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Summary

View the complete fact sheet.

  • Pregnant women should aim to eat the recommended nutrients and not increase their kilojoules.
  • Pregnancy can increase the need for certain nutrients such as iron and folate.
  • Good food hygiene during pregnancy can reduce the risk of salmonella and listeriosis.

This page

  • Healthy weight gain during pregnancy
  • Healthy eating tips for pregnant women
  • Folic acid (folate), and pregnancy
  • Folate in your diet
  • Iron and Pregnancy
  • Iodine, pregnancy
  • Vitamin D, Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Multivitamin Supplements and Pregnancy
  • There is no need to take extra calcium during pregnancy
  • Dieting while pregnant: The dangers
  • Pregnancy during adolescence
  • Constipation during pregnancy
  • Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy
  • Pregnancy
  • Alcohol during pregnancy
  • Listeria and pregnancy
  • Salmonella and pregnancy
  • Food hygiene is important to reduce the chance of getting sick.
  • Mercury in fish
  • Where can I get help

A healthy pregnancy is possible by eating well. Pregnancy increases your need for certain nutrients, such as iron, folate and iodine.

Our bodies need to get the vitamins and minerals they require every day by eating a varied diet that includes healthy foods from all five food groups. Pregnant women might need to take vitamin and mineral supplements (such as folate or vitamin D span>

Before you take any supplements, consult your doctor. You may be asked to have your blood tested or to see a dietitian in order to determine if you need to take any supplements.

Healthy weight gain during pregnancy

It is normal to gain weight during pregnancy. This is good for your baby’s health. It is important to not gain too much weight.

Excess weight gain during pregnancy can increase your chances of developing certain health problems, such as gestational diabetes.

When you’re pregnant, it is a good idea to eat as much as you like and to monitor your weight.

The following weight gain during pregnancy is recommended based on your BMI (body mass index) at the beginning of your pregnancy:

Recommended weight gain during pregnancy (kg/m2)BMI at the beginning of pregnancy (kg/m2)

< 18.5 (underweight) 12.5-18.0

18.5-24.9 (healthy) 11.5-16.0

25.0-29.9 (overweight) 7.0-11.5

> 30 (overweight) 5.0-9.0

Being overweight is not the right time to lose weight or start dieting. To support your baby’s growth and development, weight gain within these limits is essential.

It is essential to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy.

  • Select healthy foods from each of the five food groups.
  • Avoid discretionary foods and beverages high in saturated fats, added sugars, and salt (such as cakes and biscuits)
  • Remain active during your pregnancy.

Healthy eating tips for pregnant women

Your pregnancy and child’s health are directly affected by what you eat.

Select a variety of healthy foods among the five food groups to ensure your baby’s health and growth.

It is possible to find that certain foods are more nutritious than others. However, you don’t have to eat just one.

What should you include in your pregnancy diet?

  • You should have a variety of different fruits and vegetables. Ideal is to eat 2 portions of fruit every day and 5 portions of vegetables each day.
  • Your daily intake of cereal and grain foods should be increased to 8 1/2 servings per day. Use wholegrains and high-fiber options.
  • Choose foods rich in iron, such as tofu or lean red meat. Pregnant women should eat iron-rich foods. Recommendations are for 3 1/2 servings of meat or other meat options.
  • Drink milk, yogurt, and calcium-enriched options regularly. Low-fat options are the best. It is recommended to eat 2 1/2 servings per day.
  • Get plenty of water
  • Avoid high levels of saturated fat and added sugar.

Australian Dietary Guidelines to Pregnancy

These daily recommendations for pregnant women based on the five food groups are outlined in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Food group serves per day Example serving size.

Vegetables/beans 18 and under: 5

  • 19-50 Years: 5 1/2 cups cooked vegetables
  • 1/2 cup canned or cooked beans, peas, or lentils
  • 1 cup green salad or raw vegetables
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn
  • 1/2 medium potato, or other starchy vegetable
  • 1 medium tomato

Fruit 18 and under: 2

  • 19-50 Years: 2 1 medium fruits, such as orange, banana, or apple
  • 2 small fruits such as apricots or kiwi fruit, or plums
  • 1 Cup diced or canned fruit (no sugar added)

Sometimes

  • 125ml (1/2 cup) fruit juice (no added Sugar)
  • 30g dried fruit (such 4 apricot halves and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sultanas).

Cereals, mostly wholegrain and high fiber varieties.

  • 19-50 Years: 8 1/2 1 Slice Bread, 1/2 Medium Roll or Flatbread (40g)
  • 1/2 cup rice, pasta, noodles and buckwheat.
  • Half a cup of cooked porridge, 1/3 cup wheat cereal flakes, 1/4 c. muesli
  • 3 crispbreads
  • 1 crumpet or small English muffin, or scone

Fish, poultry, eggs, tofu and nuts, as well as lean meats, fish, and poultry.

