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  • by Nicola Boulton September 01, 2022 5 min read

    Pregnant and Lactating Women

    Pregnant and lactating women have greater nutrient requirements than nonpregnant or non-lactating women. For example, pregnant and lactating women should consume 1,000 mg of calcium daily. This article explains the nutrients needed by pregnant and lactating women.

    It is essential for both the mother and her infant's health that they receive a balanced diet throughout their pregnancy and when breastfeeding. Women who are underweight increase the danger to themselves and their developing babies. During pregnancy, the human body undergoes various physical and mental changes. Low-income women's diets stay impressively stable throughout the three phases of pregnancy and nursing. It leads to a high risk of low-birth-weight babies and a high maternal mortality rate due to maternal malnutrition. While expecting or breastfeeding, ensure to fill up on various healthy foods.

    Is Breastfeeding Throughout Pregnancy Safe

    During a person's next pregnancy, they may want to breastfeed for various reasons. Even if their periods haven't returned, they can still get pregnant while breastfeeding, so it's feasible that one could have another child while their first one is still a baby. Perhaps a woman is not prepared to wean their toddler just yet (weaning usually happens any time between birth and age 3). Cheema et al. (2020) explained that breastfeeding during pregnancy is generally safe for the mother and baby. Their body will continue to produce enough milk for their older child, and their unborn baby will receive all the necessary nutrients. Mild contractions are induced while breastfeeding. These should be fine in healthy pregnancies, but if one has a history of miscarriage or premature birth, is expecting multiple children, or is expecting twins or more, you should talk to your doctor or midwife first. The recommended diet for expectant mothers throughout each trimester is covered in more detail below.

    First Trimester

    Cormack et al. (2016) explained that pregnant women should take in an extra 90 calories and 1 gram of protein in the first trimester. It can be challenging for pregnant women to get all the nutrients they need from diet alone, especially iron, folic acid, and vitamin A. Therefore, it is important to encourage the consumption of supplements or fortified foods throughout a woman's pregnancy. Inadequate intake of micronutrients increases the risk of problems during pregnancy and childbirth, leading to mortality.

    Second Trimester

    Additional 290 calories and 10 grams of protein are needed in the second trimester. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains are all high in nutrients and are good sources of extra calories. Meat, seafood, beans, and eggs are all good sources of supplemental protein. Vilanova et al. (2019) stated that fetal death risks are increased if the mother does not acquire enough weight during this time, which might lead to low birth weight.


    One needs 470 calories and 31 grams of protein in their diet throughout the third trimester. Limit the intake of processed meals high in added sugars and fats in favor of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins when you need to bulk up. Weight gain during pregnancy of 22 to 31 pounds (10 to 14 kilograms) has been linked to healthy birth weights for babies. Osendarp et al. (2021) explained that malnourished pregnant women might need to gain up to 18 kilos (40 pounds) during pregnancy.

    What Nutrients Do Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women Need


    Calcium is essential for the appropriate functioning of the cardiovascular system, muscles, and nervous system, and it also contributes to healthy bone and tooth development. Women who are expecting or are breastfeeding should take in 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Calcium can be found in various low-fat dairy products, calcium-fortified orange juice and milk alternatives, cereals, and kale.


    Preventing iron-deficiency anemia is facilitated by eating a diet high in iron and taking a daily iron supplement throughout pregnancy and lactation. Low iron levels in women have been linked to fatigue and other symptoms. Lean meats and poultry, seafood, legumes (beans and split peas), and leafy green vegetables are good sources of iron.


    Protein is especially important during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy because it aids in developing the baby's muscles, bones, and other tissues. Protein smoothies and powders are not recommended for pregnant women, even though they need more protein than nonpregnant women. Meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, nut butter, eggs, and tofu are all good options for getting protein.

    Vitamin A

    Vitamin A is essential for a baby's healthy growth of the heart, eyes, and immune system. Even though vitamin A deficiency is uncommon in modern nations, taking too much of the nutrient can lead to fetal abnormalities. Prenatal supplements must include 1,500 micrograms (5,000 international units) of vitamin A daily. Supplementing with vitamin A during pregnancy is not advised. Milk, orange fruits and vegetables (including cantaloupe, carrots, and sweet potatoes), and dark leafy greens are all good places to obtain vitamin A.


    Carbohydrates are an important energy source for a growing baby and breastfeeding after birth. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are excellent choices because they contain carbohydrates and fiber. Avoid eating too many processed foods and sugary drinks.


    Pregnancy-related constipation is common but can be alleviated with the use of fiber. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans, split peas, and lentils), and whole grains (such as whole-wheat bread, whole-grain cereals, and brown rice).

    Vitamin B9 (Folate)

    The fetal brain and spinal cord benefit from exposure to folic acid. Additionally, it is essential in producing red and white blood cells. Preventing neural tube defects in a fetus is possible when a pregnant woman takes 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of folic acid daily before and during the first trimester (a congenital disability involving incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord). In the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, women should take 600 micrograms (0.6 milligrams) of folic acid. Five hundred micrograms are the recommended daily intake for nursing mothers (0.5 milligrams). Fortified cereals and bread are excellent food sources of folic acid. Natural folate can be found in foods including dark leafy greens, oranges, avocados, lentils, and beans.

    Vitamin D

    Maintaining strong bones and teeth depends on calcium absorption. Vitamin D. Sunlight on the skin aids causes the body to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D-rich foods include salmon, egg yolks, low-fat or fat-free milk, and orange juice. Vitamin D is essential for a healthy pregnancy and lactation, and experts recommend that women take approximately 600 IU daily.


    Pregnant women should also get regular checkups for weight gain, blood pressure, and anemia and be immunized against tetanus toxoid. Women must get at least two hours of daily activity and rest simultaneously. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take any medication without first consulting a doctor, as many medicines have the potential to harm the developing fetus or infant. It's best to abstain from booze and cigarette products. Misguided food taboos and beliefs must be challenged.


    Cheema, R., Partridge, E., Kair, L. R., Kuhn-Riordon, K. M., Silva, A. I., Bettinelli, M. E., ... & Blumberg, D. (2020). Protecting breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic. American journal of perinatology.

    Cormack, B. E., Embleton, N. D., van Goudoever, J. B., Hay, W. W., & Bloomfield, F. H. (2016). Comparing apples with apples: it is time for standardized reporting of neonatal nutrition and growth studies. Pediatric Research, 79(6), 810-820.

    Osendarp, S., Akuoku, J. K., Black, R. E., Headey, D., Ruel, M., Scott, N., ... & Heidkamp, R. (2021). The COVID-19 crisis will exacerbate maternal and child undernutrition and child mortality in low-and middle-income countries. Nature Food, 2(7), 476-484.

    Vilanova, C. S., Hirakata, V. N., de Souza Buriol, V. C., Nunes, M., Goldani, M. Z., & da Silva, C. H. (2019). The relationship between newborns' different low birth weight strata with infant mortality and the influence of the main health determinants in the extreme south of Brazil. Population health metrics, 17(1), 1-12.

    Nicola Boulton
    Nicola Boulton

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