If you're like most pregnant women, you want to make sure you're eating the cleanest possible diet to avoid exposing your baby to any harmful substances. Furthermore, you may know that being overweight during pregnancy increases your risk of certain complications, as does being underweight. Weight loss during pregnancy -- whether intentional or unintentional -- can affect the health of your pregnancy.
Eating a clean, healthy diet during pregnancy will help prevent damage to your baby from being exposed to various toxins in foods and in the environment. Many toxins, bacteria and chemicals that aren't harmful to an adult can severely damage or kill an unborn baby. Sources of these harmful substances include some foods and beverages, which you should either avoid or limit exposure to during pregnancy.
Foods to Avoid
In her book "Conception, Pregnancy and Birth," Dr. Miriam Stoppard recommends avoiding all unpasteurized dairy and uncooked or undercooked meat and fish during pregnancy because of the risk of food-borne illness. She further recommends avoiding fish that could be mercury-contaminated, including swordfish and shark. You can eat salmon any time and tuna up to once a week. Due to the risk of birth defects, you should completely avoid meats preserved with nitrates or nitrites, as well as alcohol.
Foods to Eat
Eating a clean diet during pregnancy isn't just a matter of avoiding the wrong foods -- it's also a matter of eating the right ones. Dr. Stoppard recommends a diet high in fruits and vegetables, which contain lots of vitamins and minerals. She further recommends whole grains, lean sources of protein and plant-based fats. Eating a healthy diet will not only help you avoid dangerous substances, it will also help you maintain a healthy weight.
Unintentional Weight Loss
During pregnancy, weight loss isn't desirable. Some women unintentionally lose weight during the first trimester due to nausea and food aversions. First trimester weight loss generally doesn't result in negative outcomes unless it's quite severe. Eating a healthy diet whenever you are able helps to mitigate early weight loss and helps you gain back the missing weight later on.
Intentional Weight Loss
Obstetricians almost never advise women to diet or intentionally lose weight during pregnancy -- it's simply too easy to end up nutritionally deficient, which can harm the baby. Most women need to gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy, explain Drs. Roizen and Oz in “You: Having A Baby.” If you start your pregnancy overweight, your doctor may have different weight goals for you. Regardless, you should follow your doctor's advice regarding your pregnancy weight, and avoid undereating to facilitate weight loss.
- “Conception, Pregnancy and Birth”; Miriam Stoppard, M.D.; 2008
- “You: Having A Baby”; Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.; 2009