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Nutrition & Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a special and exciting time in your life. Taking good care of yourself is especially important for you and your baby. Good nutrition during pregnancy can help ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. In general, a woman's need for calories, protein, fluid and certain vitamins and minerals increase during pregnancy. The following provides some information on specific nutrients. 

Folic Acid: Adequate folic acid is important to decrease the risk of birth defects, such as spina bifida. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) of folic acid for women of child bearing age is 400 micrograms (mcg). Foods rich in folic acid include oranges, dark green leafy vegetables (examples:  asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard and turnip greens) beans and fortified cereals and grains. It is easier to get adequate folic acid from food now days as most grains are fortified. However, you may want to consider a basic/generic multivitamin that contains folic acid if you are unsure. The DRI of folic acid during pregnancy is 600 mcg. Most basic pre-natal vitamins contain adequate folic acid.

Iron: Many women suffer from iron deficiency anemia, which can cause fatigue. It is important to have your healthcare provider assess your iron status to see if you need to include more iron in your diet. Foods rich in iron include red meat, beans, fortified cereals and grains and dark green leafy vegetables. The DRI of iron for non-pregnant women is 15 milligrams (mg) and 30 mg for pregnant women. Most basic pre-natal vitamins contain iron as well. However, some women find that iron containing supplements upset their stomach. Consult with your healthcare practitioner for other options.

Calcium: It is important to get adequate calcium in your diet as well. The DRI of calcium for both pregnant and non-pregnant adult women is 1,000 mg.  Most supplements lack adequate calcium, so it is important that calcium rich foods are consumed. Dairy products and green leafy vegetables a good sources of calcium. You can also find many foods fortified with calcium such as juice, cereal,  and soy milk.

Vitamin A: Excessive intake of vitamin A (over 10,000 international units) has lead to spontaneous abortions and birth defects. It is not recommended to take excess vitamin A in supplemental form during pregnancy.

Calories & Protein: An additional 300 Calories and 10 grams of protein is recommended especially during the 2nd & 3rd trimesters. Most pregnant women do not have trouble achieving this. If you eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied your should get adequate Calories and protein.

Fluid: Adequate fluid is important too. Sixty-four ounces or eight 8 ounce glasses of fluid is recommended daily. Water is a great way to hydrate yourself, but also consider soups and juices. Be careful not to rely on juice too much as you may end up taking in more Calories than your body needs.

Weight Gain: Weight gain varies from woman to woman. There is typically about a 10 pound increase during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy and about 1 pound per week during the rest of the pregnancy. Many times the weight gain is not linear, instead it comes in spurts. If you are concerned discuss this with your health care provider. Remember that weight gain is not the only indicator of a healthy pregnancy.

Unfortunately sometimes there are nutrition related challenges and problems during pregnancy. The following tips may bring some relief.

Heartburn:

* Eat small, low fat meals slowly
* Drink fluids between meals
* Don’t lie down for 1-2 hours after eating
* Limit caffeine intake
* Wear loose fitting clothing
* Limit stress and situations that may increase stress

Constipation:

* Consume adequate fluid (64 ounces or more daily)
* Eat foods high in fiber: cereals, breads, legumes, fruit and  vegetables
* Move your body more. Activity can help with constipation.

Nausea:

* Try eating crackers or dry toast before getting out of bed
* Eat small frequent meals and don’t let yourself get too hungry
* Limit high fat and spicy foods
* Eat and drink slowly
* Drink beverages between meals
* Limit caffeine intake
* Avoid odors that are offensive
* Consider nibbling on fresh ginger
* Some women find relief by wearing "Sea Bands".  These are elastic wrist bands that work on the principle of accu-pressure.  You can find them in a drug store near the motion sickness medications. 

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