A nutritionist recommended pregnancy diet guide
A healthy, balanced diet is essential for a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.
The food and nutrients that you eat directly provide your baby with the means for them to grow and thrive. Our nutritionists explain the most important nutrients to gain in your diet and the best foods during pregnancy for you and your baby.
Why diet is important before, during and after pregnancy
Your baby relies on you for everything, and each cell is created from what you eat. If certain nutrients are lacking during your pregnancy, or in some cases in excess, this can be damaging to the development of the unborn baby. The mother's body experiences incredible demands during pregnancy and demand for particular nutrients increases.
Nutrient demands include Iron which is needed to create the extra blood flowing around your body, and the energy needed to carry the extra weight of your baby. Iron is particularly important for women generally.
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Having the right nutrition is also important for pre-conception, the maturation of an egg, and the development of the uterine lining, and in males, diet impacts the quality of the sperm. Some nutrient deficiencies can prevent pregnancy from occurring in the first place.
The right diet and nutrition are just as important after birth. Breastmilk is created from what you eat, and its quality is only as good as your diet. Even if you don’t breastfeed, a good diet and nutrition are vital for the healing of tissues after birth and replacing the Iron and B Vitamins you lose through blood loss.
What's important for you, the mother
Pre-conception, there are a few nutrients the mother needs to ensure good egg quality and a healthy endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus).
Nearly everyone knows the importance of folic acid for conception and pregnancy, however, it is all of the B vitamins that are important. One study found that women taking a higher dose of B vitamins reduced the risk of ovulatory failure.
B vitamins are found in whole grains, fermented foods, a variety of vegetable sources and B vitamin supplements. If you're on a plant-based diet you should pay particular attention to ensure you are getting enough Vitamin B12 and consider a B12 supplement. Another study found that low intakes of Vitamin B12 and folate are associated with infertility in women.
Although healthy plant-based diets are typically higher in folate than diets of meat eaters, all women planning a pregnancy are encouraged to take an additional folate supplement containing 400mcg of folate per day.
You may also enjoy 'Is it OK to go plant-based while pregnant?".
It's important to ensure your Iron levels are good before getting pregnant and throughout pregnancy. Iron is needed for a healthy endometrium, ready for the fertilised egg to implant into. Before the placenta develops, it is the endometrium that provides the nutrients for the division of cells. As your pregnancy progresses, the amount of blood increases, creating an additional need for Iron. Ask your doctor or midwife to check your Iron levels frequently to ensure you have enough.
Omega 3 fats are essential for the mother during pregnancy. The unborn baby will take what it needs, and if dietary intakes of Omega 3 are not high enough, that means your baby will be taking it from your brain! This can leave you with poor moods, forgetfulness and weakened vision.
Omega 3 algae oil supplementation is excellent during pregnancy as it provides a daily source of omega 3 in its active form, and it also contains a preferable ratio of DHA to EPA. It is the DHA in your brain that the unborn baby will take! Discover DR.VEGAN's algae Omega 3 with 300mg DHA and 150mg EPA here.
What's important for the baby
The baby needs a good source of almost all nutrients. A well-planned diet definitely helps to meet these needs. Folate is of particular importance as it is essential for the development of the neural tube, which is the first part that develops and occurs before most women know they are pregnant.
A good source of most nutrients
Your growing baby needs pretty much everything. A good, balanced diet is essential, as well as a pregnancy multivitamin supplement.
Omega 3 is essential for the infant’s brain development. The brain contains a large proportion of DHA fats, so these need to be consumed by the mother. Learn more in 'What is Omega 3 good for'.
Many people do not understand that fats can be good, a topic explored by our nutritionists in 'Healthy fats and unhealthy fats explained'.
The baby’s Vitamin D status at birth directly reflects the mother’s Vitamin D status during pregnancy. Vitamin D is needed for the immune function and bone development of the baby, so having a good level at birth can make a huge difference to the baby’s health.
Learn more in 'Why is Vitamin D so important?'.
Essential vitamins for pregnancy
Folate is essential, especially in the first 3 months of pregnancy as it is needed to protect against birth defects such as spina bifida. Folate should ideally be taken before conception and at least until the 12th week of pregnancy, either on its own or as part of a pregnancy multinutrient.
Iodine is needed for a healthy pregnancy as it helps your baby to grow. Low iodine intake may affect your thyroid function and the thyroid function of your baby which can result in learning difficulties.
Best foods for pregnancy
Plant-based yoghurts are full of probiotics which make their way into the gut and support a healthy pregnancy. These healthy probiotics will find their way to the birth canal and will colonise in the baby’s gut after birth.
Fibre rich foods
Your baby depends on the quality of your diet for their growth and development. The less processed foods and more grains and whole foods you consume, the better for your pregnancy and your baby.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy
Too much Vitamin A
Too much Vitamin A can be harmful in pregnancy and contribute towards birth defects. Most individuals are safe through a normal healthy diet, including if you're on a plant-based diet. There is no concern of too much beta carotene in pregnancy. Just be careful with vitamin A in any supplements you're taking.
Pineapple is traditionally used to bring on your period and in some cultures used as a contraceptive (Disclaimer - we don’t recommend relying on this for contraception!).
Pineapple is often recommended to bring on labour in overdue pregnancies. So, unless you are overdue and your midwife has recommended it, leave pineapple off the menu. Pineapple also contains bromelain which softens the cervix.
Too much caffeine
Studies have shown that having too much caffeine has been linked to low birth weight. The maximum recommended intake during pregnancy is 200mg per day. A typical cappuccino has around 80-160mg of caffeine in it.
Discover 'The best alternatives to caffeine'.
OK, not many of us eat raw sprouts but if you do like them, avoid them. This is because raw sprouts have a high risk of bacterial infection and there is some concern about their contamination with salmonella.
Discover DR.VEGAN's science-led, plant-based Pregnancy Multinutrient.
If you have any questions about your diet during your pregnancy, please just get in touch with our expert nutritionists who will be only too happy to help - just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and it's free.
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