Under-nutrition and malnutrition in pregnancy period are the major problems in Bangladesh that threaten the health of both mother and their babies. Maintaining proper nutrition during pregnancy is specially considered to be of importance for the high prevalence of low birth weight, fetal growth retardation and perinatal death (death around birth period). Experts identified limited access to high quality foods, traditional food habits, food taboos and limited knowledge as the factors contribute to under-nutrition.
Certain significant research works show that a healthy protein rich diet packed with essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium, iron, folic acid, vitamin D etc. can prevent many pregnancy complications and enhance the growth of baby.
Many pregnant women are deficient in important nutrients. Iron is one of such commonest nutrient lacking in expecting mothers. Iron deficiency lead to anaemia (lack of haemoglobin in blood) which is a risk factor for pre-term delivery, subsequent low birth weight baby pushing mother and babies prone to various infections.
The recommended requirement is 30 mg of iron daily which is not usually met by diet alone during pregnancy. So, oral iron tablet is commonly recommended. It should be taken on an empty stomach. When more than 30 mg of iron is given to treat anaemia, it is suggested to also take approximately 15 mg of zinc and 2 mg of copper, since iron interferes with absorption and utilisation of these materials.
According to some studies, caffeine decreases the availability of certain nutrients, such as calcium, zinc and iron. Current recommendations, therefore, include limiting the consumption of caffeinated products.
Calcium is another important nutrient — not only for bone health, but also for the prevention of major pregnancy complications. Studies suggested that calcium may help dilate and relax blood vessels and play effective role in preventing pregnancy induced hypertension. It cuts the risk of severe pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia. More importantly, calcium is the main component of growing baby’s tiny bones. The recommended level of calcium for pregnant women is 1,200 mg daily. For some women, it is difficult to reach this level by diet alone; therefore calcium supplements may be needed. Calcium supplements, if recommended, should be taken with meals.
Additionally, vitamin D may be necessary if sunlight exposure is minimal.
For vegetarians, the current recommendations also include a daily supplement of 2 mg of Vitamin B 12.
Folic acid, another vital nutrient helps prevent neural tube defects (serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord) of the baby. Lack of folic acid increases the risk of pre-term delivery, low birth weight and poor fetal growth. Folic acid is supplied with diet and oral tablet supplement.
Caloric requirements during pregnancy have been estimated to be around an additional 300 calories per day. Recommendations regarding sugar intake for pregnant women depend on weight gain and maternal blood glucose levels. A high sugar intake would not be advisable for women gaining more than the recommended weight or for those women who are having difficulty controlling normal blood glucose levels. High sugar intake in these women may result in increased maternal risk for complications associated with too much weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, premature delivery and a large baby.
For women who do not ordinarily consume an adequate diet or for those in high-risk categories (such as those carrying twins, heavy smokers and drug abusers) a prenatal vitamin supplement is recommended, beginning in the second trimester.
Tips for common pregnancy discomforts include avoidance of offending, spicy and fatty foods when nausea and heartburn occur. Frequent, small and blander meals are often better tolerated.
When constipation is a concern, increased consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is advisable, as well as increased fluid intake and physical activity.
The above mentioned information is just for the awareness of pregnant woman or couples planning for pregnancy shortly. Proper antenatal care is a must during pregnancy. Any drug should be administered consulting a registered physician to assess the overall health status of pregnant women.
Source: The Daily Star, December 19, 2009