Pregnancy Nutrition: Why Eating Right Is So Important

All the health benefits for you and your baby.
Common sense tells us that what a woman eats during pregnancy is important both for her health and for the health and development of her baby. Every gram of protein, every microgram of folic acid, and every drop of water your baby needs must come from your diet.

Every bite counts

Most nutrients aren't stored in the body, so the food you eat is the only source of the things your baby needs. Your diet also supplies your body with the fuel and nutrients you need to make the next nine months a pleasurable experience, ease delivery, and speed your recovery after your baby is born. That's why it's important to eat well before you conceive and for the months that follow.

Eating right: The benefits for you

Helps maintain a healthy weight. The best indicator of how well your pregnancy is progressing is your weight gain. Gain enough and you'll improve your chances of having a full-term, robust baby with a low risk of health problems after birth.

Helps meet your increased need for iron and prevents anemia. Fatigue, reduced resistance to colds and infections, and even mood swings often are the result of iron deficiency. You easily can remedy iron deficiency with a healthful diet that includes lots of iron-rich foods and an iron supplement.

Provides needed energy. It takes energy to develop a healthy baby, and that energy comes from calories -- about 300 additional calories per day above your pre-pregnancy intake.

Speeds your recovery after delivery. Your body will require optimum energy and nutritional resources to mend itself after your baby is born. Good nutrition is essential for this recuperating process.

Helps prevent common pregnancy problems. Fortunately, few women experience serious complications during pregnancy, but most women do face minor nuisances, such as heartburn, constipation, fatigue, and mood swings. You can avoid or at least minimize all of these problems by maintaining a good diet.

Eating right: The benefits for baby

Reduces the risk of birth defects. One of the most common types of birth defects -- neural-tube defects -- can be prevented in many pregnancies when the mother consumes the optimum amount of folic acid, a B vitamin found in dark-green leafy vegetables.

Ensures sufficient high-quality protein intake. In a healthful diet, meats, chicken, fish, beans, milk, and eggs supply protein, the number-one building block for muscles, ligaments, hair, fingernails, bones, brain tissue, blood, and other tissues in your growing baby.

Supplies calcium for bones and teeth. By the third trimester, up to 300 mg of calcium is going to your baby each day. Consuming 4 calcium-rich glasses of milk will supply this needed mineral and prevent calcium from being taken from your bones. Reduced-fat and fat-free dairy products not only supply calcium, but also protein, vitamin D, B vitamins, and magnesium -- all essential for baby's bones, muscles, and nerves.

Helps ensure a healthy birth weight. Following a nutritious diet and gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy will increase your likelihood of having a healthy, robust baby. Adequate birth weight, in turn, will reduce your baby's risk of life-threatening illnesses.

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