Nutritional requirements of a pregnant woman are more as compared to a normal woman. It is very important for us to understand the cause of these growing demands of nutrition and how those demands can be met.
More nutrition during pregnancy is required depending on the following factors:
1. Nutritional requirements of a normal woman
A normal healthy woman having sufficient store of nutrients in her body may pass through a normal pregnancy. The nutritional requirements of a normal woman depend upon her age and level of activity, as discussed in chapter 7. These normal requirements should be added to the growing requirements of the pregnant woman.
2. For growth and development of the foetus
The growth and development of the foetus is very fast in the womb of the mother. The foetus draws all the nutrients required for its growth from the body of the mother.
In case the mother is malnourished, the nutritional requirement of the foetus would be met from the mother’s body. And this is not good for the health of both the mother and the foetus. Hence, taking care of the nutritional requirements of both the mother and the child is very important during the diet plan of the mother.
3. For growth of uterus, umbilical cord, placenta and breasts
Apart from the growth of placenta, umbilical cord, uterus and other tissues supporting it also grows in size. There is an increase in amount of various liquids in the body. All these changes cause an increase in the body weight during pregnancy. That is why her nutritional requirements are increased.
4. Storage of nutrients for lactation period and delivery
During pregnancy, some nutrients are stored in the body which is required during child birth and lactation, for example, fats are deposited in the body to provide energy during lactation. If mother is malnourished during this period, she’ll have to face many problems during child birth and lactation.
The total duration of pregnancy can be divided into three trimesters:
• First trimester – 0-3 months
• Second trimester – 4-6 months
• Third trimester – 7-9 months
Proteins are needed for the growth of the foetus and maternal tissues. Additional intake of 15 gms of protein per day is required for a pregnant woman. Ensure that the protein is of good quality.
Amount of blood is increased by 50% during pregnancy but hemoglobin contents are lowered. Iron is required for hemoglobin synthesis in the red blood corpuscles of foetus and also to maintain the concentration of mother’s blood.
Apart from this, iron is stored in the liver of the foetus which provides him iron up to 3-6 months. Deficiency of iron causes adverse effect on both the mother and the child. Calcium and Phosphorus. Calcium and phosphorus are required in greater amount for the formation of bones and teeth of the foetus.
To meet the increased demand of calcium, its absorption is increased in the body. The recommended allowance of calcium is 1000 mgm which must be included in the diet of a pregnant woman. If the mother’s diet is deficient in calcium, the foetus would draw its requirements of calcium from the decalcification of mother’s bones. It leads to weak bones and teeth of the mother.
Iodine and Zinc
Two trace elements iodine and zinc have great significance during pregnancy. Zinc is required for growth and protein synthesis, whereas iodine is required to regulate mental and physical growth of foetus. Deficiency of iodine may lead to physical weakness or mental disorders in the infant.
Requirement of vitamin B- group- thiamine, riboflavin and niacin increases with the increase in calorie requirements. Sufficiency of these in diet prevents nausea, vomiting and constipation, etc., in a pregnant woman. Amount of folic acid should be increased to 400 micrograms during pregnancy.
Vitamin D is helpful in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and hence, may fulfill their growing demands in the body. Requirement of Vitamin D in pregnancy cannot be met only by sunrays; therefore, it should be supplemented by milk and milk products, green vegetables, etc. in the diet.
Definite changes occur in the body during pregnancy from the very beginning. Meal patterns are modified because of these changes.
Before planning a meal for a pregnant woman, we must consider her trimester of pregnancy, age, income group and type of work she is doing.
The diet of a pregnant woman should be nutritionally balanced. For this, a mixed diet consisting of foods from all the five food groups should be given to her. As you know, requirement of energy, protein, calories and iron is more during pregnancy, so it is important to include increased amounts of cereals, pulses, milk and milk products, green vegetables and fruits, etc., in her daily diet.
Often it has been observed that a pregnant lady is unable to eat sufficient amount of food at one time because of some changes in her digestive system like lesser secretion of digestive juices and acids in the stomach, increased pressure of growing foetus in the uterus, etc. Hence, smaller amount of foods should be given to her at short intervals. Some nutritious foods as mid meals can be served between the three main meals. Number of meals can be 5-7 times or more.
Other important things to be considered
• Morning sickness during pregnancy like nausea, vomiting, giddiness, etc., can be avoided by taking tea with some carbohydrate rich foods like biscuit, Rusk, etc.
• Problems like acidity and heaviness of stomach can be prevented by avoiding fat rich and spicy foods in the diet.
• More fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals and pulses, wheat flour with bran, etc., should be added in higher amount in diet.
• More amounts of liquids should be added. Drinks like lemon water, lassie, coconut water, juices, etc. must be included between main meals. This will help in preventing constipation.
• A pregnant woman should avoid highly flavored, spicy, pungent and stale food.
• Food must be served in a pleasant and tension free environment to a pregnant woman. Also ensure that she must take some rest after each meal. This helps in proper digestion and absorption of food. Dinner should be taken 2-3 hours before going to bed.
• A pregnant woman should avoid fasting. This may harm the foetus.
• Alcoholic drinks and smoking should be avoided by the pregnant woman. These are harmful for the foetus.