The diet in pregnancy is designed to promote optimal nutrition for you and your baby. During pregnancy, your body requires additional calories and nutrients to meet the increased nutritional needs. Research indicates that well-nourished women are more likely to produce healthy, normal babies.
A healthy diet for a pregnant woman should be nutrient-dense and will require more calories, protein, iron, calcium, folic acid and vitamin D for some women.
• Maintain a steady rate of weight gain. Aim for a total increase of about three to four pounds during the first trimester and then about three to four pounds each month during the second and third trimesters. An average-sized woman can expect to gain anywhere between 25 and 40 pounds by the end of pregnancy.
• Excessive use of salt should be restricted in order to avoid high blood pressure.
• Avoid food that has raw and rearly cooked ingredients. Foods such as soft cheese, unpasteurized milk and juices need to be avoided (these foods have not been pasteurized, meaning they have not gone through the process to kill the germs present).
• Wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing. This removes the pesticides and bacteria that may be present on them.
• Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and most fresh fish. They contain high levels of mercury, which may cause birth defects.
• Excessive caffeine should be avoided. You should drink no more than one cup of coffee a day.
Exercise is very important during pregnancy for you and your baby. At this stage, exercise helps you boost your energy level. It helps relieve backaches and also strengthen the muscles of your back, butt and thighs. It also reduces constipation. Strong muscles as a result of these exercises are of great help during labour.
Always talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Once you're ready to get going:
• Start gradually. Even 5 minutes a day is a good start if you've been inactive. Add 5 minutes each week until you reach 30 minutes.
• Dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothes and wear a supportive bra to protect your breasts.
• Drink plenty of water to avoid overheating and dehydration.
• Skip your exercises if you're sick.
• Opt for a walk in an air-conditioned mall on hot, humid days.
• Above all, listen to your body.