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Pregnancy Nutrition

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

Whether your preconception journey was long or short, you are finally pregnant! So what nutritional changes will you need to make in order to support both yourself and your baby over the next 9 months?

You will be happy to know that the important dietary and lifestyle changes made during the preconception phase will continue throughout your pregnancy. However, the next nine months will see your body go through some big physical, emotional and mental changes, requiring specific nutritional and lifestyle support to help with the healthy growth and development of your baby, as well as making sure your health and vitality is maintained.

Below is a snapshot of the various nutritional support women need to be mindful of during their pregnancy.

Weight Gain and Pregnancy

Weight gain is a normal and important part of pregnancy. Ensuring you do not gain too much weight during pregnancy is important, as excessive weight gain can increase risks for several pregnancy health related issues, including gestational diabetes. Weight gain within the ranges listed below is considered normal, and is important to support the health, growth and development of your baby. To help maintain a consistent weight gain throughout your pregnancy, eat to satisfy your appetite, make healthy food choices, limit processed food & drinks, and exercise regularly.

Nutrient Requirements During Pregnancy

Key nutrients are required during the three trimesters of pregnancy to ensure specific nutritional support is provided to both mum and baby. Many of the nutritional requirements will come form foods rich in these vitamins and minerals. However, nutrient needs increase throughout pregnancy, so additional support through supplementation may be required. *If in doubt speak with a trusted healthcare professional for further advice.

Supporting Optimal Health Through Nutrition

Choosing a wide variety of healthy foods during pregnancy is a great way to esnure you and your baby’s nutritional needs will be met. Good nutrition is key to supporting your baby’s overall health, growth, and development. Throughout the trimesters you may find that you need additional quantities of particular foods to ensure key nutrient requirements are met. To ensure you meet nutrient requirements, look to include:

  • a variety of fruits and vegetables of different types and colours

  • increase intakes of high fibre foods which can support gut bacteria

  • choose high quality protein sources that are high in iron

  • make sure your diet is high in calcium

  • include high quality essential fatty acids

  • drink plenty of water

  • try to eat fresh, organic, wholefoods whenever possible

  • limit processed food and drinks that are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt

Alcohol and Pregnancy

There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption for women when pregnant. Advice recommends against consuming alcohol during pregnancy, as it increases the risk for health issues such as miscarriage, low birth weight, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioural, and intellectual disabilities for your baby.

Food Safety During Pregnancy

Ensuring you practice food safety during pregnancy is incredibly important. Pregnancy suppresses a woman's immune system, making them and their baby more susceptible to infections.

Types of food-related infections to lookout for during pregnancy:

1. Listeria infection

Listeria infections occur when food is contaminated with a bacteria known as Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria infections are dangerous during pregnancy as there is a high risk of it being transmitted to the foetus, increasing the likelihood of miscarriage, stillbirth or premature labour. While a listeria infections are easily treated with antibiotics, prevention is the best option, by avoiding foods prone to listeria contamination or ensuring that foods are properly cooked, as the listeria infection is destroyed by heat.

Listeria prone foods to avoid during pregnancy:

  • raw seafood: sushi/sashimi, oysters and smoked seafood

  • precooked or pre-prepared cold foods: pre-prepared salads, pâté, quiches, ham and salami

  • undercooked meat, chilled pre-cooked meats

  • unpasteurised foods

  • pre-prepared or pre-packaged cut fruit and vegetables

  • soft cheeses: brie, camembert and ricotta

  • soft-serve ice cream

2. Salmonella

Salmonella is a form of food poisoning that can in some cases trigger miscarriage. While the risk of getting salmonella is largely avoidable, pregnant women are advised to avoid foods like undercooked meat and poultry, raw eggs, and any leftovers that are over 24hrs old.

3. Mercury in fish

There are numerous nutritional benefits that come from eating fish during pregnancy, including it being low in saturated fat, an excellent source of protein, and containing essential omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, and other vitamins. Recommendations advise pregnant women consume two to three serves of fish per week (e.g. salmon, mackerel). The consumption of some types of fish need to be limited during pregnancy as they contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful to an unborn baby's development (e.g. limit swordfish, marlin, shark).

Food Safety Tips

Knowing the dangers and practicing good food hygiene during pregnancy, is the safest way to reduce the risk of contracting salmonella or listeria infections.

Food hygiene tips include:

  • washing hands before and after preparing food

  • keeping all kitchen surfaces clean

  • prepare and store uncooked and cooked food separately

  • thoroughly wash fruit, vegetables and salad before eating

  • ensure food is cooked thoroughly before eating

  • store food at correct temperatures

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