Gestation involves rapid cell division and organ development. An adequate supply of all the nutrients i.e. carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals are essential to support this rapid growth. There are various factors which influence a mother’s weight gain during pregnancy.
For the mother, delivering an overweight or an underweight baby can pose to be a problem.
Over weight babies find it difficult to make their way out of the birth canal leading to a surgery and also tend to battle obesity in later stages of life.
Under weight babies due to being weak and malnourished cannot handle the powerful uterine contractions and hence again tend to be delivered via a surgical procedure. Also, underweight babies tend to battle a lot of early child hood problems such as asthma, bronchitis and other infections. If a mother puts on excessive weight during her pregnancy this leads to fat concentration in the buttock region which also makes a vaginal delivery difficult.
Weight gain during pregnancy is dependant directly on the pre-pregnancy weight of a woman, her age and her food habits.
Since every woman and every pregnancy is different it is best to make individual and customized diet plans. As a general guideline, a woman who starts her pregnancy at the optimum weight should put on approximately 10-14 kilograms with the least gain the first trimester and the maximum in the last.
A pregnant woman does not need any extra increase in calories in the first trimester of pregnancy. A lot of women go through hormonal changes which result in feelings of nausea and in general a loss of appetite. For such women, it is important that they eat small, frequent and nutrient dense meals. Instead of reaching for a potato chip, eat some almonds, substitute the white breads for whole meal counterparts and sneak in vegetables and fruits in any form that suits.
From the second trimester onwards, calorie requirements increases to approximately 300 to 500 calories per day and it is again important that these come from nutritious foods and are not just empty calories.
These form the base of any nutritional program. They are also the energy giving foods and should not be ignored from your meals. It is important to spread their intake over the whole day with the highest intake in the morning and the lowest in the night.
Carbohydrates include food items such as chapattis, rice, breads, multigrain, pastas or cereals and so on. The minimum serving requirement is six per 24 hours. This food group helps the overall growth of the fetus, adds fiber to your food and helps to keep the stomach juices settled which ensures less feelings of nausea. It is recommended that if you feel a wave of nausea coming up, eat a small piece of toast or a cracker and it can help to settle your stomach.
Fruits and Vegetables
These are called the pregnancy support system. They are rich in vitamins and minerals and have a high level of nutrition in lesser number of calories. This is the group we must turn to when we feel hungry to satisfy the hunger pangs. A good thumb rule to follow in this group is to ensure that we eat a wide range of colours.
A minimum serving from both groups included is 500 grams of fruits and vegetables in a 24 hour period.
This is the building block of cells and it is also required for fetal brain development. Sources of protein include non vegetarian foods such as chicken, fish and eggs and vegetarian foods such as pulses, legumes, nuts and soy. It is important to have a serving of protein along with each meal from the 12th week onwards.
Milk and milk products
Calcium is responsible for the baby’s bones, teeth and muscle tone and development. A pregnant woman needs approximately 600 ml of milk or milk products in a 24 hour period. You can consume this directly in the form of milk or try alternatives such as paneer, cheese, custards, ice creams and so on. However, it is important to watch the sugar content and use products such as honey or jaggery to sweeten foods. Plant foods which contain calcium include bananas, green leafy vegetables, ragi and so on.
Pregnant women often develop a craving for sweets during pregnancy but these are best limited to no more than one small piece of chocolate or a small piece of Indian sweet every day. They contribute to nothing else but excessive weight gain.
The requirement for oil/butter/ghee is restricted to 2 table spoons in a 24 hour period. This includes all the oil in the cooking and hence leaves no scope for fried foods.
The most important rule to remember is that pregnant women should eat every 2-3 hours. The fetus inside you is growing at a phenomenal pace and needs constant nutrition. It is not necessary to eat a full meal but a small snack at regular intervals is a cardinal rule.
Remember to consume at least 8 glasses of water every day. It helps to keep you hydrated, keeps constipation at bay, aids in digestion and ensures that the levels of fluid in the amniotic sac are maintained.