During pregnancy, it is especially important that the future mother takes care of her nutrition, for her own health, but also to provide the fetus with the necessary nutrients for its proper development, as well as to avoid risks of infections and other problems.
It is common for women to gain between nine and thirteen kilos during this stage, depending on their Body Mass Index (BMI) before becoming pregnant.
Of this weight increase, approximately half corresponds to the weight of the baby, the amniotic fluid and the placenta, and the rest is a natural gain from this process that should not obsess or distress the future mother.
What to eat during pregnancy?
There is no specific diet for pregnancy and pregnant women should eat everything, in a balanced way and in moderation, following the traditional Mediterranean diet and the food pyramid. In general, the pregnant woman should try to eat enough:
- Proteins: these are necessary to build and repair the tissue of the mother and the fetus; they are found in meat, eggs, fish, milk and dairy products, legumes, nuts and cereals.
- Carbohydrates: they are the main source of energy for the mother and the fetus. They are present in pasta, legumes, potatoes, vegetables and cereals, which should be wholemeal to help combat constipation. On the other hand, it is recommended to limit the intake of sugars, which are present in refined flours, white bread, pastries, industrial baked goods, chocolate…
- Fats: they carry essential fatty acids and energy, but it is better to moderate their consumption and opt for healthy fats, which are found in olive oil, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important for the correct development of the fetus. These are found in nuts, seeds and many fish. On the other hand, the consumption of saturated fats such as animal fats, cured fatty cheese, cream and butter should be limited.
- Iron: necessary to prevent anemia. Red meats, cereals, legumes and nuts have it. It is common at this stage that the doctor advises women to take supplements of this mineral.
- Calcium: is present in milk and dairy products, soybeans, chards, legumes and almonds.
- Folic acid: very important for the development of the baby’s central nervous system. It is contained in green leafy vegetables, cereals, eggs, oranges, legumes and nuts. Pregnant women should take daily supplements of this mineral, at least, until the third month of gestation.
- Vitamins and fiber: essential for the correct development of the fetus -especially B12-, they are obtained by eating abundant fruits (4 or 5 daily portions and better whole than in juice), vegetables and fresh vegetables, always washing them well.
Other general recommendations regarding feeding are:
- Moderate the consumption of salt, which should be iodized.
- Drink plenty of fluids: about two liters of water a day -about eight glasses a day-, to help fight constipation, control nausea and vomiting, avoid dry skin and prevent urinary infections. You can also drink infusions, milk, broths and juices, which should be natural or pasteurized.
- Control the consumption of carbonated drinks or stimulants such as coffee, tea and cola.
Finally, it is crucial to cook food properly, to take care of hygiene when preparing and handling it and to eat it well. In other tabs of this content you have more practical information to avoid infections and intoxications that can occur with certain foods of particular concern during pregnancy.
Why is food safety important during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, a woman’s immune system is modified and some microorganisms can reach the fetus through the placental barrier
On the other hand, food and water can be a source of transmission of these microorganisms and therefore cause food infections.
What are the most harmful foodborne diseases?
Depending on the type of foodborne illness and the stage of pregnancy at which it occurs, the consequences for the fetus can be very serious. The diseases that can have the most impact are:
Listeriosis: is an infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, which can survive and reproduce in food. Although it is generally rare, pregnant women are ten times more likely than the general population to contract this disease. If the infection reaches the bloodstream, it can cause sepsis, miscarriage, fetal impairment (e.g., blindness, brain, heart or kidney deficiencies), low birth weight or infant mortality. It is found in ready-to-eat foods of vegetable and animal origin, dairy products made from unpasteurized milk, pâtés, smoked foods such as salmon and sausages.
Toxoplasmosis: is a disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, quite common and present throughout the world. Although it is usually asymptomatic or its symptoms are mild, if toxoplasmosis occurs during or shortly before pregnancy, the baby can suffer from hearing loss, intellectual disability and blindness.
It can also cause miscarriages and malformations in the fetus. Therefore, if the mother has not suffered from this pathology before, in which case she is immunized, she should avoid the possible routes of contact: the ingestion of raw meat -including sausage- or poorly cooked meat and contact with cat feces or contaminated soil.
Salmonellosis: caused by a bacterium called Salmonella, if the mother suffers from fever, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration, a miscarriage or premature birth can occur. It can also cause meningitis. In addition, a pregnant woman can pass it on to her child during delivery. Raw egg foods, foods made from unpasteurized milk, seed sprouts such as soybeans, undercooked meats and shellfish living in contaminated water can contain the bacteria.
Methylmercury: is a metal derived from mercury, but more toxic. It can be found in large blue fish such as bluefin tuna, dogfish (shark), swordfish, pike, eel and emperor. While it often goes unnoticed in adults, in fetuses and newborns it can cause alterations in the nervous system, such as cognitive delay. For this reason, it is recommended to avoid or moderate the consumption of these fish during gestation.