Now that you’re pregnant, your to do list likely includes new medical appointments, preparing for a new family member, all whilst continuing to run errands, work, study and/or care for your family. Have you considered how what you eat may need to change?
During pregnancy your body undergoes many changes, and nutrition during pregnancy is important to support your health and that of your baby. This article summarises current nutrition-related recommendations for a healthy pregnancy. Having a disability may introduce extra challenges in meeting nutritional needs during pregnancy, and it will be important to talk to your maternity care provider about this.
Developing healthy eating habits
In pregnancy you have an increased need for certain vitamins and minerals that your baby needs to grow, and to reduce your risk of developing complications during your pregnancy. Eating a wide variety of foods from these five core food groups most of the time will help you meet your specific nutrient needs. You can find out more about the five core food groups and how much you should eat during pregnancy here.
How much extra fluid do you need to drink?
During pregnancy, you may need around an additional 750 milliliters (mL) to 1 litre (L) of fluids, above the estimated daily intake of 2.1 L. This is to meet your needs, as well as the extra blood, and amniotic fluid needed to support your growing baby.
Plain drinking water is the preferred source of fluid, however other drinks, and some foods will help you meet your fluid needs.
Need recipe inspiration?
You can freely access over 200 healthy food and non-alcoholic drink recipes at “No Money No Time” which have been developed by dietitians and nutrition researchers from the University of Newcastle.
From when you fall pregnant, it is recommended that you avoid certain foods and drinks, and limit others that can increase the risk of pregnancy complications or food borne illnesses.
We’ve provided a summary below about foods and drinks to limit or avoid during your pregnancy with links for further reading.
Foods with a higher risk of food poisoning. You are at an increased risk of food poisoning when you are pregnant, because of how your body’s immune system changes. Some foods are more likely to cause food poisoning. You can find a detailed list of foods and whether they are safe to eat during pregnancy here.
Alcohol. Alcohol is mainly present in certain drinks such as wine, beer, and spirits, and some foods. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy places your baby at a higher risk of health complications. There is no safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy. You can find out more here.
Fish and Seafood. Fish and seafood are good sources of protein, and other vitamins and minerals, particularly iodine. Fish can also contain the heavy metal mercury in different amounts. Eating too many serves of fish per week or eating fish that are high in mercury can have a negative effect upon your baby’s brain and nervous system development. You can find out more about what and how much fish is appropriate for you here.
Caffeine. Consuming high amounts of caffeine whilst pregnant can increase your risk of pregnancy complications and may affect your baby’s growth and development. It is recommended that you do not consume more than 200mg caffeine per day. You can find out more about caffeine and how much caffeine is in certain foods and drinks here.
It is important that you or anyone involved in preparing, cooking, and storing foods that you eat practice good hygiene and are aware of the recommendations made above. You can find more information about safe food handling and storage here.
There are common side effects that many people experience during their pregnancy, due to changes in hormones and your physical shape and size as baby grows. The foods you eat, and the timing of your meals can be adjusted to support you in managing some of these side effects. These side effects may include nausea and vomiting, fatigue, constipation and urinary tract infections.
It’s important to talk to your pregnancy health care team about what vitamin and mineral supplements you may need during your pregnancy. Nutrient supplements do not replace the need for developing healthy eating habits that are discussed above. However, some nutrient supplements can help meet the increased need for particular nutrients in pregnancy, to keep you healthy and support the healthy growth and development of your baby.
It’s important to be aware that some nutrient supplements or herbal supplements can be harmful to you or your baby. Your need for specific nutrients, will be determined based on clinical guidelines, your medical history, your current eating patterns and any supplements that you are already taking. When you learn that you are pregnant, it is best to check in with your GP, medical specialists or an Accredited Practising Dietitian to discuss your individual requirements for nutrient supplements during your pregnancy.
It’s important to understand what a healthy amount of weight to gain during pregnancy is, and where to get support.
Healthy weight gain in pregnancy will help to reduce your risk of pregnancy complications. How much weight gain is appropriate for you is determined by your Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated from your height and weight when you fall pregnant, and how many babies you are carrying. Healthy weight gain during pregnancy is best achieved by eating healthy foods and engaging in regular physical activity.
Our team of dietitians at No Money No Time, from the University of Newcastle, have created a fact sheet for pregnant women about appropriate weight gain targets during pregnancy. You can access it here.
Your pregnancy healthcare team can also help you if you are needing support with understanding what and how much food to eat during your pregnancy and they can also provide recommendations for physical activity. In some regions you can access free healthy lifestyle phone coaching programs for pregnant women e.g. Get Healthy in Pregnancy (NSW) and Living Well during Pregnancy (Brisbane).
For further information you can contact the authors:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org School of Health Sciences (University of Newcastle)
Dr Vanessa Shrewsbury,
Dietitian & Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Dietitian & Research Assistant