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Pregnancy and Eating

Maternal nutrition is one of the most important factors affecting pregnancy as the digestive system must digest and absorb nutrients needed for baby’s and placental growth and development. An additional 300 calories per day are needed in the second and third trimester to meet the energy demand of the mother and growing baby. Also many vitamin allowances are increased by 20-100%. It is vital to include in the diet the proper amount of protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids present in oily fish, nuts and seeds. Reducing consumption of coffee, tea, alcohol and fizzy drinks is recommended.


Important vitamins and minerals in pregnancy:

  • Vitamin C

    increases iron absorption and needed for collagen and tissue formation.

    • Kiwi, citrus fruit, peppers, tomatoes and other fruit and vegetables
  • Vitamin B

    Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12 serve as coenzymes for protein and energy metabolism

    • Pork, wheatgerm and yeast
  • Vitamin B9

    Folic Acid is linked with reduction in neural tube defects.

  • Vitamin E

     tissue growth and integrity of cell tissu

    • Fish, meat, eggs, milk, grains and vegetable oils
  • Iron

    transfer of oxygen in haemoglobin molecule.

    • Meat, nuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds, beetroot, parsley, dried beans
  • Zinc

    supplementation has been reported to increase birth weight in those who are deficient.

    • Red meat, crab meat, oysters and dairy products

Over 50% of pregnant women experience increased appetite and thirst. Appetite tends to increase from mid-pregnancy but declines in later pregnancy. Food craving and aversions often begin in the first trimester. Aversion towards less beneficial foods such as tea, coffee, alcohol, fried food and smoking is often a response to nausea and vomiting. Also smell may be enhanced during pregnancy.

Nausea and vomiting is experienced by 50-90% of women mostly during first trimester and 50% of them more in the morning. It generally begins between 4 and 6 weeks and usually resolves by 3-4 months. There are various theories (non of them proved) about the causes including mechanical, metabolic, endocrinological, genetic or psychosomatic factors.  One theory says that it is an adaptive function to protect the embryo from toxic substances such as caffeine or alcohol. Although it is just a theory, it could explain why it is less common in non-industrialised countries. Anyway, nausea has been associated with good pregnancy outcomes and is often considered a favourable sign. Small, frequent meals during the day, consumption of ginger or relaxation techniques might ease the symptoms. Also it is good to avoid strong odours, fatty or spicy food and cold liquids.

Heartburn affects about 30-70% of pregnant women. Excessive bending, obesity or multiple pregnancies might make the matter worse. Eating sitting upright, more frequent small meals and avoiding seasoned food, coffee, alcohol and chocolate can reduce heartburn. Use of antacid preparations is supposed to help but can have side effects such as diarrhoea, constipation or affects water balance and calcium/phosphorus balance (muscle cramps appear). Long-term use is associated with malabsorption of drugs and dietary minerals.

Constipation, experienced by 10-30% of women, tends to be worse in the first and third trimesters. It is recommended to do light exercises, drink plenty of fluids, eat high-fibre foods (fruits, raw vegetable, bran and wheat). Also avoid using mineral oils as they absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Preventing constipation decreases a chance of haemorrhoids.

Gums may be oedematous and spongy, bleeding more easily. Dental problems occur during pregnancy and are more extreme with maternal age and when there were pre-existing dental problems.


Smoking increases risk of a spontaneous abortion, abruption, placenta praevia (low-lying placenta), premature and prolonged rupture of the membranes and pre-term labour. Also low birth weight and growth restrictions.

Please note that this is not guidance for a pregnancy diet and the subject is open to further study or discussion with a qualified dietary therapist. For any digestive disturbances I recommend light exercises such as walking or even yoga classes.

Ready to find out more?

I wish you good health and will be looking forward to welcoming you personally at my practice. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

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