  • 19-50 Years: 3 1/2 65g cooked lean meats such as beef and lamb or goat
  • (90-100 g raw)
  • 80g of cooked lean poultry such as turkey, chicken (100g raw)
  • 100g of cooked fish fillet (115g raw) or one small can
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned or cooked legumes/beans such as split peas, chickpeas, lentils and chickpeas
  • 170 g tofu
  • 30g nuts or seeds, nut/seed past*

Milk and yogurt, cheese, and other alternatives, mostly low fat, 18 years old or younger: 3 1/2

  • 19-50 Years: 2 1/2 cups (250ml) fresh, UHT-long-life reconstituted buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) evaporated milk
  • 2 slices of hard cheese (40g) such as cheddar
  • 3/4 cup (200 g) yogurt
  • 1 Cup (250ml) soya, rice, or other cereal beverage with at least 100mg of calcium per 100ml

Choose canned foods without salt.

Folic acid (folate), and pregnancy

Folate, also known as folic acid, is a vitamin B found in many foods. Folic acid protects against neural tube defects during the development of the fetus. Folic acid is essential for pregnant women.

Women planning to have a baby and the first three months of their pregnancy should take 500 mg of folic acids daily.

Folate in your diet

Fantastic food sources for folate include

  • asparagus
  • bran flakes
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • chickpeas
  • dried beans
  • lentils
  • spinach.

Excellent food sources for folate include

  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • leeks
  • oranges
  • orange juice
  • parsley
  • peas
  • wheat germ
  • wholegrain bread.

These are good food sources for folate:

  • hazelnuts
  • vegemite
  • parsnips
  • potato
  • salmon
  • strawberries
  • tomato
  • unsalted peanuts
  • walnuts.

The liver is rich in folate but it is and not recommended to pregnant women because of its high vitamin-A content.

Iron and Pregnancy

Iron requirements increase during pregnancy. To survive the first five to six months of life, the developing foetus needs iron from its mother.

Because the woman stops having menstruations, iron losses during pregnancy are less. This isn’t enough to meet the needs of the developing foetus. Women who are pregnant should eat iron-rich foods such as meat, fish, seafood, lentils, dried beans, lentils, and other green leafy veggies every day.

Iron from animal sources is readily absorbed by the body. Iron from plants is less easily absorbed, but it is easier to absorb if these foods are paired with foods rich in vitamin C (such oranges). This is especially important for vegetarian women.

The daily recommended intake (RDI), of iron during pregnancy, is 27 mg per day. This is 9 mg more than for non-pregnant woman. Iron deficiency is common in Australia during pregnancy. Some women may require iron supplements. Your doctor should discuss your requirements for iron supplements. Iron can be toxic (poisonous), in large quantities.

Iodine, pregnancy

Iodine, an essential mineral for the production of thyroid hormones that is vital for growth and development, is crucial. Insufficient iodine intake can increase your baby’s chance of developing mental impairment or congenital hypothyroidism (previously known by cretinism).

These are some Good Sources of Iodine.

  • seafood
  • seaweed (including nori and kelp)
  • eggs
  • meat
  • Dairy products

Iodized salt also contains iodine. Salt should not be added to food or cooked. However, it is best to label the salt as iodized.

Because of the reemergence of iodine deficiencies in Australia, all bread sold in Australia and New Zealand is now iodized.

Breastfeeding and pregnant women require more iodine. Women planning a pregnancy, breastfeeding and taking iodine supplements of 150 micrograms daily are advised.

Vitamin D, Pregnancy

Vitamin D is vital for the growth and development of your baby and for your health during pregnancy.

Vitamin D is mainly obtained from the sun. Vitamin D is produced by the ultraviolet (UV) radiation of the sun. Vitamin D is found in the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

The most at-risk women for vitamin D deficiency are

  • have dark-colored skin
  • Covering or concealing clothes for religious or other purposes
  • Spend a lot of time indoors.

A blood test may be required to determine your vitamin D levels before you become pregnant. Your doctor (GP), will arrange for this. You may need vitamin D supplements depending on the results.

Discuss with your GP if you are considering taking vitamin D during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Multivitamin Supplements and Pregnancy

Multivitamins may be recommended to certain groups of pregnant women.

  • Vegetarians
  • Teenagers with a low food intake
  • Substance misusers (of drugs and tobacco)
  • Pregnant women who are very overweight and want to lose weight.

Your doctor should always be consulted before you take vitamin or mineral supplements.

There is no need to take extra calcium during pregnancy

Australian dietary guidelines recommended that pregnant women and nursing mothers increase their calcium intake. This advice was in place until 2006. Since then, this advice has been updated. The baby’s third trimester is when it needs the most calcium, as it begins to build and strengthen its bones. However, the mother’s ability to absorb calcium from the diet means that the baby doesn’t need to have any extra calcium.

During pregnancy and nursing, the recommended daily intake for non-pregnant females (1,000 mg per day for women between 19 and 50 years and 1,300 mg per day for adolescents and over 51 year olds) is unchanged. Calcium-fortified soymilk and dairy foods such as yogurt, milk, and cheese are great sources of calcium.

