When a woman is pregnant, what she eats needs to sustain both the mother and the growing baby, so it is important to eat the foods that will allow both her and her baby or babies to stay healthy.
In general a healthy diet, whether you are pregnant or not, contains some of all the food groups. Ideally the diet will also have none (or as small an amount as possible) of harmful substances, such as alcohol and tobacco smoke. In pregnancy this becomes more important, as what gets into the bloodstream of the mother is also in the bloodstream of the baby.
Try to eat several servings of fruit, vegetables, breads, cereals, milk and milk products and protein such as lean meat, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Decide who is going to be your lead maternity carer, whether doctor or midwife, and discuss with them whether or not you need supplements such as iron, folic acid and iodine.
You should not need vitamin supplementation if you eat a balanced diet, but for some women, the nausea of pregnancy prevents this from happening, and they should discuss with their pregnancy advisor or community pharmacist as to the correct supplement to take to ensure optimal growth and development of their baby.
Ensure that you drink plenty of fluids, increase your water consumption to at least six to eight glasses of water each day; restrict your caffeine consumption, and also limit processed and pre-prepared foods, as they may contain harmful bacteria that can cause problems for the baby.
As the baby grows, so does the amount of food and fluid needed for the baby to continue to develop, and the growth of the baby means that a pregnant woman can’t fit in as much food as previously. In the latter stages of pregnancy, smaller meals, and more of them is a good option. Aim for a source of protein, milk, bread or cereal and fruit at each small meal, and try to eat six or more small meals each day.
In New Zealand, our soil is deficient in Iodine, and it is now recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women have an iodine supplement for this phase of their life, as well as folic acid supplementation for the first three months of a pregnancy to ensure the baby develops as they should.
Your community pharmacist can give you advice as to the correct supplements for you to take throughout your pregnancy, when planning pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding to make sure you and your family have the best start in life.