Pregnancy is a biological condition where the body requires an additional supply of several vitamins and nutrients. This is important for the mother’s health as well as that of the developing fetus. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that pregnant women should consume a diet that has a variety of foods such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Having a well balanced diet ensures an adequate supply of both macro- and micronutrients.
List of essential vitamins and minerals
The required daily dosages of some of the vitamins and minerals needed by pregnant women includes :
- Vitamin A or beta carotene (770mcg)
- Vitamin D (5mcg)
- Vitamin E (15mg)
- Vitamin C (80 to 85mg)
- Vitamin B1 (1.4mg)
- Vitamin B2 (1.4mg)
- Vitamin B3 (18mg)
- Vitamin B6 (1.9mg)
- Folic acid (800mcg)
- Calcium (1000 – 1300mg)
- Iron (27mg)
- Zinc (11 – 12mg)
In addition, a pregnant woman should consume at least 70g of protein per day. Several other nutrients are also needed but are not as important as the ones mentioned above.
Folic acid or folate is an extremely important vitamin for pregnant women and therefore deserves special mention. It should be taken regularly during the first trimester of pregnancy. It needs to be understood that dietary sources of folate are often not enough to supply the required 800mcg/day during pregnancy. Therefore folic acid supplementation is necessary necessary. It is required for optimal development of brain and spinal cord of the fetus. Deficiencies of folate leads to babies with lower than normal weight, premature delivery and neural tube defects like spinal bifida.
Adequate calcium is required during pregnancy for development of the fetal skeleton primarily in the third trimester of pregnancy. It is also important to maintain bone health in the mother during pregnancy. If calcium is not taken in adequate amounts, then it can have deleterious effects both for the mother and the child. As the pregnancy advances the calcium requirement may increase depending on the physiological condition of the mother and child.
Protein forms an integral part of the pregnant women’s diet as it is the building block of all structures in the body. It is necessary for the framework of every cell in the body, and its internal structures. Protein is also required for the ongoing repair and maintenance of all the cells. The body’s genetic blueprint, DNA, is also made up of different sequences of proteins.
Iron is important for production of red blood cells and maintaining the hemoglobin levels. Adequate iron intake helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia in both the mother and the new born baby. Iron deficiency during pregnancy leads to lower than normal weight of babies and premature delivery.
Balanced dietary regime
As per the dietary guidelines provided by ACOG, pregnant women should consume at least 4 or more servings of fruits and vegetables to ensure a good supply of vitamins and minerals. Eat at least 6 to 7 serving of cereals and pulses. Cereals and pulses are high in carbohydrates and proteins, and are essential for supplying energy throughout the day.
At least 4 or more servings of milk and milk products should consumed daily. This ensures an adequate supply of calcium, vitamin B12 and various other micronutrients. Either meat, fish or poultry should be consumed in at least 3 servings daily. Animal protein is abundant in essential amino acids which are required for cell repair and growth.