Health Problems That May Be Seen Due to Nutrition During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is undoubtedly a very beautiful and important period for mothers. Although the growth of a new creature feels good for the mother, many physical and hormonal changes occur in this process, depending on the body’s change for the development of the baby. Due to these changes, nausea, craving, heartburn, constipation, edema, etc. situations can be seen. In addition, these changes cause the mother to need more energy, vitamins and minerals, and these needs can be met by the mother’s adequate and balanced nutrition.

If the mother is fed excessively or insufficiently and unbalancedly during pregnancy, both mother and baby will be adversely affected by this situation. For this reason, some health problems may occur due to nutrition. In addition, some health problems that occur during pregnancy may require rearrangement of nutrition.

Here are the main health problems that can be seen in the baby due to nutrition during pregnancy:

  1. Stillbirth

  2. Early birth

  3. Physical and mental development disorders

  4. low birth weight

  5. Meconium aspiration (a condition known as the baby swallowing feces during pregnancy)

  6. Macrosomia babies (Over-normal babies)

So, what are the health problems that can be seen in the mother due to nutrition during pregnancy?

  1. Anemia: The need for iron mineral increases during pregnancy. If this increased need is not met, the mother suffers from anemia, which is characterized by symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, and lack of resistance to infections. As a result of maternal anemia, low birth weight infants and even infant deaths may occur.

The causes of anemia during pregnancy can be listed as follows:

  • Frequent births

  • Pica, which is called ingestion of non-nutritive substances (soil, lime, etc.)

  • Decreased iron stores due to miscarriages

  • Low bioavailability of dietary iron in the body (The bioavailability of plant-derived iron in the body is lower than animal-based iron.)

To prevent iron deficiency anemia that may occur during pregnancy;

  • Iron-rich food groups such as red meat, poultry, eggs, legumes, whole grains should be included in the daily diet.

  • Consuming fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C (peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi, spinach,…) with meals increases iron absorption.

  • Tea and coffee consumed with meals prevent iron absorption. It should be consumed 1-2 hours before or after meals and the amount should be limited.

  • If the pregnant individual cannot meet the increased iron requirement with his diet, he may need to use iron supplements with the approval of the doctor / dietitian.

  1. Pica: It is normal to have an increased appetite during pregnancy. However, sometimes it goes to extremes and slides into non-nutrient materials such as soil. This condition is called pica. Pica is usually seen in malnourished young mothers and can cause iron deficiency anemia.

  1. Bone tissue damage (Osteomalasia): During pregnancy, the need for calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, which are necessary for the construction and health of bones, increases. If this increased need is not met, calcium and phosphorus are drawn from the mother’s bones. This condition causes softening of the bones and deterioration of the tissue, which is called osteomalasia.

In order to protect the bone health of the baby and the mother during pregnancy, milk, yogurt, molasses, legumes, cheese, cottage cheese, hazelnuts, green leafy vegetables, which are nutritional sources of calcium, should be included in the daily diet. It is also very important to get enough sun exposure, which is the best source of vitamin D.

  1. Pregnancy Toxemia (Poisoning) / Preeclampsia-Eclampsia: Preeclampsia is a complication that occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy, which can cause the death of the mother and the baby. It creates a picture in which symptoms such as increased blood pressure, proteinuria (the presence of protein in the urine), impaired liver enzymes, and severe edema of the hands and feet occur. The addition of convulsions (neurological dysfunction) to preeclampsia is eclampsia.

Risk factors for preeclampsia; presence of diseases such as chronic hypertension, chronic kidney failure, diabetes in the mother, advanced gestational age (>40), giving birth frequently and obesity, etc. can be sorted. In addition, toxemia is more common in pregnant women who are malnourished and unbalanced.

In case of preeclampsia, the nutrition of the pregnant should be rearranged and salt restriction should be made. The health of the pregnant woman should be observed.

  1. Gestational Diabetes: It is defined as glucose intolerance disorder that begins during pregnancy or is first diagnosed during pregnancy and usually resolves after pregnancy. Obesity, having a family history of diabetes, advanced maternal age, excessive weight gain during pregnancy, etc. conditions increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes causes various problems in mother and baby. Therefore, routine gestational diabetes testing should be performed. The most appropriate treatment method is the regulation of a nutrition plan under the control of a dietitian to keep blood sugar in balance.

  1. Birth complications resulting from inadequate or overnutrition, deterioration of maternal health or death

  1. Digestive problems during pregnancy: Digestive problems such as nausea, cravings, disgust, constipation, heartburn and bloating are seen during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. These digestive problems can be prevented with simple changes to the diet.

  • Nausea: Nausea and vomiting, which are usually seen in the first trimester of pregnancy due to hormonal changes, can make food intake difficult. Mild nausea that does not cause weight loss, fluid and electrolyte loss during pregnancy is not harmful for mother and baby. However, if the fluid and electrolyte loss in the mother as a result of severe vomiting is not treated, it will harm the mother and the baby. Tips to prevent or alleviate nausea:

  • Eat little and often.

  • In those with morning sickness, foods that reduce stomach acid such as saltine crackers, dry bread, and roasted chickpeas can prevent nausea. Also, don’t get out of bed at once. After sitting for a while, stand up slowly, leaning your back against the head of the bed.

  • Smell sensitivity also occurs during this period. Avoid strong-smelling foods that cause nausea.

  • Avoid spicy and oily foods.

  • Do not consume liquid foods with the main meals as they will fill the stomach too much. You can shift liquid foods to snacks.

  • Eat your meals slowly.

  • Since raw foods will tire the stomach more, the amount of salad can be reduced in the first weeks.

  • Various fruit juices (such as apple, lemonade), mint tea with lemon, beverages such as linden, ayran, and foods such as boiled potatoes, meat, yogurt, cheese can reduce nausea.

  • Craving-Disgust and Taste Changes: Depending on the hormonal changes during pregnancy, situations such as an interest in some foods, extreme reluctance towards some foods, and taste changes may occur. Extreme aversion is harmless as long as it does not cause malnutrition, and craving does not cause excessive food intake and turns to non-nutrients. In this process, do not force yourself to consume foods that you are disgusted with and that make you uncomfortable.

  • Constipation: Constipation is one of the most common problems faced by pregnant women during pregnancy. This is caused by the fact that some pregnancy-related hormones slow down bowel movements, decrease in movement due to weight gain, and errors in the diet. Tips to prevent or alleviate constipation:

  • Consumption of plenty and especially warm liquids helps the intestines to work regularly. Daily water consumption should not fall below 1.5-2 liters.

  • Plenty of fiber, like plenty of fluids, helps the intestines to work regularly. Foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grain products, legumes have high fiber content. You can increase your fiber amount by consuming at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits, bulgur, oatmeal, whole grain bread and other products, and legumes twice a week.

  • If you move, your intestines move too. For this reason, walking and light exercises will be good for the problem of constipation.

  • Prune, apricot, fig or compote made with natural laxative effects can prevent constipation.

Drugs with a laxative effect should not be used during pregnancy!

  • Heartburn / heartburn: One of the most common problems during pregnancy, heartburn / heartburn occurs as a result of pressure on the stomach as the baby grows. It is especially seen in the last trimester of pregnancy. Tips to prevent or alleviate heartburn/burn:

  • Be careful not to consume excessive sauce, creamy and oily foods.

  • Eat little and often.

  • Tea, coffee etc. Do not consume caffeinated beverages as they will increase heartburn and heartburn.

  • Taking light walks after a meal may help.

  • Do not wear clothes that put pressure on your stomach.

  • Choose high pillows while sleeping.

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