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Nutrition

Nutritional Advice
Courtesy of Catherine Gould DipN (Inst NH), a nutritionist based in Harare

Eating for Two
When you are pregnant, you need to eat for yourself and your baby, good nutrition is vital for both normal pregnancies and high risk pregnancies such as twins, triplets or someone who has gestational diabetes.

Pregnant women require more calories and nutrients that other women to provide for their growing baby. Pregnant women should consume an extra 200 calories per day during the second and third trimesters of the pregnancy, this equates to about 10% increase in calorie intake. A healthy pregnant women need few or no additional calories during the first trimester. Increased demands put pregnant women and their unborn babies at risk of nutritional deficiencies if these demands are not met by the diet or ante-natal supplements.

If you do not gain enough weight during pregnancy, you could put your baby at risk of being born prematurely or underweight. On the other hand, excessive weight gain can increase your risk of back problems, varicose veins as well as complications such preeclampsia, and it will make it more difficult to lose the weight once the baby is born.

Increased Needs During Pregnancy
Eating for Two does not mean eating twice as much food.  During pregnancy the expectant mothers metabolic rate is reduced and the body becomes more energy efficient, which explains why the calorie requirements of pregnant women does not increase dramatically.  Pregnant women require more calories and nutrient rich foods for their growing baby, they should consume an additional 200 calories a day during the second and third trimester of pregnancy.  Increased demands put pregnant women and unborn babies at risk of nutritional deficiencies if these demands are not met by the diet or by ante-natal supplements.

Pregnant women must get enough fats, more specifically the fatty acids – docosahexanoic acid and arachidonic acid – which are vital for the development of the baby’s brain and vision.  The best source of these fatty acids is oil-rich fish.  Increasing water and fibre will help prevent problems like constipation, which occur due to the intestinal muscles being more relaxed during pregnancy, therefore food moves more slowly through the body and the increased amount of water absorbed by food from the intestine.  It is best to eat smaller meals every 2 to 3 hours to balance blood glucose levels and help alleviate heartburn and indigestion.

Foods to Eat During Pregnancy
The best foods to eat during pregnancy are those that supply essential vitamins, minerals, lean protein, and energy.

NutrientReasonFoods
ProteinAmino acids, that make up protein, are the building blocks for your new baby's cells. Adequate protein is especially important in the second and third trimester. Lean red meat, poultry breast, fish (cooked only), eggs and pulses
CalciumAdequate calcium intake during pregnancy is very important to prevent osteoporosis later in lifeMilk, cheese and yoghurt - preferably low-fat.
FolateIncreased folate is required in early pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects, especially in the first trimester.Fresh green vegetables, pulses, liver, oranges, and poultry ( most pregnancy multivitamins have folate)
IronNecessary for the production of red blood cells in both you and your unborn babyRed meat, pulses, raisins, spinach, black-eyed beans, dried fruits, and green vegetables
Vitamin CHelps your body to absorb iron from plant sources.
Fruit such as kiwis, orange, guavas.
FibreIncreased intake of high-fibre foods, is recommended for the prevention of constipationFruit, vegetables and whole grains

And lastly, don't forget to drink at least 2 litres of water each day to provide fluids for blood production and aid digestion.

Recommended Nutrient Intake During Pregnancy

NutrientNon-PregnantPregnant
Protein45g51g
Vitamin A600mcg700mcg
Vitamin B10.8mg0.9mg
Vitamin B21.1mg1.4mg
Niacin13mg13mg
Vitamin B61.2mg1.2mg
Vitamin B121.5mcg1.5mcg
Folate200mcg300mcg
Vitamin C40mg50mg
Calcium700mg700mg
Iron14.8mg14.8mg
Magnesium270mg270mg
Selenium60mcg60mcg

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
The chances of your unborn child becoming infected during pregnancy are small, but you should be aware of potentially risky foods to avoid.

ListeriosisThe bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, which causes listeriosis, can cross the placenta and may be fatal for the baby. To prevent infection, avoid eating unpasteurized dairy products, especially soft mould-ripened cheese such as camembert and blue-veined cheese.
LiverHigh levels of vitamin A in liver and liver products such as pate should be avoided.
ToxoplasmosisThis infection can be harmful to an unborn baby, which is caused by Toxoplasma gondii cysts which are secreted in the stools of infected cats and can be passed to humans by handling cats or cat litter, by fruit or vegetables contaminated with cysts, or by eating the meat of animals that feed on food contaminated with cysts. Minimize the risk of infection by washing all fruit and vegetables, avoiding cats, and undercooked meat and wear gloves when gardening.
SalmonellaThis common type of food poisoning, due to salmonella bacteria, does not actually harm the baby, but if severe in a pregnant woman it can lead to miscarriage or pre-term labour. You should avoid raw and undercooked eggs and undercooked poultry.
Other InfectionsYou should avoid raw seafood, such as oysters and sushi, during pregnancy as they carry a risk of hepatitis and intestinal parasites.
Heavy-Metal PoisoningRemove heavy metals from vegetables by washing them thoroughly with water or by removing the skins. Tuna has lower levels of mercury than shark, marlin and swordfish, so limit the amount of tuna to 2 steaks a week or 1 tin of tuna every 2 weeks.

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