Making the right food choices can be a challenge, even when you’re not pregnant. But good, solid, nutritional eating and planning can give you and your baby a healthy boost. Becoming pregnant doesn’t give expectant mothers a free pass to cave in to every craving, or fool themselves into believing “eating for two” means eating twice as much.
Eating a well-balanced diet includes eating an essential mix of carbohydrates, fats and proteins without adding a lot of calories. That mix should include fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, protein and whole grains. Each meal should include three to five of the basic food groups. Your physician and/or nutritionist can help you plan the best diet.
Dr. Barbara Head, an OB/GYN and maternal fetal medicine specialist at MUSC Women’s Health, recommends women planning to have children begin eating a well-balanced diet during the preconception period, even before they become pregnant.
“Everyone should have a preconception plan, and particularly women who have a body mass index (BMI) above 40,” Dr. Head says.
Dr. Head cites a study by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council that says “Healthy American women at a normal weight for their height (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9) should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.”
Underweight women (BMI less than 18.5) should gain more, 28 to 40 pounds, and overweight women (BMI of 25 to 29.9) should gain less, 15 to 25 pounds. Those ranges match the 1990 guidelines, but the report also specifies a new range for obese women (BMI greater than 30) who should limit their gain to 11 to 20 pounds.
Dr. Head stresses the importance of women scheduling a preconception visit with a physician before becoming pregnant. The visit can help identify any potential health issues such as diabetes that may impact the pregnancy.
In addition, Dr. Head says expectant mothers should also avoid alcohol and begin taking prenatal vitamins that contain 400-800 mg of folic acid. Additional Vitamin D and iron may also be recommended to supplement a woman’s diet.
Following delivery, it’s important to remember that dietary needs must continue to be met while breastfeeding. Martha Krauss, a certified nurse midwife and internationally board-certified lactation consultant at MUSC Women’s Health, says a breastfeeding mother should continue to eat a well-balanced diet. She reminds new mothers that their plate of food should be colorful with a mix of food groups.
“Lactation requires an extra 500 calories a day, which is more than pregnancy. So they will need to increase their calories every day, and continue to take their prenatal vitamins as well as Vitamin D,” she adds. Krauss also suggests mothers eat small, frequent meals to keep up their energy and stay hydrated.
Whether you have a need for family planning and contraception, fertility management, or are pregnant or thinking about having a baby, MUSC Women’s Health provides an expert and customized approach to every woman’s situation.
For more information or to make an appointment, call (843) 792-5300.