Nutrition and Exercise during Pregnancy

Pregnancy and motherhood fills your life with joy but more than that there are many apprehensions regarding what to eat, how to eat and what kind of nutrition will have worthwhile effect on the development of fetus in the womb. This article will help you crack this puzzle.

Nutrition and Exercise during Pregnancy

Consumption of a balanced diet is essential to ensure maternal well-being and favorable outcomes during pregnancy and is especially vital during pregnancy. It must provide enough energy and nutrients to meet the usual requirements of the mother, as well as the needs of the growing fetus and enable the mother to lay down stores of nutrients required for fetal development as well as for lactation.

There are certain considerations regarding specific dietary groups during pregnancy. Like vegetarians and vegans may have difficulty meeting their requirements for some of the vitamins and minerals, particularly riboflavin vitamin B12, calcium, iron and zinc. At the same time, those on very restricted diets may also need to consume fortified foods or supplements.


Proteins play a vital role in the creation and maintenance of every cell and powers our bodies. It also helps in keeping your cells in good shape and should be part of your daily health maintenance plan. Average protein intake should be 60g/day for women aged 19–24 years and 59g/day for women aged 25–34yrs.


The quality of fat is important than its total amount, especially for fetal development and infant growth. The DRV panel has not provided any specific values for additional fat requirements during pregnancy. However, an adequate dietary intake of essential fatty acids and their longer‐chain derivatives, DHA and AA, are necessary for the development of the brain and nervous system of the fetus, particularly in late pregnancy.


A healthy diet during pregnancy can offer a world of good to the mother and for the growing baby. When we say this, you might immediately think that you should avoid carbs, but that is not true. Carbohydrates are a good source of energy and fiber. Complex carbohydrates help in maintaining the health of the digestive system and prevent constipation. Some pregnant women find eating carbs useful in combating pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, nausea during the first trimester of pregnancy. According to the European Food Safety Authority Scientific Committee, carbohydrates are primary components and should represent between 45% and 60% of the calories in a healthy diet. Spanish Society of Community Nutrition suggests an intake of 4–5 portions of carbohydrates per day during pregnancy.

Vitamin A

When pregnant, one may think that feeling overwhelmed and confused comes with the territory. But it does not have to be so when it comes to vitamins and supplements. Extra vitamin A helps during pregnancy for the growth and maintenance of the fetus and is required maximum during the third trimester as the fetus growth is most rapid. The DRV panel concluded that vitamin A intake needs to be increased throughout pregnancy by 100µg/day(to 700 µg/day)as it allows adequate maternal storage so that it is available to the fetus during late pregnancy. Dietary vitamin A is obtained in two forms: 1.Pre‐formed vitamin(retinol), found in some animal products such as dairy products and fish liver oils and 2. Vitamin A precursors in the form of carotenes that are found in many fruits and vegetables.

Thiamin, riboflavin and folate

Thiamin (vitamin B1) helps to convert glucose into energy and has a role in nerve function, while Riboflavin(Vitamin B2)is primarily involved in energy production and helps vision and skin health. Requirements for thiamin parallel the requirements for energy and are subsequently higher for the last trimester of pregnancy(an increase of 0.1 mg to a total of 0.9 mg/day in the last trimester). The increment for average riboflavin intake is 0.3 mg/day(to a total of 1.4 mg/day)throughout pregnancy. Good sources of Riboflavin include milk and dairy products, meat, green leafy vegetables, yeast extract. Folate is needed to form RBC, DNA synthesis and cell growth. However, liver and liver products should be avoided during pregnancy, but extra folate is also advised to prevent megaloblastic anemia(100µg/day limit set by the DRV panel).

