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Nutrition for Pregnant Women

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Authored by Donna Johnson in Pregnancy 
Published on 10-12-2009

As busy as your life is bound to be these days, one of the things you may find the most difficult to fit in is taking care of yourself. This especially applies to nutrition, as it is usually much easier to grab fast food instead of preparing a healthy meal from scratch. But nutrition is an extremely important factor in staying healthy, especially for pregnant women. There are ways that you can ensure you get the proper nutrition while pregnant, however.

The daily nutritional recommendations for pregnant women exceed the recommendations for women who are not expecting. As a rule, pregnant women should get at least an extra 15 mg of zinc, 30 mg of iron, 250-600 mg of calcium, 3 mg of folate, 2 mg of B6, and 2 mg of copper daily. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you should also add 10 mcg of Vitamin D and 2 mcg of B12. These numbers are guidelines only and can vary from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy. For example, if you are anemic or have low levels of any essential vitamin or mineral, your obstetrician may recommend that you take additional amounts of that vitamin or mineral.

One of the best ways to ensure you get the proper nutrition while pregnant is to take a prenatal vitamin. Ideally, you should begin taking a prenatal vitamin before you even try to conceive a child. But if you find yourself unexpectedly pregnant, you can begin prenatals as soon as you know that you are pregnant. Your obstetrician can prescribe prenatal vitamins for you, and there are also prenatals available over-the-counter. Most prenatals will cover the nutrition requirements of any pregnant woman that does not have a need for vitamin and mineral levels above the recommendations.

You should not rely on prenatal vitamins alone to get proper nutrition during pregnancy, however. You will also need to modify your diet to accommodate your extra nutritional needs. Most women will only need an extra 300 calories a day while pregnant, but this number can vary if you were underweight or overweight before conceiving. You should try to eat a balanced diet with foods from all the food groups each day. Limit your fat intake, and increase your carbohydrate intake by about 45 g daily. You should strive to get at least 600 mg of calcium from your daily diet, or you may need an additional calcium supplement. There are a few foods that should be avoided during pregnancy, though. Fish, for example, is a great source of DHA and protein, but you should limit or avoid certain types of fish while pregnant. Your obstetrician should give you a list of foods to cut down on or avoid at your first appointment.

When pregnant, you should aim for a weight gain ranging between 11 and 50 pounds, depending on your pre-pregnancy weight and number of babies you are carrying. Your obstetrician can give you your individual recommended weight gain. With proper attention to your diet and the use of prenatal vitamins, you can easily stay within the recommended weight gain range while pregnant and still ensure that you are getting the nutrition that you and your baby need to be healthy and happy.

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