Dieting while pregnant: The dangers

Women may be afraid of the additional weight gain that pregnancy can cause and might choose to eat sparingly in order to prevent gaining more body fat. Crash dieting or local eating during pregnancy can be dangerous for your health and the health of your baby.

Pregnancy during adolescence

Because they are still growing, pregnant adolescents require more nutrients than adults. Because they are competing with the growing fetus, adolescents may give birth to smaller babies.

Teenagers who are pregnant should make sure they get enough iron.

It is important to get enough calcium. Young women are still at their peak bone mass and a low intake of calcium can increase osteoporosis risk later in life.

Teenagers who are pregnant should consume around 3 1/2 cups of milk, yogurt and cheese each day to ensure they meet their calcium requirements.

Constipation during pregnancy

Pregnancy is known to be a time when constipation is common. Consume a variety of high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruit to help constipation. Also, drink lots of water. Physical activity can help reduce constipation.

Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy

Especially in the first trimester, nausea and vomiting are common during pregnancy.

Here are some suggestions to help you:

  • Before you get up, eat some cereal, biscuits, or dry bread. Get up slowly, avoiding sudden movements.
  • Avoid bloating by drinking liquids with meals, instead of between them. This can cause vomiting.
  • Avoid eating large meals or greasy, heavily spiced food.
  • Don’t eat lemonade.
  • Take a break, relax and enjoy the fresh air. Make sure your rooms are well ventilated.
  • Ginger tea and ginger food are good options to relieve nausea.

Pregnancy

Heartburn is common during pregnancy due to increased pressure on the abdomen as the baby grows. It is possible to reduce heartburn by eating smaller, more frequent meals than larger meals.

Avoid

  • eating late at night
  • After meals , bending, lifting, or lying down
  • Excessive consumption of tea and coffee.

It may be a good idea to raise your bedhead a bit. This can be done by placing a pillow or blanket under your mattress.

Alcohol during pregnancy

It is not known if alcohol consumption during pregnancy is safe. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can increase the chance of miscarriage, low baby weight, congenital defects, and affects on the baby’s intelligence.

According to the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol, pregnant women should not consume alcohol.

Talk to if you have difficulty quitting or reducing alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

  • your doctor or midwife
  • Your local community health care
  • Alcohol and other drug helpline in your territory or state.

More information is available in the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol.

Listeria and pregnancy

Listeria infection (or listeriosis) is often caused by eating foods contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. While healthy people might not experience any adverse effects from listeria infection during pregnancy, the risks to pregnant women are significant. Unborn babies are at greatest risk. There is a greater chance of miscarriage or stillbirth and premature labor. Listeria infection can be easily treated with antibiotics but prevention is better.

Listeria contamination is more common in certain foods than others, so pregnant women should avoid eating them. These include:

  • Soft cheeses such as brie and camembert are safe to eat if they’re cooked in hot.
  • Pre-cooked or prepared cold foods that cannot be reheated. For example, pre-prepared quiches, salads, pate and delicatessen meats such as salami
  • undercooked meat, chilled-cooked meats, pate, meat spread
  • Raw seafood such as oysters, sashimi, or smoked seafood such as salmon (canned versions are safe).
  • Unpasteurized Foods
  • Pre-prepared or pre-packaged chopped fruits and vegetables
  • Soft-serve ice cream.

Listeria infection can be destroyed by heat so make sure to properly cook your food.

Salmonella and pregnancy

Salmonella can cause food poisoning and miscarriage. Salmonella is most commonly found in raw eggs, undercooked meats and poultry.

Food hygiene is important to reduce the chance of getting sick.

Good food hygiene is one of the best ways to reduce the chance of listeria and salmonella infections. Here are some suggestions:

  • Always wash your dishes after you prepare food.
  • Keep your kitchen surfaces clean.
  • Don’t allow uncooked food to contaminate your cooked food.
  • Before eating, wash fruits, vegetables, and salad.
  • Prepare food well.
  • Keep pets off of kitchen surfaces.
  • Use rubber gloves for gardening and handling cat litter trays.
  • Keep food at the right temperatures.

Mercury in fish

For their baby’s health and good health, pregnant women should eat at least 2 to 3 fish per week. Pregnant women and women who are planning to become pregnant in the next six months need to be cautious about what fish they choose. Mercury can cause harm to the developing foetus if high levels are found in certain types of fish.

Pregnant women should choose fish when choosing.

  • Limit to One Serve (150g) per Fortnight . This includes billfish (swordfish), broadbill, and marlin) as well as shark (flake) with no other fish consumed in the fortnight.
  • OR
  • Limit to One Serve (150g) per Week Orange roughy (deep-sea perch) or catfish. No other fish allowed that week
  • OR
  • 2 to 3 meals per week of any fish or seafood (for example, tuna or salmon).

Notice: 150g is approximately two portions of frozen crumbed fish.

If you have had a few meals with mercury-rich fish, don’t be alarmed. If you eat this type of fish regularly, mercury buildup in the mother’s body is not a problem.

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