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Eating Well

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Good eating habits during pregnancy will help make sure both you and your baby are as healthy as possible. Here are some common questions about eating and drinking during pregnancy.

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Download our full guide to learn what foods you need for healthy eating and how much of each food is recommended each day.

If you have special concerns or needs regarding nutrition, ask about a referral to a dietitian.

How much weight should I gain?

Most sources recommend that a woman gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. Women who were underweight before becoming pregnant may gain more; women who started out overweight may be able to safely gain less.

Check with your obstetric provider about the amount of weight gain that is right for you. In general, it's not the number of pounds you gain that is important — it's whether you are eating well and whether your baby is growing as it should.

What precautions must I follow regarding foods or drinks?

There are some precautions you must take regarding what you eat and drink. Some foods may contain bacteria or other organisms that could be harmful to you or your baby. Others foods or drinks have toxic materials that could have harmful effects on your baby's growth and development. Ask your doctor if you have any questions.

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Vitamin Supplements, Iron, and Folic Acid (Folate)

Prenatal vitamins are recommended by almost all obstetric providers as a way of making sure you get the nutritional support that both you and your baby need. But some women prefer not to take prenatal vitamins, or find that certain types of vitamins (such as those with iron) cause unpleasant side effects.

Most women are able to take in nearly everything they need for a healthy pregnancy by following a healthy, well-balanced diet, as described in this chart. However, there are two important exceptions:

Folic acid

Folic acid, or folate, has been found to be important in preventing the development of a group of birth defects called neural tube defects. Examples of neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. Folic acid is also needed by both you and your baby to form red blood cells. While you are pregnant, your need for folic acid is at least 600 micrograms (mcgs) per day.

Iron

Your need for iron begins in the first trimester, and continues through childbirth. Iron is an important part of the body's blood cells. It is needed during pregnancy to form red blood cells in both you and your baby. However, because of loss of iron with the monthly periods, many women enter pregnancy low on iron. This can lead to low red blood cell counts, which is not good for you or your baby.

Download our full guide for more information »

This material was prepared by clinicians from the departments of nursing, obstetrics and gynecology, physical therapy, and nutrition at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Contact Information

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
East Campus
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-0475

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