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Diet in Pregnancy

Optimum Nutrition is of great importance for women, due to the special nutritional needs associated with psychological changes such as  menstruation, pregnancy, lactation and menopause. 

Pregnancy is a period of great psychological stress for the woman as she is nurturing a growing foetus in her body. Foetal development is accompanied by many physiological, biochemical and hormonal changes occurring in the maternal body which influence the needs for nutrients and the efficiency with which the body uses them. These changes include

  • Increases basal metabolic rate
  • Gastrointestinal changes
  • Hormonal changes
  • Changes in the body fluid
  • Altered renal function

Foetal growth and maternal weight gains at different ages in gestation

Age (Weeks) Total foetal weight (g) Maternal weight gain (g)
10 5 650
12 30  
20 300 4000
24 900  
28 1240  
30 1484 8500
32 1750  
34 2278  
36 2750  
38 3052  
40 3230 12500
42 3310  

Analysis of weight gain in Pregnancy

  Period of Gestation
  Upto 10 weeks
Upto 20 weeks
Upto 30 weeks
Upto 40 weeks
Foetus & Placenta 55 720 2350 4750
Uterus & Breast tissue 170 765 1170 1300
100 600 1300 1350  
Extracellular weight - - - 1200
Fat 325 1915 3500 400
Total 650 4000 8500 12600

Nutritional Risk Factors in Pregnancy

Risk factors present at onset of Pregnancy Risk factors occurring during Pregnancy
Age less than 15 years or greater than 35 years Low Hb - Less than 12.0 g per 100 ml blood
Frequent pregnancies - 3 or more during approx. 2 years Inadequate weight gain 
Poor obstetric history or poor foetal performance Any weight loss
Poverty Weight gain less than 1 kg per month after 1st trimester
Bizarre food habits Excessive weight gain - i kg per week after 1st trimester
Abuse of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or drugs  
Therapeutic diet required for chronic disorders  
Inadequate weight 
  • Less than 85% of standard
  • Greater than 120% of standard

DIET & FEEDING PATTERN While planning meals for pregnant women, the basic meal planning principles remain the same as for normal adults. During early months of pregnancy, the mother often suffers from morning sickness due to hormonal and psychological changes taking place in her body. To minimise the effect of morning sickness and nausea of early pregnancy, the woman should be given small amounts of foods with increased frequency. Solid carbohydrate foods like biscuits, bread or fruit, as first food in the morning as well as before meals will help to relieve the nausea of early pregnancy. At the same time, avoid rich, fried, strongly flavoured and highly spiced foods.

It should be remembered that 

  • During the first trimester, the mother's nutrient intake need not be increased. 
  • To meet the increased requirements during the 2nd and 3rd trimester of pregnancy, the mother needs to consume extra food. To take care of this, she should be given some snacks in between the main meals rather than three large meals, thus increasing her frequency of feeding. Therefore her feeding pattern should be 5 to 6 meals a day. Increased protein needs can be met by including protein of good quality like milk, meat eggs, fish. Proteins can also be obtained from food items like pulses, groundnuts, soyabeans, etc., which are comparatively cheaper. To improve their protein quality, combination of plant protein like cereals and pulses along with small amounts of animal protein should be used. 
  • To meet the additional iron need, foodstuffs like whole grain cereals, whole pulses, some leafy vegetables like mustard leaves, bathua, etc., dried fruits, eggs and organ meats should be consumed. 
  • During pregnancy, due to foetal pressure, constipation is common problem. Therefore, larger quantities of foods rich in dietary fibre, i.e., fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals, husked pulses along with plenty of fluids need to be included in her diet. Her diet on whole should be nutritious and well balanced
Days Sample Diet Plan for a Pregnant Woman
Mrs Shiva, aged 25 years, wife of a businessmen, is expecting a baby in another 2 months. She has a part-time domestic help but is actively engaged in household chores: she is vegetarian by choice. A days sample diet is planned below.

              Personal Data-
Age 25 years
Sex  Female
Activity Moderately Active
Physiological State Pregnancy ( 3rd Trimester)
Socio-economic Status MIG
Food Habits Vegetarian

Recommended Dietary Allowances-

Energy 2525 kcal
Protein 65 g
Iron 38 mg
Thiamine  1.3 mg

Sample Menu Plan

Meal  Menu
Breakfast Tea
  Spinach Besan Parathas
Mid-Morning Biscuits
  Lemon Water (Nimboo Pani)
Lunch Channa Curry
  Stuffed Tindas
  Mint Raita
Evening Tea Banana Shake in Milk
Dinner Pea Paneer Curry
  Mixed Vegetable (dry)
  Fruit Custard
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