Nutritional Concerns

The first trimester of pregnancy is most important for the development of your baby. Experts don't exactly understand how the mother and baby divvy up the nutrients, but we do know that the baby lives on the nutrients from the mother's diet and the nutrients already stored in her bones and tissues. The baby's health and proper growth are directly related to the mother's diet before and during pregnancy. It is essential for both you and your baby that you make sure you are eating a healthy diet and following the guidelines discussed in previous chapters. You should also be taking a prenatal vitamin at this time to ensure you are getting all of the nutrients that are essential to a healthy pregnancy, including folic acid, calcium, and iron. Good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are essential throughout your entire pregnancy, though certain nutritional considerations may be more important at different stages along the way. In your first trimester, important nutritional considerations include folic acid intake, prevention of malnutrition, and dehydration.

Prevention of Malnutrition

Many critical nutrients play very important roles in the development of your baby, especially in the first trimester. As your baby develops, the demands on your body grow, requiring lots of extra nutrition. Because morning sickness often plagues women during their first trimester, malnutrition can be a nutritional concern during this time.

Malnutrition is defined as a state of impaired health caused by inadequate intake or inadequate digestion of nutrients. It can be caused by not eating a balanced diet, not eating enough, digestive problems, absorption problems, or other medical conditions.

Even if you are suffering with nausea and/or vomiting through your first trimester, you still should make every effort to find ways to eat as nutritiously as possible. The first trimester is a critical time for the development of your baby. Most women, even though experiencing these symptoms, will get the nutrition they need with a little effort and some helpful tips (described in Chapter 11). Women who suffer from excessive nausea and vomiting may deplete their nutritional stores and could become high risk for malnutrition.

If you have problems eating healthier foods or finding healthier substitutes during your first trimester, you should speak to a dietitian who can help you to ensure proper nourishment during this critical time. If you are able to eat but you still can't keep anything down, you should speak with your doctor immediately.

Dehydration

You need extra fluids in pregnancy for your increased blood volume and for amniotic fluid. Keeping properly hydrated can also help prevent urinary tract infections, constipation, and hemorrhoids, all common problems during pregnancy. Dehydration can be a concern in the first trimester if you are experiencing vomiting. Vomiting can remove vital fluids that your body needs to keep you in balance. Dehydration may also be a concern if you are not eating the proper amount of calories and if you are not drinking fluids due to feelings of nausea or fullness. If your doctor is concerned about dehydration, he may use a urine test to determine if you are maintaining a proper fluid level.

It is not unusual to be thirstier during pregnancy. However, being excessively thirsty can be a sign of other medical conditions, such as diabetes. If severe thirst is forcing you to drink large amounts of fluids, tell your doctor immediately.

You should aim to drink at least eight to ten glasses of fluids per day. If you are nauseated, fluids such as ginger ale or lemon tea can help soothe your stomach and contribute to your fluid intake. If you are vomiting, products such as Gatorade can help to replenish electrolytes. Some women who have a hard time getting plain water down do well with lemonade and/or juice. Stay away from caffeinated beverages — caffeine can act as a diuretic and compound the problem of dehydration. If you feel signs of dehydration, such as dry lips or a dry mouth, make sure you are drinking enough fluids. Be careful not to fill up on too many fluids at meals and not leave room for food. Drink your fluids between meals instead of with your meals.

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