How Eating Right Helps in Developing the Fetus

Nutrition and Pregnancy: Eating Right Helps the Developing Fetus

This paper presents a detailed discussion about the importance of proper nutrition during pregnancy. The writer includes an interview with a nutritionist as well as discussion about exercise and other health aspects of pregnancy. There were seven sources used to complete this paper.


The medical community has been aware for many years that nutrition is important during pregnancy as well as supplements and exercise. The proper nutrition and supplements help the baby develop as well as keep the mother healthy during the pregnancy. Often time’s expectant mothers are confused about their nutritional needs and they are unsure about exercise as well. It is important for the expectant mother to maintain a nutritionally healthy diet throughout the pregnancy as well as take the supplements prescribed to her.

When one becomes pregnant, one requires additional calories and additional supplements because her body is feeding the baby. It is not only important because it is what the baby draws its nutrition from, it is also important to eat well because it keeps the mother strong and healthy which in turn aids for the healthy development of the fetus. When asked experts in the field explain that nutrition, a healthy weight gain, and exercise are key components to a healthy pregnancy.

Debra Luger, an MSN. RNC maintains consuming the right amount of protein, folic acid, and following the food pyramid are vital elements of a diet during gestation. In a recent interview she gave an overview of the basics. Luger addressed the question of nutrition and replied that a healthy balance of the food pyramid was a woman’s best choice when it came to eating each day. Each food group provides vitamins and nutrients that are not only vital to the mother but to the forming fetus as well. Folic acid has recently been discovered as a key component in preventing certain defects such as spinal bifida in developing fetuses, therefore it is important to make sure one gets enough either through diet or supplements. Protein is another important factor in pregnancy according to Luger as it helps with the development of the brain and other areas of the fetus during pregnancy. Overall, said the MSN a healthy balance of all food groups will insure the pregnant mother is eating right during her pregnancy.

Luger mentioned during the interview that it is not only important to eat the right things, but it is also important to stay away from the things that are not healthy or helpful during pregnancy. These things include alcohol and high processed foods. Alcohol is the cause of fetal alcohol syndrome, which is a serious and life long disorder in babies who are born with the condition. Luger advises that the best way to prevent the syndrome is to cease all alcohol consumption while pregnant instead of trying to gauge how much is safe and how much is unsafe. In addition Luger stresses the worthless value of foods high in sodium and processing. They hold little nutritional value and they offer empty calories said Luger.

It is sometimes difficult to get enough nutritional value during pregnancy based only on the consumption of food, so Luger recommends that supplements and vitamins be utilized. The best choice according to Luger is the prescribed prenatal vitamin. It provides mega doses of extremely important vitamins and minerals that are needed during the pregnancy, including folic acid.

Weight gain allowances during pregnancy shift up and down throughout the decades. The current accepted weight gain for a pregnant woman said Luger, is between 25-30 pounds. This is based on an average sized proportionate woman. If the women are large she may be guided to gain a bit less, and if she is underweight she might be encouraged to gain additional pounds.

Luger stressed that the most important things for a woman to do during pregnancy is to follow a nutritional diet, take her supplements and remain active as exercise helps promote her good health which in turn helps the baby develop well. If someone was confused about how to follow the food pyramid effectively Luger recommends they get a copy of a food plan for diabetics and follow it. According to Luger it is the best one that provides exactly what a body needs nutritionally and provides a perfect balance for them.

Coffee in moderation is okay according to the latest reports. However smoking and the consumption of alcohol is not (Hillard, 2000).

A recent study took information about babies born to concentration camp mothers indicated serious lifelong risk to babies whose moms did not receive proper nutrition or supplements during their pregnancy (Davenport, 1999).

Stein and Susser discovered that fetuses exposed to the famine early in gestation, when organs form, had an increased risk of central-nervous- system defects like spina bifida, in which the brain or spine is not fully developed. Other scientists found that a fetus starved early in development during the famine was at high risk for adult obesity. Two decades later, Stein and Susser’s son, Ezra Susser, went further. Now a pioneering epidemiologist at Columbia University, Susser examined psychiatric evaluations of adults who were Hunger Winter babies to study the theory that schizophrenia was the result of a defect in neural development. Susser and Hans Hoek in the Netherlands discovered that fetuses who received poor nutrition early in gestation were twice as likely to develop schizophrenia in adulthood as fetuses whose mothers had an adequate diet. Susser is now looking for links between prenatal nutrition and other mental illnesses. It’s a sad but revealing legacy of that season of devastation (Davenport, 1999). ”

Being pregnant should be a very special time in ones life. It’s a time for one to concentrate on being healthy because one’s health and ones child’s health depends on it. Exercise used to be discouraged during pregnancy. Now, new studies show that women who continue an exercise program during pregnancy gain a psychological lift, achieve optimal weight gain, maintain aerobic fitness, endure fewer complications, experience shorter labors and have easier deliveries. If one’re not in shape, now is not the time to start a strenuous program. If one doctor approves, one can start walking, do low impact aerobics and stretching three to four times a week. If one already in shape, one may have to modify one workout. During pregnancy the body goes through hormonal changes, which increases the laxity of the ligaments, making it easy to overstretch them. This means tennis, heavy lifting, high-speed movements, kicking and strenuous aerobics should be avoided. Whatever one include in one workout, make sure one always warm-up and remember to cool down slowly. Warming up and cooling down are extremely important to keep blood flow to the uterus from decreasing below safe levels.”

