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Pregnancy and vegetarianism: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

 

Preconception


The health of a mother and baby is influenced not only by diet during pregnancy but also by diet before conception. Eating a healthy diet before pregnancy will give your body a good store of nutrients for the baby to draw on during pregnancy. The foetus is most susceptible to nutritional imbalance during the first few months of pregnancy because this is the time of most rapid development.


If you are very underweight or overweight, you should try to achieve an acceptable weight for your height by a sensible and well-balanced diet.


If you take the contraceptive pill, it is a good idea to come off and use an alternative method of contraception a few months before conceiving. This is because the pill can alter levels of some nutrients, particularly vitamin B6, folate and zinc. Ensure that you have a well balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables (especially green vegetables) and wholegrain cereals. Try to avoid fatty foods, sweets, biscuits and cakes.


Now is the time to make other healthy lifestyle changes and so stop smoking, cut down on alcohol and drinks containing caffeine such as tea, coffee and cola. Try a barley drink such as Barley Cup, or herb and fruit teas instead.


If you find you are pregnant before you have had time to think about preconception, then don't worry, there is still plenty of time to make healthy changes to your diet.


Pregnancy


Pregnancy is a time when good nutrition is vital, for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. It is a time of readjustment as well as growth. The nine months are divided up into three divisions of three months each called trimesters. Many women experience changes in mood, activity and appetite with the different stages of pregnancy.


There is no truth in the old saying that pregnancy means eating for two. The extra energy needed is only 200-300 calories a day for nine months. This is equivalent to two slices of bread with margarine or a jacket potato with baked beans or cheese. Some women do feel a lot more hungry than this and if they are gaining weight at the right rate, they should eat according to their appetite.


0-3 Months


Women usually feel different and may experience tiredness as well as a feeling of sickness particularly in the morning (see advice on morning sickness). Calorie needs are only about 100kcal more in the early stages of pregnancy and some women do not experience much increase in appetite until the end of this period.


3-6 Months


Appetite usually increases after the first three months and this period requires about 300-400kcal extra calories a day. Extra calorie need should be met by cereals, pulses, nuts and seeds, dairy products (unless vegan) and starchy vegetables such as potatoes.


6-9 Months


The baby is maturing now and this is a time for easing up on activity and preparing for the birth. The baby takes up a lot of space and may press on the stomach, reducing the capacity for food. Many women feel they need to eat small meals more frequently at this stage. Normal weight gain during pregnancy is about 22 to 28 pounds or one and a half to two stones (10-12.5kg). Weight gain often slows down during the last few months of pregnancy.


Exercise


It is a good idea to do some form of exercise during pregnancy. Antenatal clinics normally advise on appropriate exercise. Swimming or gentle yoga are often recommended.


Nutrients


Fluid


You may find that you are more thirsty during pregnancy. This is natural as fluid intake should increase. Never allow yourself to become over thirsty and include plenty of fresh water, dilute fruit juices, milk (soya or cow's) and herb teas. Drinks containing caffeine (tea, coffee and cola) should be limited and alcohol should be avoided altogether if po