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Health & Pregnancy

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Top Tips for Pregnancy Nutrition

Which vitamins and nutrients are key to your baby's health?

Weighty Matters During Pregnancy

Gaining the recommended number of pounds limits pregnancy and delivery complications and ensures a healthy infant. Women who start pregnancy at a normal weight can expect to put on between 25 and 35 pounds. For twins, expect to gain between 34 and 45 pounds.

Underweight women may need to gain more, while overweight moms may be advised to put on fewer pounds.

In addition, "Overweight women tend to have heavier babies that are more difficult to deliver," says obstetrician Erin Tracy, MD.

Overweight moms should not diet during pregnancy. Work closely with your health care provider and a registered dietitian to determine a pregnancy eating plan tailored to your needs.

More Nutrients of Note During Pregnancy

Every nutrient that's important to you as a woman is necessary for your baby's growth and development. Yet, certain nutrients stand out as particularly important to your child, especially as pregnancy progresses.

Protein: Protein is the structural material of every cell in your baby's body.

Insufficient protein during pregnancy restricts fetal growth. And it may even affect your child's chances for high blood pressure later in life, according to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Pregnancy protein needs climb 25 grams a day above what was needed before you were pregnant, for a total of about 70 grams -- the amount found in three eight-ounce glasses of milk or about seven ounces of cooked meat, chicken, or seafood.

Iron: You require about 50% more iron when you are pregnant. Iron is important in the formation of hemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying protein on red blood cells. In pregnancy your need for iron and hemoglobin goes up, especially in the second and third trimesters.

Iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy can cause fatigue in mom, and possible problems for baby. "Some studies show severe iron deficiency anemia in mom is linked to low birth weights and iron-deficient infants," says Tracy.

Calcium: The baby needs calcium for development. If you don't consume enough calcium, your body will take it from your bones. This can cause a decrease in bone mass and increase your risk for osteoporosis.

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): DHA is important for brain and eye development. Fish harbors this omega-3 fatty acid, but there's a catch.

Women in their childbearing years, and pregnant and nursing women, should steer clear of shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish because of methylmercury, a heavy metal that's toxic to a developing baby's neurological system. Safer DHA-rich sources include salmon and fortified eggs. Ask your doctor whether you may need a DHA supplement.

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