Nutrition and Weight Gain During Pregnancy - Topic Overview
The average woman needs 2,200 calories a day and 2,500 when she is pregnant. If she is carrying twins, her need increases to 3,500 calories, and for triplets or more, she needs 4,500 calories.1 Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about your daily calorie needs because your needs depend on your height, weight, and activity level.
Your doctor may give you a nutrition plan to follow throughout pregnancy and while breast-feeding. You may also receive a prescription for a vitamin and mineral supplement or a list of recommended nonprescription supplements.
Eating a variety of foods can help you get all the nutrients you need. Your body needs protein, carbohydrate, and fats for energy. Good sources of nutrients are:
Unsaturated fats like olive and canola oil, nuts, and fish.
- Carbohydrate from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), and low-fat milk products.
- Lean protein such as all types of fish, poultry without skin, low-fat milk products, and legumes.
Eating healthy foods during pregnancy is good for your overall health and for the health of your baby. You may already have a healthy diet, or you may need to make some changes to eat healthier.It's also important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. These not only give you necessary nutrients but also help you get fiber. Planning your meals can help you add healthy foods to your diet.
Folic acid is a B vitamin. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy reduces the chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect or other birth defects.
- Women of childbearing age should get 0.4 mg (400 mcg) to 0.8 mg (800 mcg) of folic acid from fortified food, supplements, or a mix of food plus supplements.2 This amount is found in most once-a-day multivitamins.
- Women who are pregnant with twins or more should take 1 mg (1000 mcg) of folic acid daily.3
- Women who have a family history of neural tube defects, who have had a baby with a neural tube defect, or who are on medicines for seizures should take additional folic acid: a daily dosage of 4 mg (4000 mcg) of folic acid is recommended. Do not try to reach this amount of folic acid by taking more multivitamins because you could get too much of the other substances that are in the multivitamin.4
IronYou will need twice as much iron in your second and third trimesters as you did before pregnancy. This extra iron supports the extra blood in your system and helps with the growth of the placenta and the fetus. Your iron requirements are slight during the first trimester of pregnancy, and taking iron supplements in the first trimester may aggravate morning sickness.
Calcium is necessary for the development of the fetus's skeleton. You can get enough calcium in your diet by eating or drinking 4 servings from the dairy (milk) group each day. Good sources of calcium from nonmilk sources include:
- Greens (such as mustard and turnip greens), bok choy, kale, and watercress.
- Broccoli and cauliflower.
- Tofu that is "calcium-set."
- Corn tortillas made with lime.
- Calcium-fortified orange juice.
Weight Gain during pregnancy
The recommended weight gain for a woman of normal weight is 25 lb (11.3 kg) to 35 lb (15.9 kg). You can expect to gain more if you are carrying twins.If you are overweight, your ideal goal is less than the average weight gain, 15 lb (6.8 kg) to 25 lb (11.3 kg). If you are underweight, it is best to gain 28 lb (12.7 kg) to 40 lb (18.1 kg).
For obese women, the Institute of Medicine recommends weight gain of between 11 lb (5 kg) and 20 lb (9 kg).5 Your doctor will work with you to set a weight goal that's right for you. For more information, see the topic Obesity and Pregnancy.
Ideally, you will gain weight slowly over the entire pregnancy:
- Up to 4 lb (1.8 kg) during the first trimester
- 1 lb (0.5 kg) a week during the second and third trimesters
If you stop gaining weight for more than 2 weeks, or if you gain weight faster than these recommendations, consult your doctor.
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