Constipation (difficulty passing bowel movements) is common in pregnancy due to hormones slowing the gut and the physical pressures of the baby. After child birth some women may experience bowel problems. An adequate fibre and fluid intake should help with this.
Breast milk provides complete nutrition for the first 6 months of life, and its composition reflects the nutritional status of the mother and the diet she is eating. Therefore consuming a healthy balanced diet is important whilst breastfeeding. For women who have had inadequate intakes of nutrients during pregnancy, poor dietary intake may impact on breast milk composition resulting in a reduced content of calcium, folate, vitamins B6, B12, A and D. Some women choose to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement that is specifically designed for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Whilst pregnant, caffeine intake should be limited to no more than 200mg a day because high levels of caffeine can result in low birth weight, or even miscarriage. Caffeine occurs naturally in tea, coffee and chocolate and is also added to some soft drinks and ‘energy’ drinks.
Calcium intake during breastfeeding is particularly important for the maintenance of normal bones. Calcium loss to breast milk has been estimated to be around 300-400mg/day.3 Recommended intake for calcium during lactation is 1250mg/day, considerably higher than the 700mg/day required during pregnancy.4 For younger women and adolescents, who are still developing their own bone mass, calcium requirements may be higher.
Energy needs during pregnancy only rise slightly because the body undergoes adaptations allowing increased energy needs to be met from only a very small increase in calorie intake. The recommended increase in energy intake for pregnant women in the UK is just 200 kcal per day during the third trimester.
In order to help your body absorb and effectively use iron and other nutrients from your food, you should eat plenty of vitamin C rich foods such as oranges, tangerines,
grapefruit, lemons and tomatoes.
Coffee contains caffeine so whilst pregnant limit daily intakes to no more than:
• Two mugs of instant coffee (100mg each)
• or 2.5 cups of instant coffee (75mg each)
• or 2 cups of brewed coffee (100mg each)
• or 4 cups of tea (50mg each)
Don’t forget the caffeine found in chocolate and some ‘energy’ drinks too.
Some women may find themselves more vulnerable to colds while pregnant as the immune system is working hard and may be less effective than usual. Coughs and colds are usually caused by viruses, which do not benefit from antibiotics, so must run their course. Cold remedies can relieve symptoms so that you feel better, but it won’t make you get better any faster. The majority of over-the-counter cold remedies are not recommended during pregnancy. Except for treating fever, it is fine to simply ‘tough it out’ if you don’t want to take any medications.Always check with the pharmacist before taking any cold remedy (including tablets, capsules, powders or cough mixtures) during pregnancy as most are no recommended.
Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy and is caused by a combination of hormone changes e.g. higher levels of progesterone slows the activity of the digestive tract, the physical impact of pregnancy, dietary changes and reduced levels of physical activity. Alleviation of constipation often requires a combination of approaches, most often focused on dietary changes to increase fibre and fluid intake, increase moderate activity (which aides digestion and movement of food and residues along the digestive tract), and where necessary the use of faecal bulking agents. If you are struggling with constipation speak to your midwife hakim Dr or GP.
To alleviate nausea try eating crackers before getting out of bed in the morning.
Food cravings are common during pregnancy and are defined as ‘a compulsive urge for a food for which there was no previous excessive desire.There is no harm in indulging a craving as long as it is eaten in moderation and alongside a healthy balanced diet.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are encouraged to eat moderate amounts of dairy foods such as milk and cheese which contain calcium, protein, vitamin D and zinc.
The increased metabolism during pregnancy leaves women more vulnerable to dehydration so an adequate fluid intake is important, especially when it is hot or when exercising. Never limit fluid intake to avoid frequent trips to the toilet – dehydration can lead to premature contractions and can contribute to fatigue and dizziness.
Severe morning sickness can also lead to dehydration so monitor fluid intake if this occurs.