Pregnancy can be rife with trials impacting your nutrition, your baby, and your health. From first-trimester nausea, to second-trimester hunger pangs, to third-trimester reflux, being a mother is both extremely rewarding and challenging. But you are far from alone in this struggle — 70% of women experience morning sickness (and not just in the morning), making it much more difficult to eat a balanced diet. Later, when you feel like eating everything in sight, it can be difficult to stick to just the recommended additional 300 calories per day. Finally, in the third trimester, up to 72% of pregnant people have issues with reflux, one study shows, making it confusing to figure out what foods to keep eating and which to hold off on.
You don’t have to navigate these changes alone. A pregnancy dietitian, who is comfortable and experienced in helping people through pregnancy, can have dramatic impacts on your health, and your baby’s. Whether your goal is to improve your diet, gain the recommended amount of weight, or ensure your baby’s well-being, consulting with them can put your mind, and body, at ease. Here’s how.
Ensuring you get proper vitamins and nutrients
Nutritionists help you understand the types of vitamins and nutrients to focus on, especially educating clients on those that they might not be getting enough of. For example, a nutrient called Choline, for example, found in eggs and other foods, helps with the baby’s brain development, and Vitamin D can help prevent preeclampsia, preterm birth, and gestational diabetes.
One study suggested a significant number of pregnant women are not meeting recommendations for vitamins A, B6, C, D, E, and K, along with choline and folate, iron and calcium, magnesium and potassium, and more. Instead of heading to the supplement aisle, a nutritionist can work with your specific diet preferences to help you increase these levels naturally, and supplement where needed. These must-haves for your baby’s proper growth and development are worth digging a bit deeper into, to ensure you are getting enough in spite of morning sickness and other challenges in pregnancy.
Learning what you should eat, and what to avoid
Sushi? Lunchmeat? Hot dogs? Navigating the do’s and don’ts of eating during pregnancy can seem overwhelming, especially in the beginning. Pregnancy dietitians can advise you on what’s safe and what isn’t, dispelling myths around foods that might actually be okay, and those that really pose a serious risk to you and your baby. They can also help provide you with healthy swaps to replace foods you previously enjoyed that you might want to avoid during pregnancy, or to help you ease off large amounts of caffeine, and other major dietary changes.
One size doesn’t fit all
Our pre-pregnancy diets are quite different from person to person, and that doesn’t change in pregnancy. Our perinatal nutritionists take a tailored approach to focus on your specific needs, from vegans and vegetarians, to people with dietary restrictions and allergies, to diabetics, and more.
While we can all read basic advice for pregnancy nutrition far and wide online, nowhere will we see this tailored approach, to help us understand and reach our specific goals, and to maintain them within our current lifestyle. Research has shown using a personalized approach in perinatal tuition leads to improved health outcomes for both mothers and their children.
Weight management during pregnancy
Some pregnant women can barely look at food without gagging, thanks to those pesky food aversions sending you running from raw meat, some vegetables, and other offenders. Others spend much of their pregnancy hungrier than ever, and even craving foods they’d never been that interested in before (far beyond the pickles and ice cream stereotype, but including those too). This can lead to weight struggles that can both impact the mom’s health during and after the pregnancy, and can also contribute to complications if she’s not gaining enough, or gains too much weight.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 32% gained the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy. They also show 48% gained too much and 21% gained too little, revealing this is a difficult aspect for many women.
To further help women with this potentially confusing topic, the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council created an online calculator to help you understand a healthy range of weight to gain, but it’s essential to collaborate with your healthcare provider and nutritionist on this topic as well. If you’re worried about whether or not you’re eating enough during pregnancy, you can check out writing on the topic. You can also check out our list of symptoms to see if you aren’t eating enough.
Navigating challenging pregnancy conditions
You shouldn’t have to guess how to eat on top of dealing with trying and difficult pregnancy conditions, from reflux and indigestion, to gas and food aversions. Pregnancy nutritionists are exceptionally familiar with each of these, and have food fixes that can make life more comfortable while you wait on your little one, while improving your nutrition intake.
Dietitians can also help you navigate nutrition during more serious conditions such as Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This condition, which includes severe nausea and vomiting, and therefore sometimes weight loss and nutrition deficits, requires medical attention, and you can also benefit from additional support from a nutritionist alongside those medical interventions.
You will also learn valuable lessons such as how to keep your blood sugar balanced, by pairing healthy and substantial foods with your go-to nausea relief options, such as adding a bit of peanut butter to your saltines. Nutritionists also help with additional food swaps, such as looking towards other sources of choline if you aren’t a big fan of eggs.
Preparing for breastfeeding and postpartum health
After growing another human for more than 9 months, you will most likely be met with additional postpartum challenges, such as keeping yourself well-fed while you keep another human alive, sometimes by breastfeeding them. Nutritionists can help ensure you are able to access quick and easy meals between feedings, supporting your own needs rather than just your baby’s. This can be a learning curve for new moms, who might find their own health suffering as they navigate dirty diapers and sleepless nights, but nutritionists can help educate them for this new journey they are embarking on. In addition, parents can learn the best ways to support a breastfeeding mom’s diet ahead of time, including how many extra calories to eat and what types of foods are best for supporting nursing.
Partner with Nourish
Beginning your nutrition journey can happen before pregnancy, and at any point during your pregnancy or postpartum life — it’s not too late to begin. Optimizing your nutrition for your health, and your baby’s, is a decision that can make a lifelong impact for you both. We are excited to connect you to registered prenatal dietitians and nutritionists who are prepared to guide you through perinatal obstacles and successes alike. We look forward to collaborating with you on your journey.