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ICTC International Center for Traditional Childbearing

Nutrition in Pregnancy (short notes)
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This is just the general Gist!






There is surprisingly little research on nutrition in pregnancy! Many recommend a diet high in protein, but there is no data proving this works to prevent pre-eclampsia as claimed. Research shows the best pregnancy results when moms get adequate CALORIES and moderate protein. Increasing protein without increasing calories is actually harmful! (1 have references).




VITAMINS: There is probably little to recommend expensive designer vitamins over generic prenatal vitamins; and one thing to remember. An inexpensive prenatal simply gives the RDAs WITHOUT any danger of consuming excessive amounts of some vitamins (especially A and D).




IMPORTANT NUTRITION INFORMATION; Several years ago the FDA warned pregnant women to avoid excessive intake of vitamin A and of transfatty acid sources; and also recommending increased consumption of calcium and folic acid.



Calcium: Published studies show that 1,500 to 2,000 mg daily of calcium supplementation can lower the risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension by 70% and the risk of pre- eclampsia by over 60%. This research used calcium carbonate -- other sources may be even better.



Vitamin A: Boston researchers say that women who take in excess of 1O,OQO units of A, increase their risk of birth defects linked to vitamin use by five times! The research suggests birth defects may occur in one of every 57 babies born to women who take more than 10,000 units of vitamin A. The defects were serious, including craniofacial malformations, such as cleft lips and palates, serious heart problems and fluid on the brain. Most supplements contain less than 5000, but some high potency supplements may contain 25,000!




Transfatty acids: Trans-fatty Acids -- is a substance found in partially hydrogenated fats which are used in many processed foods, snack foods, and margarine. The Danish Nutrition Council. concluded that TF As (like those found in margarine) contribute to heart disease at "the same, or possibly to a higher extent than saturated fats" AND may "have a harmful effect on the growth of the fetus"!




They found that trans-fatty acids get through the placenta to the baby, and also pass through breast milk. And say that one study found head circumference and birth weight decreased as the mothers consumption of trans-fatty acid foods increased --- possible explanation is that TFAs might interfere with the baby's ability to use essential fats for growth.


Folic acid: Folic acid supplements can reduce the incidence of neural tube defects. Every woman of childbearing age should try to consume at least the minimal RDA (400mcg) because the supplement ideally needs to be taken before conception occurs.








Brewer's Yeast (l tablespoon)  313 mcg.


Lentils, cooked ( 1/2 c)           179


Blackeyed peas (1/2 c)             175


Oatmeal, cooked (3/4c)             150


Chickpeas, cooked (1/2 c) 141 Sunflower seeds, roasted (1/2 c) 136 Avocado 113


OJ (1 c)                          109


Peanuts, roasted (1/2 c)           106


Spinach, cooked (1/2 c)            102


Breakfast cereals, fortified. (1 oz) 100


Asparagus, (3 oz.)                  88


Grapefruit or pinapple jc (1 c) 55


Broccoli, cooked (1/2 c)           53


Wheat germ (2TB)                    50


Peas or brussel sprouts (1/2 c) 50 Orange 40






According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant women should increase their usual servings of a variety of foods from four basic food groups to include the following:

  •   Four or more servings of fruits and vegetables
  •   Six to eleven servings of whole-grain or enriched bread and cereal for energy
  •   Four or more servings of milk and milk products for calcium
  •   Three or more servings of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, dried beans, and peas for protein

A balanced diet is the best way to receive nutrients!

Vitamin supplements do not replace a healthy diet but may help if the diet seems missing specific daily nutrients. Vitamin supplements work best when taken as part of a healthy diet and are NOT a substitute for a healthy diet. (Research does not support large improvement in outcome for general vitamin supplements – even in women with diet insufficiencies – except for a few key nutrients.




Essential     Vitamin/Mineral:

Why It’s Needed Need It:

Where To Find It:

       Vitamin A &

      Betacarotene 800mcg




Helps cell growth. Danger of excess vitamin A supplements, possibly only synthetic..

Liver, milk, eggs, carrots, spinach, green and yellow vegetables, broccoli, potatoes, pumpkin, yellow fruits, and cantaloupe.

      Vitamin D (10 mcg)

Essential for bones and teeth. Prevents "rickets."

Milk, fatty fish, egg yolks,ultra-violet light (sunshine).

      Vitamin E (800 mcg)

Blood and tissue health.

Vegetable oil, margarine, wheat germ, nuts, spinach, fortified cereals.

      Vitamin C (60 - 85 mg)

Antioxidant, builds strong tissue, needed to absorb iron. Strengthens immune system, fetal membranes

Citrus fruits and juices, bell peppers, green vegetables, strawberries, papaya, potatoes, broccoli, and tomatoes.

     Thiamin/B1 (1.5 mg)

 B-vitamins essential to build blood and nervous system.

Whole grain, fortified cereals, wheat germ, organ meats, eggs, rice, pasta, berries, nuts, legumes, and pork.

     Riboflavin/B2 (1.6 mg)

Energy, good eyesight, and healthy skin.

Meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, fortified cereals, eggs.


     Niacin/B3 (2 mg)

Maintains energy levels and nervous system,.

High-protein foods, fortified cereals and breads, meats, fish, milk, eggs, and peanuts.

      Pyridoxine/B6 (450 mg)

Helps digestion.

Chicken, fish, liver, pork, eggs, soybeans, carrots, cabbage, cantaloupe, peas, spinach, wheat germ, sunflowers bananas, beans, broccoli, brown rice, oats, bran, peanuts, and walnuts.

     Folic Acid/

      Folate (600mcg)

Helps support placenta, lack may be related to spina bifida and other neural tube defects.

Oranges, orange juice, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, spinach, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, fortified cereals, peas, pasta, beans, and nuts.


      (1,200 -  1,600 mg)

Skeletal system-- blood pressure regulation system increase may prevent hypertension or PIH

Yogurt, milk, cheddar cheese, calcium-fortified juices, breads, and cereals. Dark green leafy vegetables, and canned fish with bones.

      Iron (27 - 30 mg)




Used to treat anemia. Should not be used routinely!

Beef, pork, dried beans, spinach, dried fruits, wheat germ, oatmeal or grains fortified with iron.



     Protein (60 mg)

Essential for energy and growth. . Repairs mom's cells as her body changes.

meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, veggie burgers, beans, legumes, and nuts.


      Zinc (15 mg)

Possible link to prematurity

Red meats, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereals, oysters, and dairy products.



Source based upon page at American Pregnancy Association


These recomendations vary slightly between groups. Other researchers recommend a higher level of vitamin C (250- 500 mcg)






If you have comments or questions, please contact us! 

International Center for Traditional Childbearing
Midwifery Mentorship Program
Portland, Oregon