Pregnancy Nutrition

During pregnancy, good nutrition is not only important for the mother’s help, but also essential to the baby’s health and development. What happens during pregnancy and during delivery can permanently affect both the baby and mother’s lives. If you are planning to get pregnant or already are, it is important to talk to your doctor and a dietitian about proper pregnancy nutrition.

Prior to getting pregnant, it is important that you are of a healthy, normal weight (BMI of 18.5-24.9), as this will put you and your baby at the least risk for complications. Both underweight mothers and overweight mothers are at risk for birth complications. Following a healthy, well-rounded diet is also essential. Certain prenatal vitamins and minerals may be recommended by your dietitian. Folate supplementation is absolutely essential. High folate stores in the mother are essential, as at the initiation of pregnancy, the body uses these folate stores in the formation of a neural tube for the baby. If proper amounts of folic acid are not provided, a neural tube defect can occur that can significantly impact the formation of the baby’s brain and nervous system. It is recommended that women take 400 mcg of folic acid supplementation one month before getting pregnant and during the first three months of the pregnancy; however, it is important to consult with your doctor prior to starting any supplementation.

Weight gain during pregnancy can make a lot of women anxious and hesitant, as no woman wants to think about gaining weight! However, weight gain during pregnancy is absolutely essential for the growth of the baby and for the ability of your body to support the baby. Many women think that because they are pregnant, they need to eat many more calories each day. This is a myth! Pregnant women only need about 100 extra calories daily in their first trimester and 300 extra calories daily in their second and third trimester. These extra calories should not be met by eating junk foods, but instead by the consumption of nutrient dense foods, those foods that are high in vitamins and minerals. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that a healthy, recommended weight gain of women of a normal weight (not overweight or obese) is 25-35 pounds. For a woman who is overweight or obese, the amount of weight gain is lower. Overweight or obese women should not try to lose weight during their pregnancy; this is not beneficial to the mother or baby. Recommendations for weight gain for mothers giving birth to twins or multiple babies are different. Unfortunately, most women are afraid to gain this weight because they have the common misconception that the weight gained is all fat. Fortunately, women only gain about 6 pounds of fat (which is necessary), while the rest of the weight gained comes from the growth of the breast, placenta, and uterus, increases in blood and fluid volumes, the baby, and several other factors.

During pregnancy, it is important to abstain from eating certain foods while being sure you get enough of others. Pregnant women have increased susceptibility to food borne illnesses. Because of this, unpasteurized foods, like blue cheese, should not be consumed and pre-cooked foods, like deli meat, must be cooked again prior to consumption. Additionally, all fruits and vegetables must be washed, regardless if the package states that they are prewashed. Reducing your chance of eating contaminated food is important since pregnant women are more susceptible than non-pregnant women. Caffeine should be limited or avoided, as some studies have found a possible link between miscarriages and high caffeine intakes; although, this link has not currently been found significant or “true”. Alcohol should be avoided and not consumed at all during pregnancy, as no amount of alcohol is found to be “safe” in pregnant women. The consumption of alcohol can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, birth defects, and many other serious complications. Some women may have increased needs for protein, calcium, and iron, but you should talk to your doctor about your needs. Pregnancy nutrition is a very wide and important topic, so it is extremely important to talk to a dietitian and physician about feeding you and your baby the best that you can. The references below may lead you to websites that have more in depth information about pregnancy nutrition.


American Pregnancy Association

Kids Health


The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

USDA’s Choose My Plate


Women’s Health Channel


2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Maureen Muoneke  |  April 29, 2014 at 5:49 am

    The right diet for pregnant women is so important for your baby. A healthy pregnancy really begins in your first trimester when you are developing habits and your baby is starting to form. During the first trimester your baby’s major body systems are formed. This means your baby is in need of the best possible nutrients.

    Dr. Maureen Muoneke

  • 2. Nina Thakrar  |  June 23, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Great article! Nutrition is definitely not to be taken lightly during pregnancy

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