Vitamin C

Vitamin C boosts the immune system and reduces the risk of suffering from iron-deficiency during pregnancy. It also plays a vital role in the physical development of the baby and has a significant role in enhancing the absorption of non‐haem sources of iron. Pregnant women are therefore encouraged to consume foods or drinks containing vitamin C, together with iron‐rich meals, to help with iron absorption.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is vital for the absorption and utilization of calcium, needed for the calcification of the fetal skeleton, particularly during the later stages of pregnancy. Low vitamin D status can be detrimental to both the mother, the fetus and may increase the risk of osteoporosis in later life. Pregnant women, therefore, need an adequate supply of it(10 µg/day).


The DRV panel established DRVs for 10minerals. It is mainly because of the more efficient absorption and utilization of nutrients that occurs during pregnancy.


Calcium is essential during pregnancy as the demand is high, particularly during the latter stages and it is also an important nutrient for your baby's heart, nerves, muscles and hormones. Increased calcium absorption may be stimulated by the hormones estrogen, lactogen and prolactin. There is evidence that maternal bone density diminishes during the first 3months of pregnancy to provide an internal calcium reservoir, which is replenished by the later stages of pregnancy.


During pregnancy, the iron need is about twice the amount because the body uses it to make extra blood for the baby. The RNI for iron intake for adult women is 14.8mg/day. The DRV panel did not establish any increment during pregnancy, as additional iron requirements were considered to meet through cessation of menstrual losses, increased intestinal absorption and mobilization of maternal iron stores. There is no increment in calcium requirements either, as metabolic adaptations enable more efficient absorption and utilization during this period.

Food safety issues during pregnancy

First-time mothers may get conflicting advice about several pregnancy-related issues, including what is and is not safe to eat.


Alcohol can cause problems for the baby at any time in pregnancy. Consumption of >80 g of alcohol per day can result in premature birth, abnormalities, fetal alcohol spectrum(FAS) disorders and congenital abnormalities. A high amount of alcohol has proven to affect reproduction, influencing the ability to conceive and the viability of conception.


Caffeine is present in a variety of foods and beverages, including energy drinks, chocolates, as well as tea and coffee. However, the FSA currently advises intaking 300mg/day(around four cups of coffee). The Committee considered that the results of other studies that have investigated potential links between caffeine consumption during pregnancy and pre‐term birth, or adverse effects on the fetus, are so far inconclusive. Also, the review concluded that it does not appear to affect male fertility and research into its effects on female fertility is still inconclusive.

Exercise during Pregnancy

Being physically active during pregnancy offers women many health benefits and they can exercise at their former level if they are comfortable and have their doctor's approval. Do not let the heart rate exceed 140 beats/minute. The pregnant competitive athlete needs to be monitored by an obstetrical provider. Walking and swimming are safe, to begin with, when pregnant. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology recommends 30mins or more of moderate exercise per day unless you have a medical or obstetric complication. It needs to be avoided if you have a medical problem.

What Exercises Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy if you exercise with caution and do not overdo it, like swimming, indoor stationary bicycling and low-impact aerobics(taught by a certified aerobics instructor). Tennis and racquetball are generally safe activities, but a change in balance during pregnancy may affect rapid movements. Moderate jogging, running can be, done.


Yoga has many benefits during pregnancy. It has some posture that helps in pregnancy, like mood swings, morning sickness, etc.

What Physical Changes May Affect The Ability to Exercise?

Physical changes during pregnancy create extra demands on your body. Your developing baby and other internal changes require more oxygen and energy. Hormones produced during pregnancy causes the ligaments that support your joints to stretch, increasing the risk of injury. The extra weight also puts stress on joints and muscles in the lower back, pelvic area and cause many other problems.

Mental balance

Meditation also has many benefits during pregnancy. Practicing meditation not only helps to control anxiety, mood swings but also manages the blood pressure and pulse rate.

Pregnancy is not a time for strict diets, but for eating sensibly. So, go easy on yourself!

About The Author

Ankita Khare

Ankita has been a fitness enthusiast from the age of 5! Starting from dancing & yoga she gradually moved towards weight training, HIIT, aerobics & Zumba. Gradually, she .. Read More..


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