Maternal Nutrition 2018-06-03T15:21:42+00:00


Maternal nutrition


The nutritional status of women when becoming pregnant and during pregnancy can have significant influences on both foetal, infant and maternal health outcomes. Micronutrient deficiencies such as calcium, iron, vitamin A and iodine can lead to poor maternal health outcomes and pregnancy complications which put the mother and baby at risk. Poor maternal weight gain in pregnancy due to an inadequate diet, increases the risk of premature delivery, low birthweight and birthdefects. It is therefore of the utmost importance that you and your baby have all the nutrients you need.

It is recommended to increase your daily calorie-intake by 200 to 300 calories from nutrient dense foods such as lean meats, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grain products. It is important that you carefully consider the foods you consume during your pregnancy.


This guide will help you choose a variety of healthy foods for you and your child to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.


To be able to build strong bones and teeth you need calcium. Calcium also allows the blood to clot normally, nerves to function properly, and the heart to beat normally. It is recommended to have an intake of 1000 mg per day for pregnant and lactating women. Women 19 years or younger need 1300 mg a day. Eat or drink four servings of dairy products or foods rich in calcium. Dairy products are the best source of calcium. Other sources of calcium are dark, leafy greens, fortified cereal, breads, fish, fortified orange juices, almonds and sesame seeds.


During pregnancy the body requires folic acid to make the extra blood. The recommended intake is 400 μg per day for pregnant women. It is suggested that 70 percent of all neural tube defects can be avoided with appropriate folic acid intake. Foods rich in folic acid include lentils, kidney beans, green leafy vegetables (spinach, romaine lettuce, kale and broccoli), citrus fruits, nuts and beans. Folic is also added as a supplement to certain foods such as fortified breads, cereal, pasta, rice and flours.


Iron is an important part of red blood cells, which carry oxygen through the body. Iron will help you build resistance to stress and disease, as well as help you avoid tiredness, weakness, irritability, and depression. It is recommended you receive 27 mg of iron a day. Good sources include whole grain products, lean beef and pork, dried fruit and beans, sardines and green leafy vegetables.


It is recommended you receive 770 μg of vitamin A daily. Foods rich in vitamin A are leafy green vegetables, deep yellow or orange vegetables (e.g., carrots or sweet potatoes), milk and liver.


Protein is an important nutrient needed for growth and development.Protein is needed for energy and to build and repair different parts of your body, especially brain, muscle and blood. A pregnant woman needs additional protein for her baby’s growth. Each Choose a variety of protein-rich foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.

Daily recommendations: Include two or three servings of vegetables, two servings of fruits, at least three servings of whole grain bread, cereals, pasta, two or three servings of lean protein (e.g., meat, fish and poultry). Whenever you are or may become pregnant, it is important not to diet! Even if you are overweight, your pregnancy is not an acceptable time to lose weight. You or your baby could be missing essential nutrients for good growth.

Harmful foods to avoid during pregnancy

There are specific foods that you will want to avoid during your pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can have a negative effect on your immune system and put you at risk for contracting a foodborne illness. It has been found that contracting the foodborne illness ‘Listeria’ during the pregnancy can cause premature delivery, miscarriages, and even foetal death. Pregnant women are 20 times more likely to contract ‘Listeria’.

  • You can decrease your chances of contracting ‘Listeria’ by using caution with hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts or other deli meats (e.g., bologna) or fermented or fry sausages unless they heated to an internal temperature of 75°C or until steaming hot just before serving.
  • Avoid getting fluid from hot dog and lunch meat packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats and deli meats.
  • Do not eat soft cheese such as feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, brie, camembert, blue veined or panela (queso panela) unless it is labelled as made with pasteurized milk. Make sure the label says “MADE WITH PASTEURIZED MILK”.
  • Pay attention to labels, do not eat refrigerated pâté or meat spreads from deli or meat counter or from the refrigerated section of a store. Foods that do not needs refrigeration, like canned or shelf-stable pâté and meat spreads, are safe to eat. Refrigerate after opening.
  • Other foods that are more likely to cause foodborne illnesses include sushi, rare or undercooked meats and poultry, beef, raw eggs, ceasar dressing and mayonnaise.

