When You Are Pregnant
The health of a pregnant mother will affect the development of her fetus, but it does not mean that if the fetus is found to be small, the mother must be fed with tons of supplements and excessive amount of food. Doing this could bring more harm rather than good.
It is true that a pregnant woman’s calorie intake increase during pregnancy. There’s a popular belief that you should eat for two when you’re pregnant. However, your calorie consumption increase only by 300 calories per day as compared to your pre-pregnancy state.
For example, if your pre-pregnancy state intake is 1700 calories, your pregnancy intake should be around 2100 to 2500 calories per day. Most importantly, these calories should come from a variety of healthy foods that are able to feed all essential nutrients that your body needs rather than indulging on zero nutrients and high caloric food. If you have difficulties to meet your calories demand, perhaps due to excessive vomiting or morning sickness, do consult your doctor for an anti-sickness medication. In case you have loss of appetite, try to eat in smaller amounts but frequently.
The typical weight gain for a single pregnancy varies considerably based on the mother’s pre-pregnancy weight and other factors. An underweight pregnant woman is recommended to gain more weight, whereas an overweight woman is recommended to control her food intake. In Malaysia, the total gain of 10kg throughout the pregnancy is an ideal gain for woman with normal BMI and until her second trimester, the weight gain of pregnant mothers should be less than 0.5 per week.
Rather than focusing on how much you should eat, what you should eat is more important to make sure that your baby is growing well. You must be aware that pregnant woman needs additional amount of vitamins, minerals and nutrients than pre-pregnancy. In order to get enough nutrients, pregnant women should take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin and eat healthy foods from the four basic food groups, which are;
- Fruits and Vegetables — you should try to eat 7 or more servings of fruits and vegetables combined (for example: 3 servings of fruit and 4 servings of vegetables) daily. Fruits and vegetables contain high amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Fiber can help to ease bowel movement and prevent constipation.
- Whole-grains or enriched breads/ cereals — you should eat 6 to 9 servings of whole-grain or enriched breads and /or cereals everyday. Whole-grain bread, rice, pasta, and breakfast cereals with vitamins enriched is actually categorized broadly under carbohydrate but its healthier and linked to low risk of getting metabolic disease (diabetes mellitus). You can consume carbohydrate as it is a main source of energy in human as long as it is within the recommended amount.
- Dairy Products — consume 4 or more servings of low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt, cheese or other dairy products every day. Dairy products provide calcium for you and your baby in order to have strong bones and teeth. It also contains vitamin A and D, and protein. Other sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and tofu. In some cases, your doctor might also recommend a calcium supplement.
- Proteins — you need 10 grams extra of protein than non-pregnant women which means you should eat 60 grams of protein every day. Eggs, nuts, dried beans, and peas are good sources of protein. Protein is important as it helps to build muscles, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies for you and your baby. As a reminder, please avoid uncooked or undercooked animal-based meals as you may get infections and harm your baby.
Having a small baby may not be caused by your food intake. Even if you are eating well and balanced food, there might also be other reasons why your baby is small.
Firstly, it might be that a pregnant mother has had fever or an intrauterine infection or a viral infection during the first trimester. This is the reason why infectious disease screening is done during the first three months of pregnancy.
Secondly, it is simply genetic if both the mother and father were small built when they were fetuses, the child would also be small or if your previous pregnancy is small in size, this pregnancy could be the same.
Another reason is placenta and umbilical cord abnormality in which there is excessive torsion of the umbilical cord or placenta insufficiency. However, as long as your doctor is monitoring your progress, you will be in good hands. The doctor will always monitor your baby’s growth and if any abnormalities are detected, treatment options will be explained to you.