Eating Right Before, During and After Pregnancy

A woman’s nutritional health is essential for her good health, however, with the prospects of pregnancy and breastfeeding, her nutrition also becomes essential for the well-being of the baby. Due to the physical changes that occur during and after pregnancy, a woman’s nutritional needs change at each stage. It is imperative that the changing nutrient needs are met to optimize the health of the mother and the baby. Let’s look at these stages and the changing nutritional needs.

Pre-Pregnancy Nutrition 

Consuming a good diet adequate in calcium, iron and folic acid prior to pregnancy will establish a healthy start for your baby. Follow these guidelines:

  • Consume 3 to 4 servings a day of good calcium sources from milk and milk products.
  • Get adequate iron from iron rich foods like beef, poultry and fish to prevent fatigue and tiredness from iron deficiency anemia.
  • Eat plenty of folate-rich foods, including beef, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals, to prevent neural tube birth defects to the brain or spine like spina bifida.

Nutrient Needs during Pregnancy

During pregnancy, nutrient needs increase especially in the second and third trimester. A specific focus on several nutrients is assurance that the nutritional needs of both mother and growing baby are met. The mother’s need for calories and protein increase. Adequate calcium is needed for bone health and more iron is essential to prevent iron deficiency anemia during the large blood volume increase in pregnancy. Here are some recommendations:

  • Consume three meals a day of a variety of food plus a nutrient dense snack such as a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread or 1 cup of non-fat yogurt mixed with fruit and a whole grain crunchy cereal.
  • Consume four servings daily of calcium rich dairy products, including milk, yogurt or cheese.
  • Get adequate vitamin D from sun exposure or fortified milk and eggs to assist your body in using the calcium.
  • Include several good sources of iron daily, including lean meat, poultry, fish and iron fortified cereals.
  • Take the prescribed prenatal vitamin with iron to help meet the increased need for iron and folic acid in pregnancy.
  • Continue to consume folate rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, beef and fortified cereal to prevent birth defects.

Nutritional Support while Breastfeeding 

Breastfeeding also brings on some additional nutritional challenges. Here are a few tips for good nutrition while breastfeeding:

  • Maintain an increase in calories while breastfeeding by choosing a diet from a variety of foods and take the doctor recommended vitamins.
  • Include nutrient-rich snacks like whole wheat toast with peanut butter or fruit and yogurt to meet the additional calorie needs.
  • Stay hydrated as fluid needs increase with breastfeeding. Choose water and avoid caffeinated and sugar-laden beverages.

Good nutrition prior to your pregnancy lays the foundation for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Continuing the focus on good nutrition during pregnancy and through breastfeeding continues to promote a healthy outcome for both mother and baby. Focusing on good nutrition in all phases of life helps keep mother and baby healthy for years to come.

Are you expecting? Learn more about Queen’s Maternity Services.