A balanced, nutritious diet during pregnancy is important
to maintain your health and nourish your
fetus. Be sure to increase your daily caloric intake
by 300 calories after you become pregnant.
The average woman
needs 2,200 calories a day and 2,500 when she is pregnant. If she is carrying
twins, her need increases to 3,500 calories, and for triplets or more, she
needs 4,500 calories.1 Talk to your doctor or a
dietitian about your daily calorie needs because your needs depend on your
height, weight, and activity level.
Your doctor may give you a
nutrition plan to follow throughout pregnancy and while breast-feeding. You may
also receive a prescription for a vitamin and mineral supplement or a list of
recommended nonprescription supplements.
Eating a variety of foods can help you get all the nutrients you need. Your body needs protein, carbohydrate, and fats for energy. Good sources of nutrients are:
Unsaturated fats like olive oil and canola oil, nuts, and fish.
Carbohydrate from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), and low-fat milk products.
Lean protein such as all types of fish, poultry without skin, low-fat milk products, and legumes.
Eating healthy foods during pregnancy is good for your overall health and for the health of your baby. You may already have a healthy diet, or you may need to make some changes to eat healthier.
Folic acid is a B vitamin. Taking folic acid before
and during early pregnancy reduces the chance of having a baby with a
neural tube defect or other birth defects.
Women of childbearing age should get
0.4 mg (400 mcg) to 0.8 mg (800 mcg) of folic acid
from fortified food, supplements, or a mix of food plus supplements.2 This
amount is found in most once-a-day multivitamins.
Women who are pregnant with twins or more should
take 1 mg (1000 mcg) of folic
Women who have a family history
of neural tube defects, who have had a baby with a neural tube defect, or who
are on medicines for seizures should take additional folic acid: a daily dosage
of 4 mg (4000 mcg) of folic
acid is recommended. Do not try to reach this amount of folic acid by taking
more multivitamins, because you could get too much of the other substances that
are in the multivitamin.4
You will need twice
as much iron in your second and third
trimesters as you did before pregnancy. This extra
iron supports the extra blood in your system and helps with the growth of the
placenta and the fetus. Your iron requirements are slight during the
first trimester of pregnancy, and taking iron supplements in the first
trimester may aggravate
After the first
trimester, take a daily supplement containing
30 mg of iron (most prenatal vitamins include
iron). A woman with a multiple pregnancy is advised to take
60 mg to
100 mg of iron daily.3 Iron supplements can cause an upset stomach and
constipation. Taking your iron at bedtime may decrease the chance of stomach
upset. Your body absorbs iron best in small amounts when you eat it with
vitamin C, so you may want to take your iron throughout the day.
Calcium is needed for the
development of the fetus's skeleton. You can get enough calcium in your diet by
eating or drinking 4 servings from the dairy (milk) group each day. Good
sources of calcium from nonmilk sources include:
Greens (such as mustard and turnip greens), bok
choy, kale, and watercress.
Newman RB, Rittenberg C (2008). Multiple
gestations. In RS Gibbs et al., eds., Danforth's Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp. 220–245. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2009). Folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsnrfol.htm.
Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Multifetal gestation. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 859–889. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Prenatal care. In
Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 189–214. New York:
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.