Diet in pregnancy
It's important to try to eat a variety of foods in pregnancy to ensure that you are receiving a wide variety of all the vitamins and minerals you need. The best way to do this is to eat:
- lots of fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or a glass of juice). Try to aim for at least five portions a day
- some starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes – try to choose wholegrain options as the energy levels they contain are released slower and helps to keep you going for longer
- lots of protein – lean meat and chicken, fish (aim for at least two servings of fish a week, including one of oily fish), eggs and pulses (such as beans and lentils). These foods are good sources of iron, omega three and vitamin D
- plenty of fibre – this helps prevent constipation (an unfortunate side effect of pregnancy) and is found in wholegrain foods, fruit and vegetables
- dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are all very important because they contain calcium, your baby will be zapping all your calcium levels as it grows
There are things that you should cut down on – foods that are high in fat and sugar - sweets, cakes and junk food, this wont help your weight gain in pregnancy and also caffeine – tea, coffee, caffeine and carbonated drinks (coke and Red Bull).
Food that should be avoided
Risk of infection and food poisoning:
- unpasteurised milk
- ripened soft cheese such as Camembert, Brie and blue veined cheese (there is no risk with hard cheeses, such as Chedder or cottage cheese and processed cheese)
- paté (of any sort including vegetable)
- uncooked or undercooked ready-prepared meals
- avoiding raw or partially cooked meat, especially poultry - be extra careful with BBQ's
- pre-packed fruit and vegetables including salads, make sure they are wasked prior to consumption
- soft whipped ice cream - its neither fresh nor frozen and selective about where you get your ice creams, make sure the scoop hasn't been sat in dirty water all day
Teratogenic effects on the fetus:
- high levels of vitamin A – contained by liver and liver products and therefore consumption of these products should also be avoided
- avoid eating any tuna, shark, swordfish and marlin – if you do eat it then no more than two tuna steaks a week (weighing about 140g cooked or 170g raw) or four medium size cans of tuna a week (with a drained weight of about 140g per can). This is because of the levels of mercury in these fish, if the levels are high they can harm a baby's developing nervous system
Risk of allergies
Current thinking is that babies are more at risk of having a peanut or nut allergy as a child if you have consumed peanuts in pregnancy. Serious allergies to nuts and nut products effect about 1 to 2% of people in the UK. Your baby may be at higher risk of developing a nut allergy if you, the baby's father or the baby’s siblings have certain allergic conditions such as hayfever, asthma or eczema.
Once you know you’re pregnant, you need to start taking Folic Acid (also known as vitamin B9) if you have not already been doing so. The recommended dose is 400 micrograms and should be taken up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid is very important for the development of a healthy fetus as it can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
Current medical advice suggests that women should be taking a Vitamin D supplement during pregnancy and when breast feeding. Those women that would particularly benefit are the following − women of South Asian, African, Caribbean or Middle Eastern family origin, women who have limited exposure to sunlight, such as women who are predominantly housebound, or usually remain covered when outdoors, women who eat a diet particularly low in vitamin D, such as women who consume no oily fish, eggs, meat, vitamin D-fortified margarine or breakfast cereal orwomen with a pre-pregnancy BMI above 30. If you feel you need Vitamin D you should be taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day.
Multi-vitamins are not necessarily recommended in pregnancy but you can ensure you receive both of the above supplements in a pregnancy specific multivitamin, you may even qualify for free vitamins under the ‘Healthy Start’ scheme
. However if you eat a rich and varied diet your will find that the individual supplements are all you need.