What Can Happen If You Don't Eat Healthy During Pregnancy?

The foods you eat can benefit or damage the health of your unborn baby. Your growing little one relies on you to get the nutrients he needs to grow and develop into a healthy baby. It is essential to fill your plate with nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables and milk, and restrict your intake of junk foods such as candy and soda. Learning more about what can happen to you and your unborn baby because of an unhealthy diet may motivate you to make healthier food decisions.

husband touching wife's baby belly (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images)

Birth Defects

Many birth defects are not preventable, but you can greatly reduce your risk of others by eating nutrient-dense foods. KidsHealth reports that a deficiency in folic acid may increase your baby's chances of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Folic acid is present in foods such as dark leafy greens and fortified cereals. If you do not include whole foods such as these in your diet, you may increase your baby's risk of birth defects because you do not have adequate stores of essential nutrients to pass to your growing baby.

Loss of Calcium

Your unborn baby needs sufficient amounts of calcium to grow strong bones and muscles. If you do not consume foods with plenty of calcium, your baby will take what she needs from you, leaving you deficient in this important nutrient. Calcium is present in dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt but can also be found in many fruits, vegetables and fortified juices and grain products. Restricting these foods from your diet will put you in danger of losing significant amounts of calcium.

Low Birth Weight Baby

Lacking essential nutrients may prevent proper growth and development of your unborn baby, which can lead to low birth weight. Babies who are delivered as low birth weight often experience additional health problems as they get older, Eileen Behan reports in her book, "The Pregnancy Diet." Eating plenty of nutritious foods can protect your baby's health while she grows in your womb, but it has lifelong implications as well. Behan notes that mothers who have poor diets while pregnant may increase their baby's risk of high blood pressure as a child. Ensuring that you eat plenty of nutrients will help you deliver a normal weight baby.

Weight Gain

If you are a healthy weight before getting pregnant, you should expect to gain 25 to 35 pounds before delivery. If you are overweight before conception, your doctor may recommend that you gain fewer pounds. Eating a poor diet can contribute to unhealthy weight gain and make it more difficult to lose the baby weight following delivery. Filling up on high-fat and high-calorie foods such as fried foods, soda and sweets, increases your risk of unhealthy weight gain. Gaining too much weight may also impact the health of your baby even after she is born. Fruits, vegetables, grains and low-fat milk are healthier choices that will help you keep your pregnancy weight gain in the healthy range.

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