A good plan can help you eat a balanced diet, even if your symptoms may sometimes put a damper on your appetite.
To start, talk to your ulcerative colitis doctor or OB/GYN about how to find a dietitian who can guide you on making healthy choices. Look for one who specializes in working with people who have long-term illnesses.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also offers information on pregnancy nutrition as part of its Choose MyPlate campaign.
Stick to the Basics
Keep your food strategy simple:
- Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies.
- Make half the grains you eat whole grains.
- Trade high-fat dairy, such as whole milk, for fat-free or low-fat options.
- Eat less salt.
- Swap sugary sodas for water.
Steam or bake vegetables and fruit instead of eating them raw. Steer clear of high-fiber foods, including broccoli, cauliflower, and apples. Choose items with lots of antioxidants, such as blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, squash, and bell peppers.
How to Get Calcium
Some people can't digest lactose, which is the sugar in milk. That's true even for people who don't have an inflammatory bowel disease. But because the symptoms of lactose intolerance look a lot like some symptoms of UC, it may be hard to tell if milk is causing the problem. Your doctor can test you to see if you're lactose intolerant.
Either way, your body needs foods high in calcium, especially during pregnancy. Some options include:
- Yogurt or hard cheeses, which might be easier to digest
- Juices and other drinks, cereals, and breads with added calcium
- Tofu, soybeans, black-eyed peas, or canned fish with bones you can eat (such as sardines or salmon)
- Drinking milk with a meal, or adding it to cereal to make it easier on your system.
If you need to be lactose-free, try:
- Lactose-free milk or calcium-fortified soy milk
- Lactase pills or drops, which help you digest lactose
Healthy Fats From Fish
Some seafood is high in mercury. But when you're pregnant, you can eat other fish by following these guidelines:
- Have up to 12 ounces a week of low-mercury fish such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, and catfish.
- Don't eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish. They tend to be higher in mercury.
- Limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week.
Supplement Your Diet
You may also may need iron to prevent anemia.
Keep an Eye on Your Baby Bump
Sometimes women with UC find it hard to gain enough weight during pregnancy. That means their babies could be born at a low birth weight, which can cause health problems.
If you're at a healthy weight, you should have put on 25 to 35 pounds by the end of your pregnancy. If you're underweight to start, you should aim to gain 28 to 40 pounds.
Your OB/GYN can let you know how you're doing with your weight. If you need help, talk to a dietitian about healthy food choices.
Keep up with your UC doctor during your pregnancy, too. Also, you may need to see an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. Between your UC doctor and your OB/GYN, you’ll be ready to make sure you and your little one stay well.