Another food of concern for pregnant women is fish. Although fish is low-fat, healthful protein choice, there are certain fish that have elevated levels of methyl mercury or Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB’s), a pollutant in the environment. Consuming fish with high levels of methyl mercury or Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB’s) during pregnancy has been associated with brain damage and developmental delay for babies

  • Eating identified safe fish one time a week is safe for pregnant women.
  • It is recommended that pregnant women should avoid all raw and seared fish. Raw fish includes sushi and sashimi, undercooked finfish and undercooked shellfish (e.g., oysters, clams, mussels and scallops).
  • Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish even when cooked as they have higher levels of mercury.
  • It is also recommended to be very cautious with eating fish they may contain higher levels of PCB’s. Fish in this category include bluefish, bass, freshwater salmon, pike, trout and walleye.

Besides these directions there are other foods or consumables that you may want to avoid, such as alcohol, salt and caffeine.

  • Alcohol: Avoid it! Alcohol has been linked with premature delivery and low birth weight babies, as well as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.
  • Salt: Eat salty foods with moderation. Salt causes your body to retain water and could lead to an elevation in your blood pressure.
  • Caffeine: It is recommended that you limit your caffeine intake. You may choose: 300 ml of coffee, 450 ml of tea or 660 ml of caffeinated soda.


It is a good sign that your baby is getting all of the nutrients he or she needs and is growing at a healthy rate by gaining the right amount of weight by eating a balanced diet. Weight gain should be slow and gradual. In general, you should gain about one to two kg a week for the remainder of the pregnancy. A women of average weight before pregnancy can expect to gain 8 to 18 kg during the pregnancy. You may need to gain more of less depending on whether you underweight or overweight when you get pregnant. Recommendations also differ if you are carrying more than one baby. An average women can expect to gain 8 to 18 kg of weight during the pregnancy, but where does it go?

  • Baby: 3 –4 kg
  • Placenta: 1 –1,5 kg
  • Amniotic fluid: 1 –1,5 kg
  • Breast tissue: 0 –1,5 kg
  • Blood supply: 1,5 –2 kg
  • Uterus increase: 1 –2,5 kg
  • Fat stores for delivery and breastfeeding: remainder of weight


Try to get your weight back on track. Don’t consider losing weight or stopping weighing altogether. You should try to slow your weight gain to recommend amounts, depending on your trimester. During thefirst trimester, you should gain 1 to 2 kg in total; during the second and third trimester, you should gain 0,5 kg per week. Consider trying these diet changes to gain weight more slowly:

  • Stick to the appropriate amount and avoid second helpings.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products.
  • Exercise if your paediatrician allows it. Consider walking or swimming.
  • Use low-fat cooking methods
  • Limit sweets and high-calorie snacks
  • Limit sweet and sugary drinks.


Every woman is different and not everyone will gain at the same rate. You should talk to your doctor if you concerned that you are not gaining enough. Weight gain can be hindered by nausea and morning sickness. Excessive vomiting can be a symptom of hyperemesis gravidarum, which you should discuss with your doctor. Consider trying these diet changes to gain weight within appropriate ranges:

  • Try to eat frequently, five to six times a day.
  • Eat nutrient and calorically dense foods such as dried fruit, nuts, crackers with peanut butter and ice cream.
  • Add a little cheese, honey, margarine or sugar to the foods you are eating.


Pregnancy come with various symptoms. Some women have difficulty with morning sickness, diarrhoea or constipation. Here are a few suggestions on how to deal with these symptoms.

  • Morning sickness: Try eating crackers, cereal or pretzels before you get out of bed. Eat small meals frequently throughout the day. Avoid fatty, fried foods.
  • Constipation: Increase your fibre intake by eating high fibre cereal and fresh fruits and vegetables. Also make sure you are drinking plenty of water, at least 10 –12 glasses per day.
  • Diarrhea: Increase your intake of foods containing pectin and gum fibre to help absorb excess water. Good choices include applesauce, bananas, white rice,oatmeal and refined wheat bread.
  • Heartburn: Eat small frequent meals throughout the day, eat slowly and chew thoroughly, avoid spicy or rich foods and avoid caffeine. Do not drink a lot of fluids with your meal, drink fluids in between meals. Try not to lie down after eating and keep your head elevated when lying down.


Cravings is absolutely normal during pregnancy although not every women has them. If you have food cravings it is okay to indulge as long as it fits into a healthy diet and does not occur too often. If youare craving for non-food items such as ice, laundry detergent, dirt, clay, ashes or paint chips, you may have a condition known as pica. You should consult your doctor immediately. Eating non-food items can be harmfull to you and your baby and may be a sign of nutritional deficiency such as iron deficiency.

Important Message


The World Health Organization or short WHO, recommends breastfeeding during the first 6 months of your child.


Unimilk® fully supports this recommendation from the WHO.


If you do choose, in consultation with your health care professional, to start bottle feeding, Unimilk® offers a good substitute.