As a parent, you can’t start caring for your unborn baby soon enough – and obviously, that’s a good thing! Once you find out that you have a little human growing inside of you, your maternal instincts will kick in pretty much immediately. You will want to give your fetus a head-start and do a great job as a parent from the very beginning.
This, of course, means providing your baby with all the nutrients, vitamins, and dietary needs that he or she requires to grow, develop, and thrive.
But there is another reason why you should keep an extra eye on your diet during this special time. Pregnancy can take a great toll on you and your body. You want to make sure you are consuming foods that help you get through your pregnancy symptoms and give you the health, strength and energy you will need for this nine-month journey.
Plan Ahead and Avoid Iron Deficiency Anemia
Many obstetricians will advise you to eat foods rich in iron during your pregnancy, especially if you have an already known history of iron deficiency anemia. Anemia is more likely to occur during pregnancy, but is mild in many cases.
However, if more severe, anemia can lead to side-effects such as premature labor and low birth weights. Generally, low iron can lead to an insufficient supply of oxygen to the tissues inside your body.
The Many Symptoms Iron Deficiency Can Cause in Expectant Mothers
Iron deficiency anemia can lead to heart palpitations, meaning it can cause a fast or sometimes irregular heartbeat. This, in turn, can lead to dizziness, chest pain and/or shortness of breath and should not be underestimated.
If symptoms persist or your tachycardia reaches a certain threshold, it is always a good idea to consult a cardiologist.
Iron deficiency can further cause significant fatigue. While fatigue is mostly a common pregnancy symptom, adding another trigger can really make you struggle with keeping your eyes open. Therefore, pregnant women can feel extremely tired, weak, and lacking energy if diagnosed with anemia.
Low iron can also cause brittle nails and pale skin, in addition to more frequent headaches.
Your obstetrician will monitor your hemoglobin regularly throughout your pregnancy to avoid any sudden drops. This does not even require a blood draw, but can easily be done via a finger stick. It is crucial to discuss any new symptoms with your provider as they occur, so that iron levels can be maintained within normal limits.
Foods Rich in Iron: Prevent or Counteract Your Anemia
Your provider may suggest the following natural sources of iron to prevent a possible drop in iron:
- Poultry and eggs
- Seafood, especially oysters and clams
- Green vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage, and kale
- Beans, lentils, and chickpeas
- Nuts, such as almonds and cashews
Make sure to follow your provider’s guidelines, as you may still need to add an iron supplement if levels don’t replenish naturally.
The Magic of Proteins
Proteins are a key dietary class for all living things, as their sub-particles, the amino acids, are the building blocks in your body’s cells and tissues. They play a major role in constituting enzymes and repairing/growing tissue. However, during pregnancy they gain further importance as proteins can support the growth of fetal tissue, and hence nurture your little one.
Gestational Diabetes and Low Blood Sugar
As your body changes during pregnancy, so can the way your body reacts to or produces insulin. Gestational diabetes is therefore fairly common and is, in general, characterized by hyperglycemia, which is high blood sugar. Yet, these changes can also cause your body to drop to very low blood sugar levels, which, in turn, is called hypoglycemia.
Your body burns glucose as a source of energy and so will your growing fetus. With that being said, you may be more likely to experience hypoglycemic episodes during pregnancy, and especially in the first trimester.
Proteins can help balance normal blood sugar levels in expectant mothers, keep you full longer, and sustain your health. They can assist in lowering cravings and preventing significant blood sugar highs or lows.
What Are Good Sources of Natural Protein?
Some examples of protein-rich foods that can be beneficial during pregnancy are:
- Lean meats
- Beans and lentils
- Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Fish (should be consumed in moderation, as you want to limit your mercury intake)
As you may have noticed, many of the protein-rich foods are also good sources of iron. This means that you can tackle two possible problems at once and more easily achieve a healthier diet.
Why It Is Worth Adding Potassium to Your Diet
Potassium is a crucial mineral that can impact many important bodily functions. It can affect both muscle contractions and heart health, as well as play a role in balancing the fluids in your body.
Eliminate Leg Cramps
One of the most common pregnancy symptoms are cramps in your legs and feet! Leg cramps can have many causes, ranging from a growing uterus pressing on your nerves, to dehydration to various mineral deficiencies. Frequently, leg cramps occur at night and prevent us from getting the rest we so desperately need during this time.
More often than not, foods rich in potassium can help reduce the severity of your leg cramps. Below is a list of some natural sources of potassium:
- Spinach and broccoli
- Sweet potatoes
- Dried fruits, such as raisins and dates
- Tomatoes and cucumbers
- Beans and lentils
- Some fish, such as tuna
Control Your Blood Pressure
The role of sodium, yes sodium, in blood pressure is very well-known, as high blood pressure can be directly linked to a diet rich in processed, and hence sodium-rich foods. So, how does potassium come into play? Simply consider potassium the factor that can counteract the effect of sodium! It can thus reduce the impact sodium has on your blood pressure.
Potassium facilitates the process by which your kidneys are able to dispose of sodium as waste through urination. Getting rid of sodium means better-controlled blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease. High blood pressure can be especially dangerous during pregnancy, as it can lead to conditions, such as preeclampsia.
Avoid Fluid Retention
Similar to the reduction in blood pressure, a diet rich in potassium can help reduce fluid retention and edema by essentially getting rid of the fluid through urination. Many pregnant women struggle with having swollen feet and ankles due to many factors, such as weight gain and worsened blood circulation.
Potassium beautifully functions as a diuretic and can therefore reduce swelling in your body more effectively. By increasing the production of urine, salt can be more easily passed and fluids can be released.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Don’t Underestimate the Significance of Water
As with many pregnant women, your first trimester may be characterized by substantial nausea and/or vomiting episodes. This time, in particular, can put you at a high risk of dehydration – the loss of fluids that can affect the way your body functions.
Fluids play an explicitly important role for your kidneys, as they attempt to remove bodily wastes as urine. Consuming plenty of water will also reduce your risk of a UTI (urinary tract infection). Limited fluids in your body will therefore affect your kidney values and the amount of protein in your urine.
Being well-hydrated can also help with your fatigue, limit headaches, and alleviate constipation. Water is a basic element for all beings and plays an essential role in transporting crucial nutrients that your body needs to function.
Pregnancy can be both a beautiful, yet challenging time as pregnancy symptoms, such as fatigue, low blood sugar and dizziness can wear you down significantly. Get a head start on your symptoms, plan ahead and eat a diverse, and healthy diet.
Make sure to discuss any new symptoms and changes with your obstetrician and follow his/her guidance for every pregnancy is different. Above all, make sure you take care of yourself and gear up for this new wonderful journey!
Author bio – Kady Stoll is a copywriter with a background in clinical research, specializing in the medical and health niche. See kadystoll.com