What You Will Learn
All of these factors work together to help ensure that a baby will be born healthy, and they guard against many physical, mental, psychological and emotional problems.
ChooseMyPlate.gov is a practical guide to choosing healthful, low-fat foods each day. It is a tool that helps us select what foods to eat and how much to eat each day to be healthy. We need to eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups, and we need to eat in moderation by eating the recommended serving sizes. ChooseMyPlate.gov can also help guide women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or women of childbearing age to get the proper nutrition for herself and her baby.
It is a mother's job to do everything she can to make sure her infant has a healthy start in life. The mother is one of the most important factors in determining the outcome of her pregnancy. As soon as a woman thinks she may be pregnant, it is important that she see a doctor. Beginning a regular medical care program as early as possible in a pregnancy is the best way to ensure a healthy baby.
The first few weeks of the pregnancy are especially important. All of the baby's organs are formed by day 58 (week nine). Several parts of the baby are formed before a woman even knows she is pregnant! Therefore, it is even important for women who are of childbearing age who aren't pregnant to maintain good health and see a doctor for regular checkups.
Proper weight gain is vital to a baby's growth and development. Organs such as the brain, heart and lungs can all be affected by maternal weight gain. If a woman is at a healthy weight before pregnancy, she should gain 25 to 35 pounds. An underweight woman should gain at least 28 to 40 pounds. Even an overweight woman should gain at least 15 to 25 pounds. During the first three months of pregnancy, a woman should gain two to five pounds. After that, she should gain about one pound per week throughout her pregnancy.
Eating the right types of foods is necessary so that mother and baby receive the nutrients they need. MyPlate.gov provides a list of the recommended food groups and serving sizes to meet nutrient needs. The food groups include:
MyPlate provides the recommended nutrients established by the Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). The DRIs are the nutrients recommended for humans, such as vitamin C, protein, calcium, etc., and the amounts they should consume at different ages and life stages, such as pregnancy and lactation. The DRIs include the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) and the Adequate Intakes (AI). For additional information about the DRIs for pregnancy and lactation, contact an Extension nutrition specialist, Extension agent specializing in nutrition or registered dietitian. Though it’s possible to meet the requirements for most nutrients through a balanced diet, most experts recommend pregnant women take a daily vitamin/mineral supplement as a safeguard.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans contain key recommendations for specific population groups, such as women who are of childbearing age, pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding. They include:
Other concerns of pregnancy include the awareness that the mother-to-be’s use of certain substances, such as tobacco (smoking and second-hand smoke), illegal drugs, and some prescription and over-the-counter medications that are harmful to babies. Human studies support the conclusion that low to moderate consumption of caffeine by pregnant women may increase the risk of miscarriage or preterm delivery. The March of Dimes International Food Information Council suggests a reasonable guideline for daily intake of caffeine up to 300 mg caffeine per day. The doctor may recommend limiting caffeine and other substances.
Why Gain Weight?
There are three times in a woman's life when she gains weight faster than at any other time: infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy. Babies usually triple their birth weight in one year. During the teen years, as a child becomes an adult, she gains weight. During pregnancy, the usual weight gain is between 25-35 pounds for the baby and mother in only nine months. A general guide to weight gain during pregnancy is:
Gain 25-35 pounds if normal weight before pregnancy.
Gain 28-40 pounds if underweight before pregnancy.
Gain 15-25 pounds if overweight before pregnancy.
A slow, steady weight gain is important. During the first three months, a weight gain of two to five pounds is enough. From the fourth month until the baby is born, it's best to gain about one pound a week. Visiting the doctor regularly during pregnancy can help a woman keep track of her weight gain. The doctor will decide if weight gain is too fast, too slow, or right on target.
Gaining the amount of weight recommended by the doctor is important to a baby's health. The healthiest babies usually weigh seven to eight pounds. Babies who weigh five and one-half pounds or less at birth are not as healthy. Low-birth-weight babies have a greater chance of dying before age one. They also have more problems as children and adults. These problems can include behavioral problems, trouble in school, illness, and other physical, psychological, or emotional problems.
Where Does the Weight Go?
A mother's weight gain of 30 pounds is distributed as follows:
Breast increase: One and one-half to two pounds
Blood increase: Three and one-half to four pounds
Extra tissue: Eight to ten pounds
Body Fluid: Two to three pounds
Uterus increase: Three to four pounds
Placenta: Two to three pounds
Amniotic fluid: Two to three pounds
Baby: Seven to eight pounds
If a woman gains the amount of weight the doctor recommends, she will probably get back to her pre-pregnancy weight about three to six months after the baby is born. Eating the right amount of food and getting enough exercise will help a woman get back to her original weight. If a woman is gaining weight too fast or too slowly, the doctor or nurse will discuss it with her. If weight gain is too fast, this may be caused by fluid. Eating too many foods that are high in fat and/or sugar, such as cakes, candy, cookies, chips, and fried foods, may also be the problem. Soft drinks are high in calories (and caffeine) and should be limited. If weight gain is too slow, eating foods from the following food groups will help:
Go to ChooseMyPlate.gov to get more information on healthful foods in each food group.
A pregnant woman should discuss the types of physical activity that are safe during pregnancy with her doctor, even if she was active before becoming pregnant. Some exercise tips for exercising during pregnancy are:
*A pregnant woman should always check with her doctor before beginning an exercise program.
Advantages of breastfeeding include:
March of Dimes, International Food Information Council Healthy Eating During Pregnancy 2003. Washington, D.C.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Planning Your Pregnancy and Birth, Third Edition. Washington, DC. 2000.
Policy Statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Breast Feeding PEDIATRICS Vol. 115 No. 2 February 2005, pp. 496-506
US Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010: Conference Edition—Volumes I and II. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health; 2000:47–48
US Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health; 2000
United States Breastfeeding Committee. Breastfeeding in the United States: A National Agenda. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau; 2001
Send to friend