How your diet can impact your pregnancy

“Will my weight and diet affect my pregnancy?”

If you’re wondering this question, you’re not alone. Many expecting women have concerns when it comes to their ideal pregnancy weight and eating plan.

But don’t let these worries steal the joy of preparing for your baby’s arrival. Here’s what you need to know about pregnancy and your diet.

Remember to always discuss any questions or worries — about your diet or anything else on your mind — with your OB/GYN.

How your weight impacts your pregnancy

Women are considered to have an ideal body weight determined by their height and weight called the body mass index (BMI). A majority of women are most fertile if they are at a healthy body weight. Women who are underweight and overweight may have more difficulty getting pregnant, although this does not mean you cannot get pregnant if you are underweight or overweight.

You should generally expect to gain weight in pregnancy. The recommended amount is determined from your initial BMI. Being obese can negatively affect your pregnancy and increase your risk of complications from gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, stillbirth and needing a cesarean delivery, while being underweight can increase your risk of growth restriction of the fetus and preterm birth.

Your doctor can help you navigate your personal risk factors, if any, related to your weight. If you have questions, just ask! That’s what we’re here for.

Related: Why you shouldn’t “eat for two” during pregnancy

The pregnancy diet: What to eat and what to avoid

Eat: Healthy fats, protein and lots of color.

Especially during pregnancy, it is important to have a well-rounded diet.

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  • You should try to decrease, if not eliminate, any processed foods.
  • Avoid any fast food.
  • Try to have good sources of lean protein.
  • Aim for at least two colors on your plate (ex: green and red), and a portion of a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates with a higher glycemic index such as whole-wheat flour, brown rice and oatmeal are preferred.

It is important to also have healthy fats. I often recommend the addition of a DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) supplement prior to and during pregnancy. DHA is an essential fatty acid supplement and may help to improve the neurological development of the fetus.

Many prenatal vitamins will include DHA within the vitamin or will be accompanied by a second pill. The recommended amount during pregnancy is 300mg daily. A common place to find DHA naturally is in fish such as salmon.

Avoid: Fish high in mercury, added sugar and unpasteurized foods.

In pregnancy, we do request a restriction in the seafood portion of the diet to decrease the exposure to mercury, generally recommending two servings weekly, or up to 12 oz. weekly. It is recommended to avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. I remind my patients that big fish eat little fish, so they will contain more mercury.

Related: Everything you need to know about eating fish

There are other foods to avoid prior to and during pregnancy. Try to eliminate any artificial sugars but also avoid adding additional sugars such as sodas. Avoid any unpasteurized foods. Unpasteurized foods may have an increase in certain harmful bacteria. Avoid processed meats such as hotdogs and smoked meats. If you choose to eat luncheon meats, heat them. Avoid undercooked or raw meats.

Some women may need time to optimize their health with their diet. Your doctor may recommend adding moderate exercise to help obtain or maintain a healthy body weight. Be patient. It is better to go into pregnancy at a healthier body weight, and these little healthy changes will help get you, or keep you, there.

So, you’ve mastered the diet question. But what about exercise ? Find out which exercises are safe and healthy during pregnancy.

About the author

Christi A. Kidd, MD
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Christi A. Kidd, MD, F.A.C.O.G. is a board certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – McKinney. Dr. Kidd completed medical school at LSU School of Medicine and her residency at Parkland Hospital/ UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. She currently serves as the perinatal champion at Baylor Scott & White – McKinney. Dr. Kidd has received awards as a D Magazine Best of Dallas, D Magazine Best of Collin County, and Mom Approved Ob-Gyn by DFWChild Magazine. Dr. Kidd enjoys caring for women of all ages and through all aspects of their life, helping them to understand the complexities of their medical conditions, and truly being a partner in their care.

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How your diet can impact your pregnancy