Extra food requirement
During the first three months of pregnancy the mother-to-be needs virtually no extra food. During the final months she may, however, need a certain amount of extra food, but no more than, say, an additional glass of milk and a cheese sandwich a day. There is thus no need for the mother to “eat for two”, but she should have a varied diet and eat sufficiently often. What the mother eats during pregnancy greatly affects the baby’s development. In particular the need for vitamins, minerals and protein is greater than at other times.
A reasonable total weight gain in pregnancy is about 20 %, i.e. 10-14 kilos. During the first few months the mother may even lose weight. The weight gain varies greatly from one mother to another. It should, however, be constantly checked, because insufficient weights gain may be an indication that the fetus is developing too slowly. A steady excessive weight increase is a strain on the mother, and a sudden increase indicates that fluid is collecting in the body (see Swelling above).
Eat regular meals while you are expecting. Tiredness and nausea may be signs that you ought to be resting more and eating more regularly. It is advisable to eat a number of small meals during pregnancy; breakfast, lunch, supper, and 2-4 snacks in between.
Every family has its own eating habits. The expectant mother should, however, watch and possibly change her diet because it affects the health of both her baby and herself. Avoid fat, sugar and salt -the whole family will benefit.
- Dairy products: milk, buttermilk, cheese and cottage cheese contain the necessary protein, calcium and vitamins. The expectant mother needs more than the usual share of these so should eat them while pregnant even if they are not usually pan of her diet. Low-fat and fatless milk products and cheeses are particularly recommended.
- Cereals: bread, porridge and gruel, especially wholegrain, are important because they contain lots of minerals and vitamins. Wholegrain products also contain fibre to help the digestion and prevent constipation.
- Potatoes and root vegetables: these also contain vitamins (especially vitamin C) and various minerals.
- Edible fats: try to limit your fat intake to a couple of spoonfuls a day. Vegetable fats and oils are to be recommended.
- Meat and fish: meat and fish contain the protein your baby needs. Avoid fatty and salty meat products (such as sausages).
- Vegetables, fruit and berries: the vitamin C in vegetables, fruit and berries helps the blood to absorb the iron in e.g. grain. Some of the best sources of vitamin C are potato, cabbage, swede, black currants, arctic cloudberries, strawberries and citrus fruits. Vegetables, fruit and berries contain little energy so they are not fattening. They keep your bowel movements regular due to the large amount of fibre they contain and should be eaten in large quantities, at least a couple of times a day. They are particularly recommended raw. Dried fruits and berries have often lost their vitamin C but are a useful way of combating constipation.
Use as little salt as possible because it causes swelling and raises your blood pressure. Avoid or reduce your consumption of e.g. salted fish, salted meat, long-life sausages, salted gherkins, salted mushrooms, potato crisps, salty biscuits and mineral waters.
Reducing your sugar consumption helps to prevent you from getting fat and saves your teeth. Fizzy drinks, for example, contain a lot of sugar and there is virtually no food value in them, so there is no point in drinking them.
Your body must get sufficient liquid during pregnancy, because it helps to remove the waste products. The healthiest thing to drink is fresh spring water and fresh juice.
Not even a good diet is always sufficient to guarantee a sufficient supply of the iron you need during pregnancy. Iron is of primary importance to the development of the child. The iron received by the mother also prevents the baby from becoming anaemic. For this reason iron is often prescribed for expectant mothers.
In addition your body needs food containing iron (blood, meat, fish, wholegrain products), vitamin C (especially vegetables, fruit and berries) and exercise.
Fluorine is important for your teeth. The expectant mother must take good care of her teeth because pregnancy makes great demands on the body’s fluorine and calcium reserves. The baby’s teeth are already forming before it is born. Fluorine toothpaste, used daily, strengthens the teeth. Your dentist may also recommend additional fluorine treatment, such as rinsing with fluorine solution or brushing with fluorine jelly. In general it is a good idea to attend to your teeth during pregnancy. Most municipalities provide dental treatment for expectant mothers at the health centre