Pregnancy nutrition

Posted on 6 May 2015

You may have broken every diet you’ve ever started but there’s little wiggle room when it comes to healthy eating during pregnancy.

There’s nothing like the wellbeing of your unborn baby to keep you motivated when changing your eating habits. ‘Pregnancy is the critical window in which nutrition impacts foetal development,’ explains Dr Leneque Xanthe Lindeque, a gynaecologist and obstetrician at Mediclinic Highveld in Mpumalanga.

Before baby
Boosting your nutritional intake is vital from the moment you start trying to fall pregnant. ‘The nutritional state of a mother should be assessed prior to falling pregnant and certain vitamins, such as folic acid should be supplemented in this period, and others avoided, such as vitamin A,’ says Dr Lindeque. ‘The use of cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs not only impacts the health of the fetus directly but also interferes with the mother’s intake of a nutritional diet. Patients with special diets and those who skip meals are also more likely to have nutritional deficiencies and inadequate weight gain in pregnancy.’

Food groups to avoid
When you fall pregnant you’ll often find yourself approaching meal preparation with more care than ever before. ‘Avoiding food-borne illnesses that can have an adverse effect on pregnancy starts with good personal hygiene, frequent hand washing and thorough food preparation,’ explains Dr Lindeque. She suggests avoiding the following food groups:

• Partially cooked or uncooked meats, fish and poultry (including eggs) can cause infections such as Toxoplasmosis and Listeria and can be detrimental to the pregnancy.
• Unpasteurised dairy products (like certain soft cheeses) can cause an infection called Brucellosis causing severe illness effecting the brain, muscles and bladder system.

While you’re still allowed your morning cup of coffee, limiting caffeine intake is also advisable as excessive amounts can be detrimental to your pregnancy or result in a low birth weight.

What to eat
Dr Lindeque suggests adding the following vitamins and foods to your pregnancy diet:
• Folic acid supplementation is extremely important in the prevention of neural tube defects in the fetus and should be started when planning to fall pregnant. There are many supplements with the adequate daily amount available over the counter.
• Fruits are full of healthy nutrients (for mom and baby), especially avocados because they contain healthy omega-3 fats, which are good for helping the development of your baby’s brain. Prunes are packed with fibre and keep your digestive system running smoothly. A diet rich in fibre may help decrease the risk of developing the pregnancy-related condition of preeclampsia. Aim for 25 grams of fiber daily.
• Lean meats such as chicken are an excellent source of protein and help provide energy for the demands of the pregnancy on the metabolism. Fish is also an excellent protein, but avoid eating too much tuna with high levels of mercury.
• Starches are best consumed in forms that sustain energy longer, like oats and whole-wheat products.


The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Nutrition

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