Pregnancy is a wonderful opportunity for a woman to make lifestyle changes that can positively influence not only her own short- and long-term health, but also the delivery process and the short- and long-term health of her child. In addition, research suggests that a pregnant woman’s body weight and eating habits can lead to reprogramming in fetal tissues that can affect her baby’s lifetime health and possibly the next generation’s as well.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position paper on pregnancy recommends that “women of childbearing age should adopt a healthy lifestyle optimizing health and reducing the risk of birth defects, suboptimal fetal development, and chronic health problems in both mother and child.”
Some of the guidelines for a healthy pregnancy include starting with a healthy pre-pregnant body weight, gaining weight appropriately (not too much or too little), consuming a wide variety of foods to maximize nutrient intake, adding nutritional supplements as warranted, avoiding alcohol and other harmful substances and being attentive to safe food handling (reducing the risk of foodborne illness).
During the first trimester, calorie needs are the same as for pre-pregnancy. Caloric needs increase by about 340 calories a day in the second trimester and by 452 calories in the third trimester. Over- or under-consuming calories can lead to weight concerns. Being underweight implies inadequate nutrient intake for both mother and child. Gaining too much weight can lead to complications during pregnancy and delivery, increase the risk of being overweight the year after delivery, and increase the chance of post-partum depression.