It is utterly important for a woman to consume a well-balanced diet during pregnancy since what she consumes is the principal source of vital nutrients to the developing baby. Numerous changes occur in the body of a pregnant woman and, thus, it necessary to adjust accordingly and ensure that she eats foods full of essential nutrients. Nonetheless, it has to be said that some women do not get adequate folate, iron, calcium, vitamins, and proteins during pregnancy (Cox et al., 2008). These nutrients, together with others like iodine and calories, are essential to the body and the growth of the unborn child. Hence, the amount of food must be increased accordingly to offer nutritional support to apregnant woman. Many women can meet suchdietary requirement when they consume healthy foodthat includesvegetables, fruits, whole grains and protein-rich meals (Miller, 2011). According to gynecologists and obstetricians, pregnant women must attempt to eat an array of foods from the major food groups since such food contains all the essential nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy (Cox et al., 2008). Thispaper will analyze various aspects of a well-balanced nutritional support, which is of vital importance during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Nutritional Requirements
It is wise to recognize that during pregnancy abody tends to have increased nutritional demands. Even though the ancient maxim of “eat for two” is not entirelytrue when it comes to a pregnant woman, it is vital for pregnant females to consume more macronutrients and micronutrients in order to support themselves and the baby (Picciano, 2003). Micronutrients are the essential dietary components thatencompass minerals and vitamins, while macronutrients are those that provide energy or calories and include fats, proteins and carbohydrates (Cox et al., 2008). The table below simplifies the minimum daily nutritional needs for pregnant women.
|Daily Needs for Pregnant Females
|300 (in the second and third trimesters)
|folate (folic acid)
Thus, it is critical for women to includehigh nutrients in their daily diet to satisfy the body’s nutritional needsduring pregnancy (Miller, 2011). Specifically, proteins are required to ensure the appropriate growth of the fetal tissue comprising the brain. Proteins are also essential for uterine and breast tissue growth. Apart from that, the consumption of proteins increases blood supply, whichallowsmore blood to reach ababy (Picciano, 2003). Calcium assists in regulating the use of body fluids and helps in the bone development of achild. Iron works with potassium, sodium, and water to ensure there is sufficient blood flow and oxygen to reach ababy (Picciano, 2003). Folic acid is useful in lowering the danger of neural tube faults that can affect the brain and spinal cord of a baby. Neural tube defects encompass anencephaly and spina bifida (Hamaoui, 2003).
The easiest way to get all of these necessary nutrients is to consume various foods from the above food groups on a daily basis. In fact, it is recommended that every meal should encompass at least three different food groups. Every food group offers essential nutrients to a pregnant woman. For example, grains are an efficient source of calories. Vegetables and fruits are packed with fiber, antioxidants, fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Food that includes nuts, meats, and legumes is an excellent source of proteins, iron and folate to abody and must be consumed regularly for a healthy pregnancy. Furthermore, dairy products are the best source of vitamin D and calcium to abody. Abody undergoesa great number ofchanges during pregnancy and is unable to function if it does not get enough macronutrients and micronutrients. When it comes tonutritional support during pregnancy, it must be noted that the main objective is to consume a broader variety of foods. Thus, it is also appropriate for pregnant women to consumeboth natural and low-fat foods rather than eating processed junk foods (Miller, 2011). For instance, such foods as soda and chips do not offer any substantial nutritional value to a woman and should be avoided whenever necessary during pregnancy. Anunborn baby and a pregnantwoman shall benefit from fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, as well as lean proteins like fish, beans, chicken or lentils. This may not infer that pregnant women must avoid eating their favorite meals during pregnancy. Nevertheless, they must balance the favorite meals with other nutritious foods so that they never miss essential minerals and vitamins needed during pregnancy (Miller, 2011).
Physiology of the Pregnancy
Pregnancy triggers many physiologic changes in organ system of every female, which gets backto normal state after the delivery. In fact, the changes are more intense in multifetal pregnancies as compared to single pregnancies (Hamaoui, 2003). The physiological changes that take place during pregnancy foster the growth of afetus as well as prepare the organism of an expectantmother for thelabor and delivery. For instance, the pregnancy triggers three-to-four fold upsurge in need for iron, which is essential for hemoglobin synthesis and production of enzymes (Picciano, 2003). The cardiovascular systems become profound and start early such that the cardiac output increases by 20 percent by the eighth week of gestation. In addition to the aforementioned physiologic changes, the pituitary gland expands by about 134 percent during pregnancy (Hamaoui, 2003). The total blood volume also increases correspondingly with cardiac output. However, it must be noted that the growth of plasma is bigger than the red blood cells mass. The maternal prolactin plasma level also increases by tenfold, and this relates to the increase in thyrotropin-releasing hormone stirred by estrogen (Miller, 2011). These physiological changes show that the body of a pregnant woman must have a well-balanced nutritional support to cope with the situation. Eating foods rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients shall help the body of a pregnant female to restore the required nutrients and support the development of an unborn baby (Cox et al., 2008).
Factors that Affect the Nutrition during Pregnancy
Anxiety, fatigue, stress and other psychosocial aspects often affect the choices of food during pregnancy. Studies have also revealed that pregnant women who are more stressed, fatigued, and anxious tend to consume more food, especially carbohydrates (Hamaoui, 2003). Also, more tired women eat more energy foods and zinc but consume less folate during pregnancy. Stressed women tend to eat foods containing proteins, fats, zinc and iron. Finally, anxious feeling during pregnancy correlates to reduced intake of Vitamin C (Hamaoui, 2003). Thus, it is evident that anxiety, fatigue, and stress are some of the factors that affect the nutritional needs during pregnancy (Cox et al., 2008).
In conclusion, it must be noted that the needs of pregnant woman in practically all essential nutrients increase during pregnancy. It is also the period when nutritional aims encompass helping apregnant woman to improve the dietary quality of protective nutrients and calories, especially in second and third trimester, to meet the augmented requirements of gestation and efficient weight patterns. Moreover, it should be noted that the necessary macronutrients and micronutrients are essential to support the body of a pregnant woman. Every woman should seek proper nutritional support during pregnancy.
First of all, pregnant women should choose the dietthat encompasses the correct amount of healthy meals from five basic food classes whichprovide the body with essential minerals and vitamins each day of pregnancy. Nonetheless, pregnant women may also need supplements of specific minerals or vitamins.Secondly, drinks and foods rich in saturated fats and added salt and sugar are not an essential part of the healthy diet and must be avoided. Finally, during pregnancy there is an increased iodine need. Thus, it is recommended to increase the consumption of iodine, the supplementation of which must amount to around 140 micrograms.
Cox, J. T., & Phelan, S. T. (2008).Nutrition during pregnancy. Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America, 35(3), 369-383.
Hamaoui, E. M. (2003). Nutritional assessment and support during pregnancy. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America, 32(1), 59-121.
Miller, R. S. (2011). Nutritional needs during pregnancy. Nursing Made Incredibly Easy, 9(5), 21-24.
Picciano, M. F. (2003). Pregnancy and lactation: physiological adjustments, nutritional requirements and the role of dietary supplements. The Journal of Nutrition, 133(6), 1997S-2002S.