Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy will help your baby develop and grow and will help keep you fit and well. You don’t need to go on a special diet, but you should follow some basic healthy eating guidelines in order to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your baby need.
Folic acid is a B vitamin that is found in some foods as well as in supplement form. If you have enough folic acid around the time you conceive your baby, then there’s less risk of your baby being born with neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
All women who could become pregnant are advised to take a supplement of 400?g (micrograms ) of folic acid each day. When you do become pregnant, continue to take the supplement each day for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. If you have just found out you are pregnant and had not been taking folic acid supplements, start them right away and continue to take them until the 12th week of pregnancy.
Folic acid supplements are available over the counter in pharmacies and some supermarkets. If you take folic acid as part of a multivitamin supplement, make sure that it contains 400?g (micrograms ) of folic acid and doesn’t contain vitamin A, which could harm your baby.
Folic acid is also found in green vegetables, brown rice, orange juice, and some breakfast cereals (check the label ). You can boost your folic acid by eating foods like these, but you will still need to take a supplement to get the full amount you need while you’re pregnant.
You need extra iron when you are pregnant to make new blood cells for your developing baby. Many women are low in iron even before they become pregnant. So be sure to eat iron-rich foods regularly throughout your pregnancy.
Lean red meat is the best source of iron in the diet. Other good sources are chicken and turkey - especially the dark meat - and oily fish. Liver has lots of iron too, but you should avoid eating it while you are pregnant because it has very high levels of vitamin A.
Having some salad vegetables, citrus fruits, or a glass of fruit juice with your meals will boost your iron absorption.
Some women are advised by their doctor to take iron supplements during pregnancy. Speak to your doctor if you have a history of heavy periods, have been anaemic in the past, or if you are vegetarian or vegan.
You need extra calcium in your diet during pregnancy to allow your baby’s bones to grow and develop, while looking after your own bones too.
Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt are the best sources of calcium. Pregnant women should have five servings of dairy foods each day. One serving is a glass of milk, a carton of yoghurt (125g ), or a matchbox-sized piece of cheese. Avoid unpasteurised dairy products, soft mould-ripened cheeses such as camembert or brie, and all blue-veined cheese because of the risk of listeria food poisoning which is dangerous for pregnant women.
Pregnant women are advised to take a supplement of five micrograms vitamin D per day. Vitamin D is only found in a small number of foods – in fact we get most of our vitamin D from the sun.
Fish and omega fats
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for the developing baby’s brain and eyes. You will find these fatty acids in oily fish (eg, herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon, trout ), white fish (cod, plaice, whiting ), and some vegetables oils (rapeseed, canola, flaxseed, linseed, walnut ).