Eating well means eating a variety of healthy foods and also eating enough food. This combination helps a pregnant woman and her baby stay healthy and strong because it:
- Helps a woman resist illness during her pregnancy and after the birth
- Keeps a woman's teeth and bones strong
- Gives a woman strength to work
- Helps the baby grow well in the mother's uterus
- Helps a mother recover her strength quickly after the birth
- Supports the production of plenty of good quality breast milk to nourish the baby.
Eating a variety of foods
It is important for pregnant women (like everyone else) to eat different kinds of food (see Figure 14.1): main foods (carbohydrates), grow foods (proteins), glow foods (vitamins and minerals), and go foods (fats, oils and sugar), along with plenty of fluids. We will describe each of these food groups in more detail later in the study session.
Eat more food
Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding need to eat more than usual. The extra food gives them enough energy and strength, and helps their babies grow. They need to increase their usual food intake by at least 200 calories per day, or even more than this if they were underweight before they became pregnant. There are many ways to increase daily food intake by this amount: for example, one more serving of maize porridge and 12 groundnuts a day would meet this additional requirement.
Some pregnant women feel nauseated and do not want to eat. But pregnant women need to eat enough -- even when they do not feel well. Simple foods like injera or rice can be easier for these women to eat. For women who suffer from nausea, encourage small and frequent meals.
Problems from poor nutrition
Poor nutrition can cause tiredness, weakness, difficulty in fighting infections and other serious health problems. Poor nutrition during pregnancy is especially dangerous. It can cause miscarriage or cause a baby to be born very small or with birth defects. It also increases the chances of a baby or a mother dying during or after the birth.