Eating During Pregnancy (Part 2)

Drink Lots of Water

Your fluid needs increase during pregnancy, partly to keep pace with your burgeoning blood supply, most of which is water. Plain old H2O is your best bet for keeping up with the demand. Water also cools your body, moves nutrients and waste, prevents constipation, and provides a cushion for your baby. Drink at least eight 8-ounce cups of fluid a day.

A cup a day of coffee or other caffeinated beverages won’t hurt the baby, but it may dehydrate you. To find out whether you’re getting adequate fluids, check your urine: If it’s light yellow or clear, you’re drinking enough; if it’s dark yellow, drink more.


Also, because the kidneys excrete salt actively during pregnancy, be sure to include a moderate amount of sodium in your diet, says Copel. Not consuming enough salt during pregnancy may actually predispose you to high blood pressure, and a lack of iodine can cause a form of mental retardation called cretinism in your child. Include some foods that contain sodium.

Double Up On Iron.

Iron helps produce hemoglobin (the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues), which is vital to your baby’s growth. In your last trimester, the baby builds up iron reserves to last for four to six months after birth, until she starts eating iron-rich solid foods. “Fetuses are efficient parasites,” says Joshua A. Copel, M.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and section chief of maternal fetal medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. “If there’s not enough iron, the one who ends up deficient is the mother.”

A pregnant woman needs 30 milligrams (mg) of iron daily; many prenatal supplements meet this amount. Still, aim to eat iron-rich foods, such as meat, poultry, seafood, spinach, and potatoes with the skin. Increase your body’s iron absorption by eating vitamin C-rich foods (such as broccoli, peppers, or tomatoes) at the same time. Avoid coffee and tea with meals; they inhibit iron absorption. One downside: Iron may lead to constipation. For relief, eat high-fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

Bone Up On Calcium

It builds your baby’s bones and teeth. If there’s not enough in your diet, the fetus will draw calcium from your bones, putting you at risk for osteoporosis later in life. You need a minimum of 1,000 mg a day.

Low-fat or nonfat milk is a great source (about 300 mg per serving), but there are many calcium-rich nondairy alternatives: calcium-fortified salmon (with the bones); and dark-green, leafy vegetables. If your doctor recommends taking a calcium supplement, steer clear of those made from bone meal or oyster shells, since they can contain dangerous levels of lead or other pollutants, and those with added vitamin D, an excess of which can harm the fetus. If you take both calcium and iron supplements, do so at different times of day, because they can interfere with each other’s absorption.

Beware the Bacteria Bearers

During pregnancy, avoid soft cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, blue, and feta. They may harbor Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, which can lead to dangerous form of food poisoning called listeriosis. Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other adults to get listeriosis, which can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth, and newborn infections. Also taboo: raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, as well as unpasteurized milk and juice. All can pass along food-borne illness.

Finally, be sure to store, handle and prepare foods properly; wash utensils, cutting boards and your hands thoroughly with soap and water; and replace your sponges and dishcloths frequently.

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