Emily G. Blosser, MD, PhD
Many women have questions about diet and exercise during pregnancy. It is important to understand how your needs change so you can optimize your energy and your baby’s development.
Let’s start with nutrition and the role of vitamins. A daily prenatal vitamin is the first step to ensure you have the vitamins and minerals your baby needs. These are sold over the counter, but your doctor may also prescribe them.
There are a few things to consider. One is when you should begin taking a prenatal vitamin. It can actually be beneficial to start before you’re even pregnant. That’s because some critical fetal development happens in the weeks before you know you are pregnant. Starting with prenatal vitamins as soon as you begin trying to conceive is a good idea. Otherwise, begin after your first positive pregnancy test.
Should your prenatal vitamin include iron? The answer may be yes, especially if you have a history of anemia. About 300 mg is an appropriate amount to take daily. If you suffer from constipation when taking oral iron, it’s best to consult with your doctor. Folate (the natural form of vitamin B9) is also important. Most prenatal vitamins include this supplement.
Prenatal vitamins can sometimes make nausea and vomiting worse, especially in the first trimester. Here are a few helpful tips:
· Starting before you become pregnant can help improve your tolerance.
· Chewables or gummies can be easier to digest.
· Take your prenatal after lunch or dinner instead of first thing in the morning.
· Your doctor may be able to prescribe medicine to treat the nausea.
Nutrition, calories, and dietary recommendations during pregnancy
Your caloric needs increase each trimester. In the first trimester, you need about 2,000 calories daily, about the same as when you are not pregnant. In the second trimester, you need about 2,350 daily. That rises to 2,450 in the third trimester.
Focus your diet on proteins (lean meats like chicken, fish, and pork or tofu) over carbohydrates. This helps control blood sugar and reduces risk of gestational diabetes. Complex carbohydrates like quinoa, brown rice, lentils, beans, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn are also good options. And don’t forget fruits and veggies!
Healthy weight gain in pregnancy depends on a healthy diet and exercise. Estimated weight gain in pregnancy varies depending on your pre-pregnancy weight, but everyone is expected to gain weight more rapidly in the third trimester. Remember, pregnancy is not a good time to try to lose weight.
Exercise during pregnancy
Exercise can help promote and maintain healthy weight gain in pregnancy. It is also important for maintaining good cardiovascular and circulatory function, while decreasing the risk of pregnancy complications such as blood clots.
If you exercised before pregnancy, it is usually safe to continue your routine during pregnancy. It’s best to not do any exercises with a high risk of falling, collision, or direct abdominal trauma. Olympic lifting and Crossfit are also not recommended due to risk of injury. Running, walking, swimming, water aerobics, and stationary biking are good exercises while pregnant. Pregnancy yoga, pilates, and stretching are all great for maintaining a strong core and lower back. Light weight-bearing exercises can help maintain muscle tone.
These are just general guidelines for staying healthy while pregnant. It’s best to discuss specific questions with your provider.
Emily G. Blosser, MD, PhD, is an obstetrician-gynecologist with Newport Women’s Health, a Lifespan Physician Group practice. Health Matters appears monthly on newportri.com and in The Daily News.