Nutrition while pregnant

First Trimester

Pregnancy diet & nutrition

Eating a healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy, and taking a regular pregnancy supplement, should give a mother and her child all the nutrients they need. Unless advised otherwise by a healthcare professional, no other supplements are necessary.

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Folic acid in pregnancy

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Folic acid (also known as folate) is a B-group vitamin that’s important for the healthy development of the foetus in early pregnancy. For women that are of child-bearing age, are pregnant, or planning on getting pregnant, it’s recommended to take extra folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. The best way to get enough folate is to take a daily supplement for at least one month before conceiving, and three months after.

At least 600µg per day + 400µg folic acid supplement

Find out more at: Food Standards and Better Health.

Iodine in pregnancy

A woman's thyroid uses iodine to produce hormones that are important for the normal development of her baby’s brain and nervous system. So it’s very important that mothers consume enough iodine when pregnant.

220µg per day + 150µg iodine supplement

Find out more at: NHMRC Pdf (1)

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Nausea and vomiting

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Nausea and vomiting, or ‘morning sickness’, affects up to 2/3 of pregnant women. Eating regular small meals, avoiding fatty and spicy foods, and eating small snacks such as crackers and fruit may help.

Find out more at: Better Health and NCBI.

Calcium in pregnancy

Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth. When pregnant, a mother's calcium needs don’t actually increase: 1,000mg daily (for women aged 19–50) and 1,300mg daily (for adolescents or women over 51). Dairy foods (such as milk, cheese and yoghurt) and calcium-fortified soy milk are excellent dietary sources of calcium.

1000mg per day

Find out more at: Better Health and NIAMS.

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Long Chain Omega 3 fatty acids in pregnancy

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Long chain omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosaxhexanoic acid (DHA), are very important for a baby’s neurological development. When pregnant or breast feeding, it’s recommended that a mother consumes 200mg of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA daily.

200mg per day

Find out more at: NSW Food Authority and American Society of Nutrition.

Mercury in fish

Although it’s important to continue to eat fish when pregnant, pregnant women should be careful about which fish they choose. Some types of fish contain mercury levels that can harm their baby’s developing nervous system. This includes orange roughy (deep sea perch), swordfish and marlin. Instead, they should opt for fish such as mackerel, canned tuna, salmon and sardines.

Find out more at: NSW Food Authority.

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Iron requirements in pregnancy

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For a pregnant mum, increasing their intake of iron - either through diet or by taking a supplement - can help them build their baby’s iron stores. Iron helps support the baby's blood formation, which helps transport oxygen around their body.

27mg per day

Vitamin D in pregnancy

It is vital for a pregnant mother to consume vitamin D for their baby’s bone structure. It can also prevent Rickets (the softening of bones), and may reduce their risk of allergies.

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Foods to avoid in pregnancy

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When pregnant, there are some foods that are recommended for a woman to avoid. This is usually because the food has a higher risk of containing bacteria such as listeria or salmonella.

Foods to avoid include: Unpasteurised milk or any foods made from unpasteurised milk, liver and patés, raw seafood, raw meats, raw or runny eggs, cold cooked chicken, processed meats, soft cheeses, pre-packed salads and alcohol.

Foods to limit include: Shark, swordfish, orange roughy (also called deep sea perch), catfish and caffeine.

Find out more at: NSW Food Authority - Pregnancy Table, NSW Food Authority - Pregnancy Brochure Pdf (1), and Eat for Health Pdf (1)

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Should nuts be avoided during pregnancy?

When pregnant or breast feeding, a woman does not need to avoid consuming nuts for fear of triggering a later allergy in her baby. She should only avoid nuts if she is allergic to them.

Find out more at: Eat For Health Pdf (1)

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Second Trimester

The myth of 'eating for two'

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There’s no need for a pregnant woman to eat more food during the first trimester of pregnancy. For the first trimester, her energy intake should stay about the same as it was before she fell pregnant. During the second and third trimesters, her energy requirements will probably increase by about 1,400kJ - 1,900kJ a day. Increasing her diet with small snacks such as an additional piece of fruit, a sandwich and a tub of yoghurt will give her the extra energy she requires.

1,400kJ - 1,900kJ extra a day

Find out more at: NHMRC Nutrient Reference Values for ANZ.

Third Trimester

Bowel movements during pregnancy

Irregular bowel movements can be quite common during pregnancy. To help, it’s recommended that a pregnant woman eats a high fibre diet with plenty of wholegrain cereals, fruit, vegetables and legumes and drinks sufficient water.

Find out more at: Eat For Health Pdf (1)

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