If one is going to exercise, one should exercise at least three times a week.

Don’t exercise vigorously in hot, humid weather or if one have a fever.

Don’t exceed 15 minutes if engaging in strenuous activity.

Steer clear of exercises that require prolonged breath holding, like heavy weight lifting.

Avoid jerky, bouncy motions.

Exercise on a wooden floor or a tightly carpeted surface to reduce shock and prevent slipping.

Avoid deep flexion or extension of joints.

Avoid activities that require jumping, jarring motions or rapid changes in directions.

Consult a physician if unusual symptoms appear. One should also stay away from board-diving, scuba-diving, water-skiing, contact sports, exercise at high elevation and exercises completed while on the back (Weems, 1996).

Eating a well-balanced healthy diet is essential during pregnancy. What one eats affects one and one baby. If one eat a healthy, well- balanced diet before pregnancy one only needs to add 30 grams of protein (approximately 3-6 oz serving of chicken, or fish) and about 400 calories daily. One should also take a supplement recommended by one’s doctor to get in the extra iron, folic acid and calcium one need. Iron is important because it can be stored by one’s unborn baby to help supply the iron needed through those first six months after birth. Both breast and cow’s milk are low in iron. Folic acid helps ones body produce the extra blood cells and tissue needed for one’s baby’s development. Dark green leafy vegetables along with Lima and Kidney beans are good sources of folic acid. Calcium is extremely important in building strong bones and teeth while one baby is developing. Read up on nutrition for pregnancy and please take it seriously. Don’ t drink alcohol or use drugs or medications unless they are prescribed by one doctor and they’re absolutely necessary. Invest in one child’s health by eating the right foods for both of one before it’s born (Weems, 1996). ”

There are several things a pregnant woman can do to insure a healthy fetus development. Many of the suggestions are about healthy eating and exercise. There are tips that can be applied to almost any pregnancy that will allow the mother to gain the proper nutritional supplements without eating a lot of empty calories (Pregnancy, 1999). Some of the guidelines consist of:

Start with a healthy diet

Add about 300 calories daily: To support the growing fetus, increase one usual servings of basic foods.

Fruits and vegetables: Four or more servings a day are recommended.

Breads, rice and pasta: Four or more daily servings are recommended, especially whole-grain or enriched breads and cereals.

Milk products: Four or more daily servings are recommended. Yogurt, cottage cheese, custard and cheese can substitute for milk.

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts: Three or more daily servings. One egg equals one serving.

Foods to avoid

Too much caffeine appears to significantly lower birth weight and contribute to anemia in mother and fetus.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can harm the fetus. Heavy drinkers (four drinks or more per day) can give birth to deformed, underweight babies with fetal alcohol syndrome (Pregnancy, 1999).

Those crazy cravings

Ice cream, fruits, sweets, pickles; expectant mothers often get sudden urges for certain foods, and occasionally giving in to these cravings poses no problem (Pregnancy, 1999).

Some pregnant women develop pica, a craving for nonfood items such as soil, coal and cigarette ashes.

Weight gain during pregnancy woman of normal weight should gain about 30 pounds. Underweight women should gain about 34 pounds, overweight woman only 20 pounds (Pregnancy, 1999).

Recommended gain: 3 to 4 pounds in the first three months, 3 to 4 pounds per month for the rest of the pregnancy (Pregnancy, 1999).

Each year hundreds of thousands of women become pregnant in this nation. For many years the medical community has been aware of the importance of nutrition to a pregnancy and has set guidelines of how it wants expectant mothers to eat. Following the food pyramid guidelines and taking prenatal vitamins assures that the mother is doing everything she can nutritionally to help her baby develop healthily. Exercise in moderation is also a plus when it comes to a pregnant woman. It allows her to stay in shape and healthy which in turn provides the baby with a healthy development environment.

Nutrition and exercise are vital elements to a healthy pregnancy and as each baby comes into the world ready to take their place in society, the proper preparation during their development helps determine how much living they will get to do.


Kerry Hillard, Table For 2/Nutrition News For Baby And One: E-ting Well., Baby Talk, 11-01-2000, pp 83.

John Davenport, A Tragic But Telling Legacy., Newsweek, 09-27-1999, pp 53.

Christopher Weems, Tips To Be Fit: Pregnancy, Exercise & Nutrition., Atlanta Inquirer, 06-29-1996, pp PG.

Author not available, PREGNANCY AND NUTRITION: ‘One are what one eat’ takes on specialmeaning when eatting for two.., The Dallas Morning News, 09-30-1996, pp 3C.

Harvey McConnell, NUTRITION FACTOR: The maternal weight gain controversy. Vol. 35, Medical Post, 10-06-1999.

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