Prenatal Development and Nutrition
When you're pregnant, it's important to make sure you eat enough food to help your developing baby grow. You are eating for two. And while eating for two means that you need additional energy and a higher caloric intake, it's important to keep in mind that the "number two" you're eating for is significantly smaller than you or any average-sized adult.
Energy requirements increase by 17 percent in pregnancy. This increased energy requirement goes toward prenatal development, fetal development and to fuel the work your body needs to do to sustain this new life. (Prenatal definition, according to the average medical dictionary, involves any activity "occurring or existing before birth.") This increased energy requirement means that a woman of average weight should consume approximately 300 calories of additional energy daily to help her body handle the strain of pregnancy and to help her fetus grow.
Energy Requirements During Pregnancy
It's very easy to add 300 calories to your diet daily. A single chocolate bar adds 300 calories instantly, but it's not the right amount of energy you should be feeding yourself during prenatal pregnancy. Many pregnant women find that they need more protein and it's a good idea to increase protein intake while pregnant.
A normal pregnancy diet should be approximately 20 percent protein with a recommended daily allowance of 60 grams. Animal sources are excellent sources of protein, but they tend to be very high in fat and can cause unnecessary weight gain during pregnancy. Carbohydrates should take up to 50 percent of your daily diet and fat shouldn't be more than 30 percent of an average pregnancy diet.
Sample Prenatal Diet
Based on the food pyramid, a healthy daily prenatal diet should include three to five servings of vegetables, two to four servings of fruit, six to 11 servings of grains, two to three servings of meats (or other sources of protein like nuts or beans), three to four servings of dairy and a single serving of sweets. The average caloric intake for a diet like this is approximately 2,500 calories, but these numbers will vary with a woman's size and pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI). BMI is basically a formula used to determine if a person has the right weight for their height.
There are certain vitamins a pregnant woman should have enough of to help with fetal development. There are 11 specifically identified by the American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Prenatal Nederland care guidelines are similar as are ones from other countries.
Vitamins B-1, B-2, B-6 and B-12 are water soluble vitamins that help release energy from the cells in the body, helps with cell division and is important for DNA synthesis. It's important to get 1.1 milligrams of Vitamins B-1 and B-2 when pregnant and 1.4 milligrams when lactating. Breastfeeding women should get 2 milligrams of Vitamin B-6 and 1.9 milligrams when they're pregnant. The recommended amount of B-12 for a pregnant woman is 2.6 mcg and 2.8 when nursing. It's fairly easy to get the right amount of these vitamins through a well-balanced diet so Vitamin B prenatal pills are rarely needed.
Vitamin A helps visual function and promotes cellular growth. Pregnant women should get 770 mcg daily and 1300 mcg when breastfeeding. Doses of higher than 15,000 IU/d - a treatment level often used to treat acne, can cause birth defects in the developing fetus. It's usually easy to get the recommended daily amount through diet.
The same holds true for Vitamin C which is found in fruits and vegetables and helps in the formation of skin, bone, cartilage, tendons and teeth. Pregnant women should get 85 milligrams and women in what is sometimes called the fourth trimester (the first three months after giving birth) should get 120 milligrams. They should make sure they get this amount during the entire time they're breastfeeding.
It's possible to get enough Vitamin D, E and K from diet alone to help with prenatal development so prenatal pills for these vitamins isn't necessary. The amounts pregnant women should get are 5 mcg, 15 milligrams and 90 milligrams.
Prenatal supplements for folic acid are often necessary during pregnancy to make sure mothers-to-be get the right amount of 0.6 milligrams. The amount drops to 0.5 milligrams during lactation. Niacin is also important for pregnant women and it helps with the cells release energy. Pregnant women should get 18 mcg with the number dropping to 17 mcg when they're breastfeeding. Supplements usually aren't necessary to reach the right amount daily.