Nutrition is a core pillar of human development and is a focal point of health and wellbeing. According to WHO, “Nutrition is the intake of food, considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs”. It is an issue of survival, health and development for current and succeeding generations. Malnutrition has adverse effects on human health and development resulting in loss of productivity and economic backwardness. Pregnant and lactating women are two vulnerable segments from a nutritional point of view. Improvement of the nutritional status in these two groups is one of the most predictable ways of improving maternal and pregnancy outcomes.
The power of sound nutrition principles is pertinent, now more than ever, in helping to strengthen new life, safeguarding the mother’s health through pregnancy, and the newborn in future. Investing in early Childhood Nutrition and Maternal Nutrition is a surefire strategy. The returns are incredibly important for a happy society.
To quote Ina May Hobbler at the nutrition and maternal health proceedings of the First Conference on Human Health, Ohio, 1952: “I would like to emphasize maternity as the frontier of human welfare and the defence of mothers is the defence of the nations. There is no place in the public health field that offers greater opportunity for service to mankind and the welfare of the human race than the application of newer and ever increasing knowledge of nutrition at the human frontier.”
Nutrition plays a vital role in successful pregnancy outcomes and its impact on a mother’s health varies from person to person depending upon their medical conditions and their nutritional status. Nutrition can be given as simple tips or as a therapy. Anemia, gestational diabetes, pregnancy induced hyper tension, obesity, twins, triplets — these are the conditions where Nutrition plays an important role in successful outcomes of pregnancy.
Normal cases require only normal nutrition counseling or there can be preconception preparation, i.e. before conception itself, women should be nutritionally ready for pregnancy.
Dr. P. Janaki Srinath, the Nutritionist and Lifestyle Management Consultant at Fernandez Hospital has been in the field of nutrition and dietetics for more than two decades. She emphasizes the role of nutrition for a healthy India. Here she answers some of the FAQs on Nutrition During Pregnancy.
Your questions answered:
Q) What are the Nutrition and Weight checks which people need to follow during the preconception preparation period?
Ans: The following checks are suggested:
- Check your bodyweight (Reduce weight if you are obese)
- Check hemoglobin levels, if they are normal or not.
- Check regularly about proper diet for at least 2 to 3 months before getting pregnant.
- Check the quality of food consumption before conceiving.
Q) What diet should a pregnant woman follow?
Ans: In pregnancy the pattern of food intake varies depending upon the mother’s BMI status and her expected target weight as suggested by the doctor.
Q) What tests should be done to know if the target weight is low or high?
Ans: BMI calculations help in finding the target weight of the mother indicating if she has to eat less or more accordingly.
Q) What quality of diet is generally suggested to pregnant women?
Ans: Quality of diet plays a vital role in women’s health. Always make sure to look at few fundamental nutrients like good quality protein, ensuring what kinds of fats are right and ensuring if the women are taking the right micro nutrient intake like iron, B complex, vitamin C, folic acid, calcium and minerals.
Q) Which foods are harmful?
Ans: People who are inclined towards hypertension or people who are at risk should avoid pickles, processed food, foods with high salt content or too much of sugar and transfats.
Q) Are food cravings common during pregnancy?
Ans: Pregnant women tend to have food cravings due to hormonal changes, vomiting, and nausea.
Q) How are weight gain patterns suggested?
Ans: There is no ideal weight for everyone. It totally depends on the pre-pregnancy body mass index. There are separate weight gain goals based on pre-pregnancy BMI.
Q) What kind of foods should a woman eat when she is not feeling well?
Ans: During nausea or vomiting spells, it is better to eat easy to digest, short dry snacks like cereals, rusk, and fruit juices in small quantities.
Q) Is it good to have dry fruits and nuts during pregnancy?
Ans: Eating selective nuts like almonds, walnuts, unsalted pista are good as they contribute good quality fats to the diet. Dry fruits like dates, raisins, plums, apricot each vary in their contribution so women need to be cautious when they are obese or overweight.
Q) Is it okay if a woman is gaining too much weight during pregnancy?
Ans: Every pregnant woman should talk to her care team to find out what is the right weight gain pattern, keeping her health in mind. The weight gain pattern varies with each trimester. The weight gain should happen gradually.
Q) Will there be any complications if there is no proper weight gain?
Ans: Yes, for people who are underweight or people whose weight is not increasing, it is problematic when both quality and quantity diet are not given.
Q) What are the essentials proteins and nutrients?
Ans: The key nutrients required during pregnancy are:
- Good quality of fat
- Iron and calcium
- Vitamin C
- Folic acid
Q) Are any supplements suggested?
Ans: It is necessary to take vitamin and mineral supplements as prescribed. They are nutrients beyond the diet which need to be taken through supplements to compensate the nutrients which regular food might not give, like iron and calcium intake.
Five Essential Food Groups During Pregnancy
The quality of food should cover all the five food groups. Fruits and vegetables play a very important role because they give natural vitamins and minerals. Including different grains will augment a proper diet for the mother and baby.