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The Effect of Nutrition on the Placenta & Growth of the Fetus

author image Jessica Crandall
Based in Connecticut, Jessica Crandall has been working as a registered dietitian since 2008 and started writing in 2001 for local newspapers. She currently specializes in bariatrics and weight-management counseling at Hartford Hospital, and has written for the "Record-Journal" in Meriden, Conn. Crandall received her Bachelor of Science in dietetics from St. Joseph College and a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Marist College.
The Effect of Nutrition on the Placenta & Growth of the Fetus
A balanced diet during pregnancy ensures that the fetus gets all the nutrients it needs to develop properly.

Your diet during pregnancy provides the fetus with its main source of nutrients. Eating the proper nutrients in adequate amounts ensures that both your and the fetus' needs are met. An inadequate diet will result in the fetus taking the nutrients from your body stores. All of the nutrients are passed from you to the fetus through the placenta, which connects the fetus to the womb. Without proper nutrition, the placenta will not be able to function at its best.

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Protein, Carbohydrates and Fluids

Calorie needs increase by about 300 calories per day during the second and third trimester. You will mainly require more protein and carbohydrates, which will help meet the increased needs. Carbohydrates, specifically whole grains, provide you with energy and making a baby requires a great deal of energy. Protein needs increase to about 75 to 100g per day to help the fetal tissues, such as the brain, grow. Fluid needs are also increased, to 64 to 96 oz. per day. Fluids are necessary for the nutrients to pass through the placenta to the fetus.


Many vitamins are required in higher amounts when you are pregnant. Folate, or folic acid, is a B vitamin that is needed for the fetus' development of the spinal cord and spinal nerves. Folate requirements are 600 to 800mcg per day, and if needs are not met, the fetus has an increased risk of neural tube defects. Vitamin C is needed for wound healing and the development of teeth and bones. Pregnancy needs are 85mg per day. Vitamin A needs are increased to 770mcg per day for skin and eye cell growth, and for a healthy immune system.


Several mineral needs are also increase. Iron is needed to bring oxygen to the fetus through the placenta. The fetus stores iron in the last one to two months of pregnancy, so it is important to have at least 27mg per day. Calcium is needed for fetal bone development and teeth development. If you don't meet calcium requirements, of 1,000mg per day, the fetus will begin to take the calcium from your bones. Iodine, a lesser talked about mineral, is needed for proper physical and mental development. Needs can be met with 220mcg per day.

Nutritional concerns

You fetus needs certain nutrients, but there are also foods to avoid so as to not harm the fetus. Undercooked or raw meats and raw, unpasteurized milk and cheeses might contain salmonella, toxoplasmosis or other bacteria that may cause infection. Too much sugar can be harmful as well. If your blood sugar becomes too high, more sugar will cross the placenta and a large, overdeveloped fetus may result. Alcohol must be avoided, as it can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause poor growth and developmental delays. Finally, caffeine should be limited as it has been linked to miscarriages.

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