Nutrition and Exercise During Pregnancy

I've read a lot of complicated literature about nutrition during pregnancy. What are some simple nutrition tips I can remember?

Here are some important tips I try to pass on to my patients:

  • Eating for two doesn't mean doubling your calorie intake. In most cases, it means adding only 300-400 more calories a day. You may be substantially hungrier than usual, especially in your second trimester. So it is especially important to stock up on healthy, fiber rich foods that will fill you up without necessarily loading on calories.
  • You need 50 percent more iron than usual. Eating iron rich foods helps, as well as pre-natal vitamins.
  • You need to eat about 25 grams of protein a day. Go for low fat cheeses, lean poultry, lean pork, or dairy products like yogurt and skim milk.
  • It is important to get a sufficient amount of calcium each day, because if you don't, during pregnancy, your body will take the calcium the baby needs from your bones. A healthy amount of calcium can come from drinking skim milk with your meals, or adding a serving of yogurt every day.
  • Your body needs the omega 3 fatty acids that you can get from eating fish. But during pregnancy, it is very important to stay away from certain kinds of fish that have been known to contain mercury from polluted seas. Mercury can be very damaging to a developing fetus. Eliminate all shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Salmon and fortified eggs can be safer options. And pay attention to FDA warnings, which often change regarding the species of fish currently carrying unhealthy levels of mercury.
  • Pregnant women should drink about ten, 8 ounce glasses of fluid a day.
  • Avoid all alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, as they can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, which leads to a number of genetic birth defects. There is no known safe level of alcohol for a pregnant woman to consume, so it is best not to have any at all. If you drank before you knew you were pregnant, don't fret. Chances are, everything is fine.
  • Avoid sodas and sugary juices when pregnant. They aren't inherently harmful, but they contain lots of extra calories, and don't fill you up. The jury is out on caffeinated beverages and their effect on the fetus, but it is best to eliminate sodas entirely, restrict juice drinking, and limit caffeinated tea and coffee to one cup a day.

With these tips in mind, how much should I eat from each food group every day?
Prescription prenatal vitamins may provide what your diet lacks on any given day, but when you're pregnant, healthy eating takes center stage. Moderately active women who start pregnancy at a healthy weight need about 2,400 calories a day. Here are some ideas of what to include on a daily basis:

Grains: 8 servings, such as 1 slice whole wheat bread, 1 cup whole grain cereal; 1/2 cup cooked pasta or rice. (Choose high fiber whole grains often to reduce pregnancy constipation.)

Vegetables: 4 or more servings, such as 2 medium whole raw carrots; 1 cup dark leafy greens; 1 cup cooked broccoli or cauliflower.

Fruits: 2 to 4 servings, such as 1 small apple, orange, pear, or banana or 1 cup berries.

Dairy: 3 servings, such as 8 ounces milk or yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces hard cheese.

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans: 2-3 servings, such as 2-3 ounces cooked meat, poultry, or seafood.

Fats, oils and sweets: sparingly.

I want to exercise while I'm pregnant, but I'm afraid I'll do something wrong. What kind of exercise is appropriate when you're pregnant?

Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy, as long as you exercise with caution and do not overdo it. If you haven't exercised at all before becoming pregnant, now is not the time to start a vigorous new exercise regimen.

The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling (especially recumbent bikes, which are easier on your pelvis) and low-impact aerobics (taught by a certified aerobics instructor), swimming, or water aerobics. These activities carry little risk of injury, benefit your entire body, and can be continued until you give birth.

Tennis and racquetball are generally safe activities, but your change in balance during pregnancy may affect rapid movements. Other activities such as jogging can be done in moderation. You may want to choose exercises or activities that do not require great balance or coordination, especially later in pregnancy. Pregnancy also causes the ligaments in your bones to loosen in the final trimester, easing the way for delivery. This can make certain kinds of strenuous exercise involving hard stops, twists and turns very difficult.

Before you begin any pregnancy fitness plan, please consult with our office first. There may be special considerations that may prevent you from exercising. If you have any of the following conditions, we recommend you not exercise at all:

  • Bleeding or spotting
  • Low placenta
  • Threatened or recurrent miscarriage
  • Previous premature births or history of early labor
  • Weak cervix