Nutrition during pregnancy

Eating well during pregnancy is important for both mother and baby.  However, maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy can often be challenging due to things like morning sickness, fatigue, and food aversions. It's important for expecting parents to understand what essential nutrients are necessary for their baby's growth and development. 

Every pregnancy is unique and it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about your individual nutrition needs. With the right nutrition and care, you can help ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Folate: a strong foundation

Folate, or folic acid, is the foundation of a healthy baby. You can find it in vegetables, beans, and fruits. 

Start taking a folic acid supplement as soon as you start planning for a baby and keep taking it for at least the first three months of pregnancy to prevent brain and spinal cord issues like spina bifida. 

Iodine and Omega-3s: brain boosters

Iodine and Omega-3s help your baby to develop their brain and senses like seeing and hearing. 

Snack on dried seaweed, nuts, yoghurt, cheese, or chia pudding, and include salmon, sardines, or cod in your diet a few times a week. Make sure to limit fish that have higher levels of mercury, like swordfish and barramundi. Too much mercury can affect your baby’s learning and development as they grow. 

Protein: the body builder

Protein builds body tissue, develops the immune system to prevent illness, and helps make important hormones. Not enough protein in your diet is linked to babies having low birth weight and growth restriction, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough protein. 

Try fitting salmon, tofu, chicken, lentils, peanut butter, or Greek yogurt into your daily meals and snacks. You’ll feel fuller and satisfied for longer, plus these foods give you and your baby the added benefits of extra iron and calcium. 

Iron: oxygenating for two

Iron helps oxygen to travel through you and your baby, keeping you both healthy and growing. Your baby will take a lot of your iron as they grow during pregnancy, so you’ll need a lot more of it. 

Include meats, nuts, veggies, and iron-enriched drinks like Milo or Ovaltine in your diet. Eating foods high in vitamin C like berries and broccoli can also help with iron absorption. Some people may need to take an iron supplement or have an iron infusion during pregnancy. Speak to your doctor or midwife for more information. 

Vitamin D: let the sunshine in

You and your baby need strong teeth and bones, and vitamin D can help. Your baby won’t get the vitamin D benefits of sunny days while they’re growing inside the uterus, so you’ll need to make sure your levels are good by eating fatty fish, eggs, and milk. Speak to your doctor or midwife about vitamin D supplements if you need a bit of extra help. 

Calcium: building strong bones

Calcium makes sure your baby's bones are strong and healthy, and eating dairy products is the best way to reach your daily calcium goals. If you eat a dairy-free diet, check that your plant-based milk has at least 100mg of calcium per 100ml. You can also find calcium in tofu, broccoli, kale, and tinned fish with soft bones, like salmon. 

Calcium can also help prevent a life-threatening condition called pre-eclampsia, so your doctor or midwife might ask you to take a supplement if you are at risk. Read more about preeclampsia below. 

Last updated Tuesday 20th February 2024