Nutrition in Pregnancy – Busting the ‘Eat for Two’ Myth

Nutrition in Pregnancy – Busting the ‘Eat for Two’ Myth

The role played by nutrition during the pregnancy period is something that has implications on the health of the mother, the baby as well as on the baby’s health in later adult life. Optimal nutrition is what needs to be stressed here and not the myth of ‘eat for two’ that is still doing the rounds. Many pregnant women are not quite aware of how much they should eat while carrying or how many calories per day is safe to ensure that their unborn babies are not under any health risk. They are constantly pressured by relatives or friends to eat larger meals than normal.

A pregnant woman’s body is more efficient in the pregnancy state and absorbs more of the nutrients consumed. Eating twice as much doesn’t necessarily guarantee a healthy baby. On the other side unhealthy weight gain is only going to pave the way for pregnancy complications. Especially in the first trimester, if the mother is of a healthy weight there really is no need for additional calorie intake. The extra calories that may be required based on the mother’s weight gain goal is 340 in the second trimester and 450 in the third trimester. If you are having twins then this calorific requirement will slightly vary.

The ideal weight gain that a pregnant woman needs will depend on her weight before she got pregnant. A BMI of 40 or more will not need any more excess weight but if the BMI is less than 20 then she will need to gain around 18 kg extra. Too much weight gain would also affect the mother’s physical health by increasing back pain, leg pain or even the risk of getting varicose veins or hemorrhoids. In fact, there is no significant energy requirements in the first six months of pregnancy and metabolic changes will depend on pre-pregnancy nutrition and the weight of the baby.

Overweight pregnant woman is likely to have an increased risk of miscarriage and developing conditions such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. They may also have a premature baby, require a Caesarean section, experience a hemorrhage after birth or develop a clot which can be life-threatening. Bigger babies will also increase possibility of them becoming obese and with a plethora of lifestyle diseases. Heartburn is quite common in pregnancy because the hormone progesterone relaxes the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus, causing reflux of the stomach contents. Towards the end of the pregnancy the growing uterus can crowd out the digestive tract and put more pressure on the intestines and stomach. Eating more than normal will only exacerbate the heartburn and indigestion adding to the mother’s discomfort.

Overeating does have a bad side so it is always better to aim for a balanced diet by including all food groups. The pregnant woman’s daily need for protein, calories, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and key vitamins and minerals can be met by eating a variety of foods and even within food categories go for foods with different colors, types, and textures. Make sure to choose foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.

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