Right nutrients essential for foetus development

 27 Apr 2016 - 15:05

Right nutrients essential for foetus development

By Fatima Nabil

Pregnancy is the stage of life cycle where dietary patterns play a very important role for the development of healthy wellbeing. Good nutrition is a key factor for the development of a healthy baby along with other important factors such as; regular physical activity, right amount of weight gain and food choices.
There are three trimesters of pregnancy during which development and growth of the baby happens; t is important that during these trimesters a healthy and balanced diet is followed which is necessary for proper growth of the baby.  Following are some nutritional guidelines for a healthy pregnancy.

Essential nutrients
Key minerals which are needed by the body during pregnancy are iron, calcium and folic acid.

The most common nutrient deficiency during pregnancy is iron deficiency, ie anaemia and it occurs during third trimester. Pregnant women usually need 27mg of iron per day which is very difficult to fulfil through their diet, physicians recommend iron supplements to meet the nutritional needs during pregnancy. Iron is important to support the healthy growth of baby and it stores in the foetus body for later use which may reduce the risk of iron deficiency in baby. Symptoms of iron deficiency are fatigue, lethargic feeling and low resistance to infection. Iron deficiency may cause premature delivery, low birth weight or even infant mortality as well. Iron rich foods are meat, poultry, fish, eggs and whole grain cereals to absorb iron vitamin C is mandatory. Vitamin C rich foods are citrus fruits, kiwi and broccoli. 

Folic acid
Folic acid is the B complex vitamin which is very important during and before pregnancy. Latest researches state that if one is planning to get pregnant she should take folic acid supplements before three months to reduce the risk of birth defects. Deficiency of folic acid during pregnancy may lead to certain malformations of brain, skull and spine; these are neural tube defects which are known as spina bifida, it usually occurs in first trimester of pregnancy. Recommended dietary allowance of folic acid during pregnancy is 0.4mg per day. Cereals, green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits are the highest sources of folic acid.

During pregnancy calcium is needed by the body for the proper development of bones, teeth, and heart and nerve muscles of the baby. Recommended calcium during pregnancy is 1000mg/day. If the diet does not provide enough calcium then the body takes calcium from mother’s bone to fulfil baby’s requirement. High sources of calcium are milk, cheese and yogurt. 

Nutritional guidelines
In the first trimester of pregnancy; nausea and vomiting are usual symptoms in which it is difficult to have a proper balanced diet, but one should consume proper diet which contains all food groups: fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, poultry, and cereal group and this can only happen if we add variety of foods in our diet. To avoid nausea and vomiting have frequent meals instead of having them at one time, it may lower the symptoms of nausea and vomiting.

Calorie intake
During pregnancy 500kcal are extra required. In the first trimester extra calories are not required, in second and third trimesters more calories are required. Calorie intake requirement is increased up to 2700kcal. Calorie intake should be in a healthy way, do not increase your calories by adding sugary drinks or saturated fat in your diet but complete your calorie count by adding variety of fruits, vegetables, milk and cereals in the diet. 

Healthy weight gain
In pregnancy do not follow weight loss strategy, it may affect the growth of fetus. Weight gain should be according to individual’s body mass index. Food choices are the key source of healthy weight gain. 

Physical activity
Physical activity helps in maintaining weight gain during pregnancy it helps in relieving stress and makes women active. Physicians advise to walkatleast half an hour daily for healthy pregnancy.

Caffeine and Sugary beverages
Caffeine, alcohol and tobacco are strictly restricted during pregnancy. One should avoid sugary beverages and food which are high in saturated fats, it only increases your weight which is not healthy for you and your baby as well.

The author is a dietician with a Bachelors of Science (BS) in Nutrition and Dietetics from University of Karachi, Pakistan.


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