Ideally should be taken before you conceive and until you are 12 weeks pregnant. Folic acid reduces the risks of neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida. You should take a supplement of at least 400mcg daily throughout your pregnancy as it’s difficult to get enough from food alone. Some women may be advised to take a higher dose of folic acid, this includes women with a history of having a baby with a neural tube defect, a Body Mass Index >35, diagnosis of diabetes. If you think you should be taking a higher dose you should discuss it with your pharmacist.
If you have not already done so now is the time to cut out alcohol and cigarettes. It is also important to go easy on the caffeine, it is recommended that you shouldn’t have anymore than 200mg caffeine per day, this is equal to one 12oz cup of coffee or 2 cups of tea.
During the second month, you may start to experience nausea and food aversions or pregnancy cravings. There is evidence to suggest that your cravings may be related to nutrients and foods that your baby needs for eg. steak = iron, or milk = calcium.
You can help reduce the effects of morning sickness by increasing your levels of zinc (chick peas, pumpkin seeds, chicken, mushrooms, spinach) and vitamin B6 (banana, salmon, sweet potato and hazelnuts) ginger tea can also help
To help with feelings of exhaustion choose energy-giving foods rather than energy-taking foods. Where possible swap white refined foods such as bread, rice and pasta to wholemeal bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta, as these help to balance blood-sugar levels, and avoid you feeling tired after eating. Avoid sugary foods and caffeinated drinks, and try to eat every four hours. Drink plenty of fluids, including water and fresh vegetable juices.
You can suffer from constipation at any time in pregnancy, as hormones slow down the movement of food in your intestines, to allow more absorption from the food. But as your baby starts to grow during this trimester, it can put pressure on your intestines and you are at an increased risk of constipation at this time. To reduce risk of constipation eating foods high in fibre will help, along with lots of water, at least 8 glasses per day. Gentle exercise such as swimming or walking will help, again you should have no more than 200mgs caffeine per day, as it dehydrates the body. If you are constipated it can also help to soak a dessert spoonful of linseeds in water overnight and drink the liquid each morning until the constipation has passed.
Your baby’s hearing is starting to develop and towards the end of this trimester the eyes will begin to open so vitamin A is really important during this time. Vegetable sources are the best, so think about including the following: carrots, yellow peppers, citrus and kiwi fruits.
Towards the end of the second trimester, your expanding uterus takes up space usually occupied by the digestive system, and may push against your stomach which can cause heartburn. To reduce the risk of heartburn eat smaller, more frequent meals, avoiding spicy and fatty foods and carbonated drinks. It may also help if you eat smaller, more frequent meals, avoid spicy or fatty foods, carbonated drinks, processed meats, alcohol and coffee.
Try to eat at least 3 hours before bedtime and chew slowly. It may also help to sleep with your head raised, as this helps to prevent the digested contents of your stomach from moving up towards the oesophagus which causes the heartburn.
These are really important weeks for the developing brain of the baby. It is really important that you eat a range of the following foods during this time: oily fish, nuts, seeds, lean red meat, pulses an dark green leafy vegetables. During this time your baby will double in size and will demand more calories from you, so you will need to eat an extra 300 extra calories each day (for eg an apple and 2 slices wholemeal bread).
Beware of quick “food fixes” and the hidden fats particularly in cakes and biscuits, so when you snack its best to opt for fresh fruit, nuts, sees and healthy cereal bars.
Giving birth has been compared to running a marathon in terms of energy requirements. Prepare 2 weeks before you’re due by stocking up on complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables and wholemeal breads, as these are the body’s main energy source.
Healthy eating in pregnancy should exclude food sources which might contain teratogens (an agent that can disturb the development of the fetus) such as liver and liver products, or be the source of food-bourne illness such as listeriosis (mould-ripened soft cheeses, unpasteurised milk or pates) and toxoplasmosis (undercooked meat or salad vegetables contaminated with soil). Peanut avoidance is only recommended when the mother is allergic to peanuts.