Nutrition during pregnancy


Pregnant women are bombarded with so many suggestions and nutrition tips that it can be hard for them to keep track of the do's and don't's. But it's important to remember: you don't need to turn your life upside down.

A healthy diet during pregnancy

A healthy, balanced diet makes sense at any time of life, but even more so during pregnancy. Suddenly it's no longer just about you yourself, but also about the health of your unborn child. Your body changes during pregnancy and so does its needs. All at once it needs more vitamins, minerals and energy – but probably much less than you may think.

Diet affects the baby's genes

Studies have proven that expectant mothers can provide their baby with the foundations for a healthy start to life. According to epigenetics, the way in which the foetus is nourished can influence the child's gene expression. This influence extends into the child's adult life.

Optimal level of weight gain?

The idea of «eating for two» is outdated, at least as far as calories are concerned. Some weight gain during pregnancy is needed, but it should be within a healthy range. For your guidance: women of normal weight should gain between 11kg and 16kg.

Nutrition in the 1st trimester: more vitamins and minerals

The first 3 months of pregnancy are the most critical. The embryo and placenta start to form and the first heartbeat can be heard. However, after pregnancy is certain, you need only make small adjustments to your daily life. Energy requirements and your rough weight remain the same for the time being. The only things you need more of are vitamins and minerals, which are important for the baby's development. So a colourful and varied diet, supplemented with a prescribed vitamin or mineral supplement, is key. The vitamin folic acid is of particular importance during pregnancy.

Energy requirements remain the same for the time being. Only vitamin and mineral requirements are greater.

Folic acid prevents malformations

Most gynaecologists will prescribe folic acid tablets the first time you visit, if you haven't already been taking them prophylactically while trying to get pregnant. They prevent a deficiency in the first trimester and protect against spina bifida and other malfor­mations. Leafy green vegetables, pulses and eggs are also a good source of folates that help the central nervous system to develop healthily.

Nausea & vomiting during pregnancy

The hormonal changes your body is going through often lead to nausea and vomiting. This doesn't necessarily make healthy eating any easier.

Tips for nausea during pregnancy

  • During pregnancy, it helps to divide your food up into more frequent smaller meals.
  • If you're sensitive to smells, regular airing is essential.
  • Ginger tea helps prevent nausea. But please note: ginger in large quantities can trigger premature contractions. The amount you consume should therefore be discussed with your doctor beforehand.
  • Eat a small breakfast in bed before you start the day: this should prevent nausea or at least reduce it somewhat.

Higher energy requirements in the 2nd trimester

The second stage of pregnancy is one of growth and is probably the most exciting for the expectant parents. Your stomach will grow and you'll feel baby's first movements. That calls for energy and proteins. You'll need an extra 250kcals of energy per day. The additional requirement is equivalent to eating a slice of wholegrain bread with cheese or a small muesli with fruit.

Extra portion of protein for growth

Increasing your protein intake from 3 to 4 portions a day is now important for the foetus's growth. One portion is equivalent to one pot of natural yoghurt or quark, or 150g of fish, chicken or a vegetarian alternative in the form of tofu, pulses and cereals.

Fish should be included in your diet twice a week because of the omega-3 fatty acids it contains.

Omega-3 fatty acids are now essential

From now on, fish should be on the menu twice a week thanks to its omega-3 fatty acids. Not only protein but also iron, calcium, magnesium and vitamins C and D play an essential role during this period. A wholefood diet becomes even more important, and you should serve up milk products, vegetables, whole grains and nuts every day.

3rd trimester: heartburn and constipation

In the third trimester, you're in the homestretch. The baby will gain another 3,300 to 3,500 grams before it's born. Strength is required – which means consuming an extra 500kcals per day. Many women also suffer from heartburn during this time.

Small and frequent meals, low in fat and mildly spiced, are said to help prevent heartburn.

Heartburn isn't rare

The growing child starts to press against various organs, including the stomach, which often leads to heartburn. Tip: here too, taking smaller meals more frequently can help. These should be low in fat and not too spicy. Going for a short walk afterwards will make you feel better.

Double intake of iron

The body needs almost twice as much iron now. It uses the additional iron intake to produce extra blood to carry oxygen to both mum and baby. That's why many gynae­cologists prescribe an iron supplement at this stage. You can also get iron by consuming meat, pulses and other iron-rich foods more often.

Tips for constipation

Constipation is one of the many side effects of iron tablets. Exercise, plenty of fluids and fibre from seeds, nuts, whole grains and vegetables are good for the gut in this case.

What shouldn't be eaten during pregnancy?

To avoid food-borne infections such as listeriosis or toxoplasmosis, pregnant women are advised to enjoy certain foodstuffs with caution. In general, care should be taken with kitchen hygiene and fruit and vegetables should always be washed thoroughly. Packaged salad and open buffets should be avoided.

What pregnant women should avoid

  • Dairy products: Raw milk and related products such as Camembert and blue cheese
  • Meat and sausage meat: Raw or undercooked meat such as tartare or raw sausages such as salami, air-dried ham or Landjäger
  • Fish and fish products: Raw and undercooked fish such as sushi, smoked fish, merlin and swordfish due to possible mercury contamination
  • Other: Dishes containing raw eggs like tiramisu

Forbidden: Alcohol and nicotine

There is unanimous evidence that alcohol and nicotine should be avoided entirely. Caffeine is different. According to the Swiss Society for Nutrition, 1-2 cups of coffee or 3-4 cups of black or green tea a day are fine.


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