All about meal planning, hormones and weight management during pregnancy

The best way to plan for a happy and healthy pregnancy is to be aware of the hormonal changes that will take control of the body, the increased nutritional requirements, and weight gain during the whole 9 months. Having the necessary information at your fingertips can help you stay comfortable and ensure the best care for your developing baby. Plus, it will make it easy for you to keep your energy and strength levels up, when the little one arrives. Planning well for the pregnancy will also help you get ready for the lactation phase and gradually get back to your original self.

6 most common physiological changes that occur during pregnancy are:

  1. Constipation: To increase the absorption of nutrients, the movement of food and fluids in the gastrointestinal system slows down, resulting in severe to chronic constipation. This also depends on which trimester of pregnancy you are in. Usually, it occurs during the latter half of the pregnancy. Diet, physical activity and rest are important for relieving constipation.
  2. Regurgitation and heartburn: A relaxed lower oesophageal sphincter causes regurgitation and heartburn. The function of the lower oesophageal sphincter is to block the passage of food, so that it doesn’t move out of the stomach and into the oesophagus. However, regurgitation happens during pregnancy, since as the baby grows, he or she pushes the mother’s stomach in an upward direction. Heartburn or regurgitation is generally felt after meals. Food gets mixed with the gastric acid and is pushed back into the lower oesophagus in this case.
  3. Nausea and vomiting: Usually, these are mild and limited in early pregnancy and are commonly referred to as “morning sickness”. Morning sickness might occur early in the day or at any other time. It starts during the first, fifth or sixth week of pregnancy, and usually lasts for fourteen to sixteen weeks. High-carbohydrate foods like biscuits or toast should be consumed early in the morning to minimise the symptoms.
  4. Weight gain: Increase in weight during pregnancy is associated with high levels of oestrogen. It is highly likely that the expectant mother will gain weight rapidly during the last few months of pregnancy. However, remember that much of the gained weight is extra fluid, and not fat mass or muscle mass.
  5. Oedema: Oedema is a condition where the body’s ability to excrete fluid decreases, resulting in swollen legs and ankles. It is a very common condition. The extra weight of the uterus and downward force of gravity can slowdown the rate at which blood is pumped back to the heart from the upper part of the body. And the deposition of fluids in different parts of the body is called oedema.

Weight gain during pregnancy and ways to manage it

Weight gain during pregnancy is a combination of several factors such as:

  1. Weight of the growing foetus
  2. Weight due to the extra water in the body. This extra water is essential for the baby’s circulation, or the placenta and amniotic fluid (a form of liquid that surrounds the foetus). This usually occurs in the third trimester.

Getting regular exercise and following a diet which is high in protein and fibre, but medium in carbohydrate and low in fat, will keep a check on weight gain.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy

During pregnancy, there is an increased secretion of the following hormones:

  1. Aldosterone is the salt-conserving hormone released by the adrenal gland. The secretion of aldosterone is higher during pregnancy because of the high blood pressure levels.
  2. Growth hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland. This occurs because of the increased requirement of growth hormone for the development and nourishment of the foetus.
  3. Thyroxine is secreted by the thyroid gland and is responsible for regulating the metabolism of the body. Due to metabolic stress, the level of thyroxine hormone increases.
  4. Parathormone is secreted by parathyroid gland and regulates calcium, phosphorus and magnesium metabolism.

Diet during pregnancy

Adequate nutrition before and during pregnancy can have long-term health impact. Maternal health is complex, and influenced by various genetic, social and economic factors. Therefore, it is crucial for a mother to follow a well-balanced diet.

Tips on planning a healthy meal for pregnancy:

  1. Cereals and grains: Cereals and grains that are high in fibre and folic acid are beneficial during pregnancy. For example, you should consume kidney beans, wheat flakes, ragi flakes, oats, lentils etc.
  2. Nuts and seeds: Dried nuts and seeds that are high in good fats, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, etc. can help in the growth and development of the baby.
  3. Poultry and fish: They are packed with good quality protein and should be eaten regularly to ensure optimal growth of the foetus. They can strengthen maternal tissues as well. Best options are fishes like rawas, ahi, bangda, and chicken.

Some more foods for healthy pregnancy

Foods Reason
1.Dairy products like milk, curd, khoya, yoghurt, cheese, paneer 1. To meet the requirements of protein, calcium and vitamin D, and to prevent muscle cramps
2.Fruits 2. These are appetising and provide many nutrients and fibres
3. Omelette, boiled egg, scrambled egg, liver curry 3. They provide good quality protein and iron
4. Rice flakes, upma, puffed rice ball 4. These food items are good sources of iron and are easy to digest
5. Green gram, dal, bread, pudding, carrot halwa 5. These are nutrient-dense foods and can meet increased nutritional requirements of a pregnant woman
6.Mausambi, lemon, and kiwi 6. These may give relief from nausea and vomiting.

Tips to manage weight during pregnancy:

  1. Drink 4-5 litres of water.
  2. Exercise 5 days a week. Yoga is believed to be the best form of exercise during pregnancy.
  3. Get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
  4. Eat foods high in fibre, folic acid, vitamin A, and iron.
  5. Keep taking small, frequent meals throughout the day to avoid nausea and gastric problems. This will help manage weight gain too.

So, now, you are all set to welcome motherhood in a healthy and positive manner. Make sure you consult a doctor or nutritionist to craft meals plans that are ideal for you. Also, do not forget to seek proper guidance for exercising and taking supplements during the pregnancy journey.