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Pregnant? Here's how your nutritional needs will change

Sunday, September 27, 2020

THE consequences of a woman's food choices does not only affect her health, but that of future generations as well. Also, prior to pregnancy, a woman has the unique opportunity to prepare herself physically, mentally and emotionally for the many changes that will occur.

A man's diet may have an influence on his fertility and possible genetic contributions to his offspring, however, nutrition deploys its primary influence through the woman.

A whole new life begins at conception. Nutrition participates in many supportive roles in rapidly developing organ systems at critical periods. Each organ system grows to maturity to its specific schedule. These periods of intense development and rapid cell division, which can only occur at those times, are referred to as critical periods.

Each system is most vulnerable especially at those times, to nutrient deficiencies and toxins. In many instances, the critical periods materialise when a woman may be unaware that she is pregnant.

Weight gain during pregnancy

The recommended weight gain during pregnancy is based on the pre-pregnancy weight. A dietitian can assist with the amount that is appropriate for you.

Some women may articulate concern about their weight gain that goes hand in hand with a healthy pregnancy. They may find some solace in the fact that most of the weight gain supports the growth of the placenta, uterus, blood, breasts, optimally for a seven-pound infant, and a small amount is reserved for maternal fat stores. The fat stores play a pivotal role in providing energy for labour and lactation.

Energy needs

Although the nutrient needs during pregnancy and lactation are higher than any other time in a woman's life, it does not mean that she must consume the amount required for two adults.

The additional energy from foods required correlates with the trimester. In the first trimester, no additional calories are required. However, in the second and third trimesters, there are incremental caloric increases.

Folic acid supplementation

This is one of the B vitamins. Significant food sources for this include fortified grains, leafy green vegetables, legumes, and seeds such as sunflower. It is susceptible to destruction by heat in the cooking process.

Whenever cells are multiplying, and especially during pregnancy, the need for the vitamin rises considerably.

Folic acid helps to reduce the incidence of the formation of neural tube defects, which include defects of the brain and spinal cord. If one is planning to get pregnant, one can begin supplementation under the guidance of a health care professional.

Folic acid supplementation is critical during the first trimester, as this is the most critical period for the development of the brain and spinal cord.


This is a trace mineral. Its absorption from food depends on its source. It is usually better absorbed from animal sources than plant sources.

Dark green leafy vegetables consumed with a vitamin C-containing food such as lime juice, at the same meal, can enhance iron's absorption. Iron supplementation is recommended to support the mother's enlarged blood volume.

Additionally, the foetus draws on the maternal stores to last the first four to six months after birth, when milk, which will be the infant's food, lacks iron.

Other nutrients

Other requirements include essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, zinc, and calcium.

However, it is not limited to these nutrients. Maternal supplements are prescribed to assist in obtaining the required nutrients.


Practices incompatible with pregnancy include, but are not limited to, alcohol intake, smoking, illicit drug use and environmental contaminants like mercury found in some fish.

Dr Gabriella Diaz is a medical aesthetics doctor and registered dietitian who is the director at Finesse Nutrition and Esthetics (FINE) at 129 Pro, 129 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6. Check out 876FINE on Facebook & Instagram or contact her via e-mail at and 876-522-8297.