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Getting Your Pregnancy Off to a Good Start With A Balanced Diet and Advanced Planning

October 22, 2018
image of a pregnant woman cooking with a small child

Making the right food choices can be a challenge even when you are not pregnant but good, solid nutritional eating and planning can give you and your baby a healthy boost. Becoming pregnant does not give an expectant mother a free pass to give in to all cravings or to fool herself into thinking that she should be eating twice as much since she is “eating for two.”

Eating a well-balanced diet includes eating the essential mix of carbohydrates, fats and proteins without adding a lot of calories. The mix should include fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, protein and whole grains. Each meal should include three to five of the basic food groups. Your physician and/or nutritionist can help you plan the best diet.

Barbara Head, M.D.Barbara Head, M.D., an OB/GYN and maternal fetal medicine specialist at MUSC Women’s Health, recommends that you begin planning and eating a well-balanced diet before you become pregnant during the pre-conception time period.

“Everyone should have a pre-conception plan and particularly women who have a body mass index (BMI) above 40,” Dr. Head said. 

Dr. Head cited a study of the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council that says, “Healthy American women at a normal weight for their height (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9) should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Underweight women (BMI less than 18.5) should gain more, 28 to 40 pounds, and overweight women (BMI of 25 to 29.9) should gain less, 15 to 25 pounds. These ranges match the 1990 guidelines, but the report also specifies a new range for obese women (BMI greater than 30) that limits their gain to 11 to 20 pounds.”

She stressed the importance of scheduling a pre-conception visit with your physician before becoming pregnant. The visit can help identify any potential health issues, like diabetes, that may impact the pregnancy.

In addition to eating a balanced mix of food, she said expectant mothers should also avoid alcohol and begin taking prenatal vitamins that contain 400 to 800 mg of folic acid. Additional Vitamin D and iron may also be recommended to supplement a woman’s diet.

Following delivery, it is important to remember that dietary needs continue to be great while breastfeeding.

Martha Krauss, a Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant at MUSC Women’s Health, says that a breastfeeding mother should continue to eat a well-balanced diet with lots of protein, fruits and vegetables. She reminds new mothers that their plate of food should be colorful with a mix of the food groups.

‘Lactation requires on average an extra 500 calories a day, which is more than pregnancy. So they will need to increase their calories every day and continue to take their prenatal vitamins as well as Vitamin D,” she added. She also suggested mothers eat small, frequent meals to keep their energy up and to stay hydrated.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our providers, call 843-792-5300 or visit MUSC Women's Health pregnancy services on the web.