A correct nutrition during pregnancy, which consists of the essential nutrients, contributes to the optimal development of the fetus, the born of a healthy child, with an adequate weight, but also to the health of the mother. The nutrition during pregnancy is fundamental in order to reduce the risks both for the mother and the fetus. The idea that you are eating for two people while pregnant is erroneous, because the calorie need is not doubled, but only increased with 300 calories per day. A too high number of kilograms gained during pregnancy may increase the risk of complications, such as gestational diabetes, blood hypertension, preeclampsia, difficulties when giving birth. Additionally, after giving birth, the risk of diabetes or cardiovascular diseases is more increased in case of an overweight mother.

Foods for the health of the mother and the fetus

During pregnancy, the organism additionally needs certain nutrients, such as folic acid, iron, calcium, which you ideally obtain from food.

In the first trimester of the pregnancy, and during the preconception period, there is the need for foods rich in folic acid (vitamin B9), which helps to the prevention of neural tube defects. In 2018, Great Britain decided to introduce the folic acid in flour in order to reduce the number of cases of children with congenital defects. 

The deficit of vitamin B9 increases the risk of premature birth. Vegetables with green leaf have a higher content of folic acid. Therefore, you should confidently eat spinach, cabbage, salad, broccoli, asparagus. Other sources to be taken into consideration for the input of vitamin B9 are leguminous vegetables, integral cereals, oranges, strawberries and peanuts.

The calcium has a determining role in the formation of the bones and teeth of the fetus, helps in the normal functioning of the muscular, neurological and circulation systems. You can obtain it by consuming milk and dairy products, eggs, almonds, sardines and salmon.

The iron intake need of a women is almost doubled during pregnancy compared to the period in which she is not pregnant. The iron is used by the organism for the production of hemoglobin, protein that may be found in the red cells and it transports the oxygen to the tissue. The iron deficit is translated through fatigue, dizziness and headaches. The severe lack of iron implies an increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight. In order to ensure an optimal iron intake, eat lean meat, eggs, nuts and dried fruits, pork or chicken liver, broccoli, oat.

Proteins are indispensable for the normal development of the fetus. You can get them from meat, fish, eggs, dairy, peas, beans, lentils.

Essential fatty acids contribute to the development of neurons, and are necessary for the development of the fetus's brain and its functions. These may be found in fatty fish, fish oil, nuts, pistachio, seeds.

Fibers have an important role in the prevention and treatments of constipation, a problem frequently encountered during pregnancy. The fiber need is easy to reach if you have a balanced diet. You can obtain these from integral cereals, leguminous vegetables, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Hydration is very important, you should drink 2-2,5 liters of water per day. The recovery of the amniotic fluid, the absorption of nutrients from food and the elimination of the toxins from the body are only a few of the processes that happen with the help of water.

Foods to be avoided in the diet of a pregnant woman

You should take care when eating large fish species, predatory fish, such as the shark and swordfish, because these may contain a high quantity of mercury, elements that goes through the placenta and may affect the brain of the fetus. Moreover, thermically undercooked fish and seafood that may be contaminated with dangerous bacteria.

Avoid raw or undercooked meat due to the risk of infection with toxoplasma, a parasite that may cause the abortion or the death of the fetus at birth.

Undercooked meat or eggs may contain bacteria or viruses, such as salmonella or listeria, which may produce severe food-borne infections for the pregnant woman. 

Cheeses obtained from unpasteurized milk must be avoided due to the risk of contamination with listeria, bacteria which may be fatal for a kid.

Alcoholic drinks must be excluded, there is no dosage considered safe during pregnancy. Sugary drinks should also be avoided or consumed very rarely. Tea and coffee should be consumed with moderation. 

Therefore, the diet of a pregnant woman must be varied and must include cereals, milk and dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, leguminous vegetables, vegetables and fruits. During pregnancy, also during the preconception period, if possible, it is very important to focus on the quality of the foods, for a balanced ratio of fundamental nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fibers, healthy fats, proteins, carbohydrates. A balanced diet is very important for a healthy lifestyle, vital when pregnant or when you plan a pregnancy.

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Text: Nicoleta Pescu