Nutrition is an essential component of prenatal care. A healthy diet contributes to a successful pregnancy by reducing complications and promoting adequate fetal growth and development. During pregnancy, the body needs more nutrients in order to provide a baby with what it needs.
Nutrition during pregnancy is a significant public health concern. Poor nutrition can lead to a range of health problems for mothers, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and overweight and obesity. Lack of adequate nutrition of pregnant women to the growing fetus is a key causal factor for stillbirths prior to the onset of labor. Inadequate nutrition can lead to premature births and long-term adverse health effects in the newborn. Healthy nutritional intake becomes critical for the health of the mothers and their infants.
Essential nutrients while pregnant: plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Nutrients that are given special attention are:
Folic Acid – helps prevent neural tube defects, serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. Lack of folate in a pregnancy diet may increase the risk of preterm delivery.
Prenatal vitamin daily – starting three months before conception is usually advised to help ensure the woman is getting enough essential nutrients.
Calcium – is for strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps the circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally. If there’s not enough calcium in the pregnancy diet, the calcium the baby needs will be taken from the mother’s bones.
A prospective cohort study was performed to investigate maternal diet and supplement intake with infant birth weight. The researchers recruited 504 pregnant volunteers who were visited in their fourth month and seventh month of pregnancy. During those visits height, weight and skin folds were measured, questionnaires were administered to determine personal details and diets were assessed by a 24 hour recall and 3-day food record. The results were dietary supplementation especially from iron was associated with increased birth weight. Also, energy intake from carbohydrate, fat and protein were associated with birth weight gain as well as with beta-carotene, retinal, vitamin D, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, magnesium intake which were also associated with increased birth weight. These results suggest the importance of nutritional intake in pregnant women for healthy birth weight.1
1 Watson PE, McDonald BW. The association of maternal diet and dietary supplement intake in pregnant New Zealand women with infant birthweight. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010;64(2):184-93.