In this section, you will find information for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Learn what to eat, what to avoid, how much weight you are suppose to gain during pregnancy, how to lose weight after your child is born, and whether or not you may need dietary supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The information for pregnant and breastfeeding women has been gathered compiled from the USDA’s MyPlate website. At the bottom of the page, you will find helpful print materials. These print-materials are made by the USDA, FDA and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Dietary supplements during pregnancy
According to the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines, women capable of becoming pregnant should choose foods that supply heme iron that is more readily absorbed by the body, such as meat, poultry and seafood, and also additional iron sources. Pregnant women are often recommended an iron supplement and a folic acid (vitamin B9) supplement. Check with your obstetrician or other health care provider to see if you need these supplements.
Choose foods that are enhancers of iron absorption, such as vitamin C rich foods. In addition, get the important folate/folic acid from a varied diet and from fortified foods and/or supplements. Most doctors recommend that pregnant women – and those trying to get pregnant – should take vitamin and mineral supplements in addition to a healthy diet.
Supplements for pregnant women are called “Prenatal Supplements”. USDAs MyPlate recommend prenatal supplements instead of individual vitamins or minerals. The reason for this is to ensure that you and your baby get a balanced amount of vitamins and minerals. For instance, too much of vitamin A can be harmful for your baby. Always consult your doctor first if you are thinking about taking dietary supplements or herbal products. Inform your doctor about any supplements/medications that you are already taking and follow his/her advice. Remember that “natural” products like herbs may not be safe. Herbal products are not tested or regulated like other drugs and medicines.
How to eat seafood during pregnancy
According to the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consume a variety of seafood types of 8-12 ounces per week, to get the Omega-3 fatty acids into their systems. However, limit white albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week, due to their high methyl mercury content, and for the same reason, don’t eat king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, and shark.
How to avoid infections during pregnancy
There are some other foods to avoid during pregnancy. Unpasteurized milk like feta, Brie, Camembert, blue cheese and the Mexican cheese called “queso blanco fresco” should not be consumed when you are pregnant because they could contain listeria bacteria. Listeria can cause an infection called “listeriosis” that may harm your baby. About 17% of listeriosis occurs during pregnancy. To avoid this infection, choose pasteurized cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan instead. Furthermore, don’t eat raw sushi or other undercooked meat to avoid any complications with your developing fetus. Heat up all meat and don’t eat refrigerated pâté, egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, ham salad, or seafood salad.
To avoid the infection called Toxoplasmosis, make sure to wash your hands with soap, especially after touching soil, sand, unwashed vegetables and raw meat. Make sure that your vegetables and fruits are properly scrubbed clean. If you have a cat, ask someone else to clean the litter box if possible or wear gloves. Wash all knives and cutting boards with soap after each use. Also, avoid drinking untreated water, especially if you travel to less developed countries.
Other things to avoid during pregnancy
Other things that should be avoided during pregnancy are alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine.
It’s also very important that you talk to your doctor if you are taking prescription drugs, since the drugs that you are taking can be harmful to the fetus.
Weight gain during pregnancy
Your weight gain should come gradually during your pregnancy. Doctors recommend weight gain at the following rate:
In total, you should gain about 25-35 pounds while pregnant.
Breastfeeding protects your baby
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for the first 6 months, due to the health benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby. Breast milk provides nourishment for your baby and protects your baby against becoming sick.
Breastfeeding will help you lose weight
Breastfeeding will also help you to lose the weight you gained during your pregnancy. The reason for this is that you use extra calories to feed your baby. If you want to lose more weight, exercise moderately and cut down on empty calories from added sugars and solid fats. Alcohol is also a source of empty calories and should be avoided while breastfeeding.
Dietary supplements for breastfeeding women
When you are breastfeeding, your nutrient needs increase. To meet these needs you may need vitamin and mineral supplements. Talk to your doctor to make sure what kind of dietary supplement you may need.
Resources for Moms – USDA
Resources for Moms – American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists