What Diet Is Best for Pregnancy?

By BSc, MSc (embryologist), MD, PhD (gynecologist), BSc, MSc (embryologist), BSc, MSc (embryologist), BSc, MSc (embryologist) and BA, MA (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 12/10/2016

During pregnancy, women go through major hormonal changes. This, in turn, causes the need for nutrients to vary, and subsequently the diet to follow during this period should be different.

For this reason, following a balanced diet is crucial for pregnant women. A healthy diet will provide your unborn baby with all essential nutrients to continue developing, especially the following:

  • Proteins, fats and carbohydrates
  • Minerals (iron, iodine and calcium)
  • Vitamins C, A, D, E and group B vitamins
  • Fiber

Balancing your means properly, as well as avoiding weight-loss diets, are key recommendations for pregnant women. Moreover, eating small amounts but frequently (6 to 7 meals a day) can help relieve morning sickness and nausea.

When it comes to recommending certain foods over others for pregnant women, one should keep in mind each one of the different phases of pregnancy, including the TTC (trying to conceive) journey. In short, each phase has different nutritional and energy requirements for both mother and baby.

The following are some tips and foods that should be included in your things-to-eat list at each one of the different stages of pregnancy:

While TTC

When a woman or couple decide to have a child, a crucial aspect to bear in mind is the weight of the woman. If there is overweight, the most advisable is to start a weight-loss diet plan before TTC.

Obesity affects the reproductive potential of couples by reducing the chances of conceiving naturally as well as through Assisted Reproduction.

If a woman is in the right weight and well nourished, ideally she should follow a balanced diet while trying to get pregnant. Most importantly, taking folic acid and vitamin B9 supplements is strongly recommended.

It is estimated that the daily amount of folic acid recommended for non-pregnant women is about 200 µg, a figure that increases to 400 µg during pregnancy. As for vitamin B9, several studies have shown that a deficit of it in the first weeks of pregnancy increases the risk of fetal malformations.

First trimester of pregnancy

When a woman gets a positive pregnancy test, confirming that she is pregnancy, a series of substantial hormonal, nutritional, and digestive changes occur. The body experiences a deceleration in the digestive process so that the food absorption process is more accurate.

During the first months of pregnant, it is crucial for the woman to gain between 0.5 to 1.5 kg on average. To achieve this goal, your diet should include:

Proteins, carbohydrates and fats
Meat, cheese, fish, pulses, eggs, tofu... are some examples of foods that contain high amounts of proteins. On the other hand, pasta, bread, rice, and potatoes are rich in carbohydrates, and should be eaten on a daily basis. As for healthy fats, dried fruits, olive oil, and oily fish are the most recommendable foods.
Vitamins
As already explained, you should pay special attention to your vitamin intake since even before getting pregnant. Above all, your diet should be rich in vitamins C, A, D, E, and group B vitamins. Fruit, vegetables, raw vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, and raw olive oil are good examples of foods containing these groups of vitamins. Also, including a natural supplement is advisable, as long as it is recommended by your doctor.
Minerals
Including iron, iodine, and calcium. Moreover, from the fourth month of pregnancy onwards, the amount of these minerals should be increases.
Dietary fiber
Eating it on a daily basis is highly recommended (up to 30 g per day) to prevent constipation and have a healthy intestine. Fiber is present in multiple foods naturally, like fruit, cereals, vegetables, pulses...

Second and third trimester of pregnancy

From the second month of pregnancy onwards, the energy and calorie intake should be increased.

Moreover, in addition to the nutrient groups listed above, you should follow these tips:

  • Eat foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates (e.g. bread)
  • Reduce the intake of saturated fats and replace them for healthy fats, present in olive oil, milk or oily fish
  • Include higher amount of proteins in your daily diet (e.g. increase the size of each piece of meat or fish you eat)
  • Increase the amount of iron to prevent anemia, a common condition affecting pregnant women, especially in most advanced stages of pregnancy due to fetal size
  • You can eat higher amounts of iodine by eating more seafood, algae or fish. Ideally, you should eat fish 4 times a week

In the second trimester, you are expected to gain between 3.5. to 4 kg on average. In the third trimester, ideally you should gain 5 to 5.5 kilograms.

Foods to relieve pregnancy symptoms

Many of the most common pregnancy symptoms and nuisances, such as morning sickness, nausea and vomiting, can be relieved or cured by eating certain foods that help regulate hormone levels.

Morning sickness and vomiting

Eating 6 or 7 small meals per day is a key tip for pregnant women who suffer from nausea. Avoiding drinks that contain caffeine, such as tea or coffee, is totally advisable as well.

Carbohydrates are tremendously helpful to cope with sickness. For example, bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice can help you struggle against this annoying symptom.

To prevent nausea and vomiting, certain teas or beverages can be extremely helpful, including pineapple juice or mint tea.

Constipation

This is a common symptom from the second trimester until childbirth. Using laxatives is totally unadvisable for pregnant women. As long as possible, constipation should be treated using natural remedies, such as:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Do moderate exercise or walk
  • Eat whole foods daily
  • Add raw olive oil to your meals
  • Take foods that contain bifidus, like Activia yogurts
  • Eat plant-based foods

In case you experience acid reflux, a common symptom during the final stages of pregnancy, we recommend that you avoid whole foods, carbonated drinks, caffeine, control the amount of olive oil you take, and avoid staying longer than 3 hours in a row without eating anything.

Forbidden foods

Products that are considered inadequate for pregnant women are fried and high-fat foods foods. Both coffee and black tea are unrecommended as well. In general, you should pay special attention to the teas you drink, as many of them are unadvisable for pregnant women.

On the other hand, you should follow a series of food hygiene tips to prevent diseases such as toxoplasmosis. These are some of the most important forbidden foods for women:

  • Raw fish
  • Undercooked or raw meat
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Raw and/or non-disinfected fruit and vegetables
  • Raw eggs
  • Unpasteurized cheese
  • Smoked foods, such as cheese, fish or sausages
  • Large size fish, such as tuna, shark, swordfish, mackerel...
  • Sausages and serrano ham
  • Pâté

If you want to eat out, you can do so in spite of being pregnant. Pregnancy is not incompatible with continuing with your social life. Nonetheless, our advice is that you ask about the details of how each meal has been prepared.

FAQs from users

How does obesity influence the outcomes of fertility treatments?

By Javier Domingo del Pozo MD, PhD (gynecologist).

In the case of obesity, it comes with a series of endocrine and metabolic disorders that cause several gynecological alterations, including, but not limited to, hyperandrogenism (androgen excess), hyperinsulinism, and anovulation. In the case of anovulation, when a woman is undergoing a fertility treatment, it means longer ovarian stimulation protocols, higher doses of gonadotropins, higher drop-out rates due to poor ovarian response, lower implantation and pregnancy rates, and an increased miscarriage rate.

What should I eat during pregnancy?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

In general, your body needs extra nutrients, minerals, and vitamins when you are pregnant. As a matter of fact, you may need to add 350-500 extra calories each day, especially during the second and third trimester of pregnancy.

Keep in mind that key nutrients are essential for the baby's development, and poor eating habits may increase the risk of gestational diabetes and birth complications.

What should you eat during the two week wait?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Broadly speaking, following a balanced diet which includes fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, etc. is the most advisable. Some specialists recommend including dried fruits and nuts, as well as gelatin, which is a protein-rich food. On the other hand, eating ham is unadvisable, as it increases the risk of having toxoplasmosis in case you're pregnant.

As for what to drink, alcohol and fizzy drinks should be avoided at all costs. Staying hydrated is a must, so pay attention to drinking plenty of water. Include orange juice and isotonic drinks as well, given their high content in mineral salts.

What should I eat during the ninth month of pregnancy?

By Victoria Moliner BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Keeping in mind that your baby is almost complete, at this stage he or she will be accumulating baby fat. For this reason, you should eat foods that are high in fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin C and A, and folic acid. Since your baby needs to add on weight during these days, it is recommended that you make your meals a little bigger in quantity.

Our editors have made great efforts to create this content for you. By sharing this post, you are helping us to keep ourselves motivated to work even harder.

References

AECOSAN (Agencia Española de Consumo, Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición). Alimentación segura durante el embarazo. Consejos básicos para 40 semanas de tranquilidad. Gobierno de España, Ministerio de Sanidad, Servicios Sociales e Igualdad. [Ver]

Di Marco, I. et al. (2011). Guía de Práctica Clínica - Obesidad en el Embarazo Manejo de la obesidad materna antes, durante y después de la gestación. Grupo de Estudio de la Obesidad en el Embarazo de la Maternidad Sardá, Hospital Ramón Sardá.

Medicadiet (2015). Guía de alimentación para embarazadas. Avalada por la Asociación Método por Intercambios.

FAQs from users: 'How does obesity influence the outcomes of fertility treatments?', 'What should I eat during pregnancy?', 'What should you eat during the two week wait?' and 'What should I eat during the ninth month of pregnancy?'.

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Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
Andrea Rodrigo
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia along with the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Postgraduate course in Medical Genetics. More information about Andrea Rodrigo
 Javier Domingo del Pozo
Javier Domingo del Pozo
MD, PhD
Gynecologist
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine from the University of Alicante. Specialist in Obstetrics & Gynecology via M. I. R. at Hospital Universitario Materno-Infantil of Canarias, Spain. PhD in "Human Reproduction and Female Reproductive System Pathology" from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Currently, he is the Director of the clinics IVI Las Palmas and IVI Tenerife. More information about Javier Domingo del Pozo
License: 353504174
 Neus Ferrando Gilabert
Neus Ferrando Gilabert
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (UV). Postgraduate Course in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UMH). Experience managing Embryology and Andrology Labs at Centro Médico Manzanera (Logroño, Spain). More information about Neus Ferrando Gilabert
 Victoria Moliner
Victoria Moliner
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Degree in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences from the University of Valencia (UV). Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the UV and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Presently, she works as a Research Biologist. More information about Victoria Moliner
 Zaira Salvador
Zaira Salvador
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Technical University of Valencia (UPV). Biotechnology Degree from the National University of Ireland en Galway (NUIG) and embryologist specializing in Assisted Reproduction, with a Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV) and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI) More information about Zaira Salvador
License: 3185-CV
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
BA, MA
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

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