fat yogurt, or drink skim milk.
  • Vegetables. Get folic acid, vitamin A, potassium, and other nutrients from healthy, fresh vegetables such as spinach, carrots, and baked sweet potatoes. Avoid fried or canned vegetables. These have extra fat and sodium.
  • Fruits. Fresh fruits such as bananas, oranges, mangoes, and melons provide plenty of vitamins and minerals. While fresh fruits complement a healthy diet plan, sugar-packed canned fruits or fruit-flavored juice cocktails add unnecessary sugar.
  • Protein. Choose lean proteins, such as grilled chicken or tofu, over greasy hamburgers or fried fish. Avoid processed meats and fast food options.
  • Whole grains. Instead of the white bread and pizza you’re used to, switch these not-as-nutritious choices for whole grain breads and cereals.

Even though you need to eat healthy, you can treat yourself to a sweet or salty snack — in moderation. This doesn’t mean you should eat chocolate bars daily or snack on anything you crave. Balance your diet — favoring healthy foods and leaving empty calorie options as once-in-a-while treats.

Your healthy pregnancy is only one part of the adoption process. Do you have more birthmother-related questions? Contact Arizona Adoption Help for more information. We look forward to hearing from you.