Diet and Weight Gain

During pregnancy, you need to eat only about 300 extra calories per day. If you eat a well-balanced diet, the most important additional nutrient you need is Folic acid. Folic acid is present in every prenatal vitamin and ideally you would take a prenatal vitamin months before getting pregnant and during the first few weeks of pregnancy.

Normal weight women gain 25-35 lbs during their pregnancies. Underweight women may need to gain more and overweight women less. For overweight women, dieting is safe and beneficial during pregnancy. Most weight gain comes in the second half of pregnancy and often women have gained no weight or even lost weight by 20 weeks; this is healthy. We check your weight at every visit, but don’t focus on how much you gain. We are usually not worried about you gaining too little weight but instead gaining too much. Excess weight gain increases the risks of pregnancy, including the risks of preeclampsia, diabetes, fetal macrosomia, and cesarean delivery.

Because of high-levels of mercury, pregnant women should avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Smaller fish are usually safe, such as light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. Up to 12 ounces per week of these fish is considered safe.

Listeriosis is a rare type of food-poisoning that can affect pregnant women and cause stillbirths. To avoid this, you should wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them and avoid eating unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses, raw or undercooked meats such as meat, poultry, or shellfish. Ideally, hot dogs and deli meats should be heated thoroughly prior to eating though the absolute risk of acquiring listeria from deli meats is extraordinarily low.

Caffeine. Most women try to avoid caffeine during pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester. However, there is little scientific data that this is necessary. Most recommend limiting caffeine to less than 350 mg per day. Most soft drinks have about 40 mg per 12 ounces. Most coffee has around 75 mg per 8 ounces, but this amount varies widely. Most teas have around 40 mg per 8 ounces. And energy drinks like Red Bull have about 80 mg per can.

If you drink a lot of caffeine prior to pregnancy, cutting it out altogether can produce daily headaches.