Maternal nutrition

Maternal nutrition

Maternal nutrition is the dietary intake and habits of expectant mothers with dual emphasis on the health of the mother and the physical and mental development of infants. Nearly 24 per cent of babies are estimated to be born with lower than optimal weights at birth.[1]

Pregnancy and child birth transform every aspect of expecting mother's lives.They should be very careful with their choices regarding what they eat. This article is about the diet the expecting mothers should be following for their welfare and their growing foetus.

It is very important that expecting mothers should change their personal habits like smoking, alcohol, caffeine, using certain medications and street drugs as soon as they know they are pregnant or even when they are planning to conceive. All these can affect the development of the organs like brain , which happen in early stages of pregnancy. They can cause irreparable damage to the growing foetus.[2]

The expecting mothers should be very calm and peaceful, also focussed on what they should do for a healthy pregnancy.


First trimester

The first necessary step for proper diet is to take a daily prenatal vitamins, that ensure their body gets the vitamins and minerals it needs to create a healthy baby. These vitamins contain folic acid, iodine, iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc and calcium. Hence the diet should consist of fruits, vegetables, non fat diary foods, lean meat and whole grains which are rich in the prenatal vitamins and minerals. Eating well is very important during pregnancy, the food they eat keeps them and their baby nurtured. It should be right balance of carbohydrates, fat and protein without too much of calories. Drink fruit juices with 100% fruit and limit them to one glass per day. Juices are not only high in calories but do not provide the amount of fibre compared to a whole fruit. Include at least one serving of citrus fruit like orange, grape fruit as they are rich in vitamin C. Vegetable servings should include a variety of green leafy (broccoli, spinach, kale); red (tomatoes, red peppers); yellow (yellow peppers, corn) and orange vegetables (carrot, sweet potatoes, pumpkin). They should have at least 3 - 4 servings each day of fruits and 3 - 5 servings of vegetables each day during their first trimester. The foetus requires more of vitamins and minerals during the first trimester than extra calories. If the mothers are very hungry there is no harm in eating more food compared to their intake before pregnancy. It is a mandatory for the expecting mothers who by their obstetrician are very thin. Organic fat and protein build healthy babies. Succumbing to junk food will only deplete them of vital nutrients which is not at all advisable at that time.[3]

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are one of the main symptoms faced by pregnant women. The most important thing to help control nausea during pregnancy is to not allow the stomach to become empty. It is better to eat snacks at small intervals rather than eating three large meals in a day. During nausea, the woman will not want to eat, but if food is not consumed regularly, then blood sugar levels can drop and actually increase nausea during pregnancy.[4] Other ways to avoid nausea and vomiting include:

  1. drink a lot of water with a pinch of Celtic sea salt which will aid hydration and replace the lost electrolytes. Table salt is known to bloat, hence sea salt is recommended.
  2. Vitamin B6 is known to treat nausea, and food items like beef, tuna, banana, chicken, liver, avocados and whole grains.
  3. Ginger also will have the similar effect on nausea as vitamin B6, hence raw ginger chopped into food or blended with tea will help relieve nausea and vomiting.[5]

Lack of rest and taking a lot of stress has negative impact on their bodies. It can increase nausea during pregnancy, a very relaxing massage and stress relieved mind will help them to control nausea. Sleep and rest is very important.[6] Eating fruits and vegetables, could reduce pregnant women's risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI).[7]

Exercise and Diet

If they were into vigorous exercise before pregnancy and continue to do so during their pregnancy then they should take the same diet for 1st trimester and increase their diet intake by 300 calories for their second trimester.[8]. A known fact is that regular exercise during pregnancy can improve posture also help in decreasing discomforts such as backaches and fatigue. Physical activity may help in prevent Gestational diabetes, relieve stress, and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery. The heart rate should not exceed beyond 140 beats per minute while exercising, overdoing the exercises will increase the fatigue rather than cure it. Hence expectant mothers should not revert to their vigorous exercise schedule before pregnancy.[9].

Second Trimester

Second trimester is a crucial stage in pregnancy, hence the diet should include all essential food groups that are carbohydrates, proteins, fats along with already consuming vitamins and minerals. Increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables to 4 - 5 servings of each, which is more compared to your first trimester. Many women suffer from constipation in their second trimester, hence fibre rich food helps in easing the bowel movement and relieves constipation.Try reducing fat intake in the diet plan, along with sugar, both will lead to increase in excess weight than required.Weight gain is unhealthy for pregnancy in this stage. Consume sufficient amount of dairy products that are rich in calcium, very healthy and essential mineral for the baby.[10]

Third Trimester

Third trimester is the time when the baby is fully developed and the mother is getting ready for labour. Hence nutrient same as before should be continued, along with 300 calories extra per day to keep the mother energized. Drinking between the meals should be reduced as the pressure on bladder increases by the growing foetus inside the womb. Diet plan should be more or less same as the second trimester only increased quantities to suffice the exhaustion and tiredness face by the mother. Proteins can be found in fish also, but it is necessary to enquire from the doctor regarding which fish is best for the mother and baby,for example : Many ladies are advised against swordfish and salmon. For teeth and bone development of the baby skimmed milk, cheese and yoghurt should be consumed, as they are enriched with calcium. One glass of skimmed milk or low fat milk is a healthy option.[11]


Most pregnant ladies suffer from swelling in their third trimester, a condition termed as edema. Consumption of sodium rich food items should be avoided. It is estimated about 75% of women experience it. The most effective ways to relieve from excess swelling and related discomforts is

  • Avoid elastic topped socks or knee high stockings, try wearing support panty hose instead.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, slip ons are the best type.
  • Avoiding standing for long hours and try moving around. Keep your leg elevated whenever possible.
  • Hydrotherapy; lying in a pool helps in relieving the body of excess fluids and still protecting the uterus.
  • Excess or low amount of salt level in the body cause swelling, hence moderation is necessary. [12]

Cravings and Aversions

As the weeks pass by, cravings or aversions for certain variety of food grows for pregnant ladies. These cravings or aversions should be controlled and consumed in required amounts. If they crave chocolates, then they should buy best quality chocolates and consume little amount of it every day and if they have aversion for meat, then they should have some other source for their protein or else consume meat in required quantities for necessary proteins and nutrients. Cravings for non food items like laundry starch, clay, etc. should be informed to the doctor immediately as they may have developed a medical condition called pica, which can be dangerous for them and their baby. These cravings and aversions are also a sign showing what are the required by the body and what should be avoided by the body.


  1. ^ "WHO | 10 facts on nutrition". 2011-03-15. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  2. ^ Laura Riley. Stephanie Karpinske. ed. Pregnancy: The Ultimate Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide. Meredith Books. pp. 21 - 22. ISBN 0-696-22221-3. 
  3. ^ "first trimester nutrition". 
  4. ^ "how to deal with nausea during pregnancy". 
  5. ^ "first trimester nutrition". 
  6. ^ "how to deal with nausea during pregnancy". 
  7. ^ "Diet plan for pregnant women". 
  8. ^ Laura Riley. Stephanie Karpinske. ed. Pregnancy: The Ultimate Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide. Meredith Books. pp. 40 - 41. ISBN 0-696-22221-3. 
  9. ^ "exercise and pregnancy". 
  10. ^ "what to eat during 2nd trimester of pregnancy". 
  11. ^ "foods to eat when pregnant". 
  12. ^ "swelling in pregnancy". 

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