During pregnancy all the nutrients are important. A number of experimental human and animal studies have indicated that intrauterine nutrition plays an important role. There is evidence that under-nutrition of the fetus has permanent effects on the health status of adult individuals (Barker’s Hypothesis). Such adults have a higher chance of getting prone to non-communicable diseases like coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.

Pregnant women need to consume a balanced diet containing adequate amount of calories (according to their trimester and their health status) and foods which are rich in protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.

The diet of the pregnant women should consist of each and every food groups like cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables, fats and oil and water (the non-vegetarians can also opt for meat, fish or poultry in their diet). And as most women cannot depend on their diet alone for the extra nutrients they need to be started on the supplements prescribed to them by their doctors.

Nutrients Additional Daily Requirements for Pregnant Women
Calories + 300 kcal (for second and third trimester)
Protein + 15 g
Calcium + 400 mg
Folic Acid + 300μg
Iron 8 mg

Energy need during pregnancy increases because of the

    • Growth and physical activity of the fetus
    • Growth of the placenta and maternal tissues
    • Normal increase in maternal body size
    • Slow and steady rise in basal metabolic rate during pregnancy
    • Additional work involved in carrying the weight of the fetus and extra maternal tissues

Also healthy fetal development is dependent on the availability of adequate proteins, which provides the basic building blocks necessary for formation of enzymes, antibodies, muscles and collagen.

Pregnant women must include enough fat in her diet to meet up the requirements of the baby. Lipids, including sterols, phospholipids and triglycerides, which are primarily made up of fatty acids are precursors of hormones like substance called eicosanoids. These eicosanoids are used to signal a number of local reactions within the human body necessary for basic functioning. Immune functions such as inflammatory responses to injuries and infection that signals initiation of fever, aggregation of antibodies, and pain are also controlled by eicosanoids.

Usually the extra nutritional needs are easily met by adding a small snack or two during the day. Eating a smaller amount of food more frequently also has helping effect with some of the uncomfortable sides of pregnancy like nausea and vomiting.

Common Myths and Misconception

Many misconceptions or myths are associated with pregnancies. Old beliefs and religious taboos restrict the consumption of certain foods during pregnancy. Following are some of the misconceptions regarding various food items.

Food Item / Ingredients Common Misconception Health Benefits
Curd The baby might slip out of the womb due to its stickiness • Contains a good amount of pro and pre-biotic • Easily digestible • Good source of calcium and protein
Brinjal The seeds are considered to have hot effect on the body and might lead to miscarriage • Good source of vitamin A and fiber
Black sesame seeds This might lead to the dark complexion of the baby • Good source of calcium
Banana The baby might stick to the walls of uterus which may hinder with its movement in the womb • Good source of calories and calcium • Aids in diarrhea
Micro – waved food The waves might lead to any abnormalities in the child • There is no scientific data suggesting this myth

Food Safety

Food safety should be one of the major concerns of pregnant women.

Raw meat, raw eggs, edibles containing the raw eggs (such as mayonnaise), soft cheese, fish and milk that has not been pasteurized are best avoided because they may be contaminated by bacteria or in the case of fish, with mercury or industrial pollutants. Alcohol and Chinese food (that contain MSG – monosodium glutamate also known as ajinomoto) are best avoided. Also try to avoid high-fat and sugary foods, artificial sweeteners, and salted snacks.

Watch your caffeine intake throughout the day. It should not exceed more than 200mg. This is because caffeine causes blood vessels to narrow which can reduce the blood flow to the baby. It also contains compounds called phenols that hinder the absorption of iron, which is vital for the baby’s growth.

No level of alcohol consumption is safe during pregnancy. Alcohol can pass freely through placenta, and thus if mother drinks, so does her unborn child. Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is associated with higher risk of birth defects and miscarriage. At high levels, alcohol may cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which is leading cause of preventable mental retardation.


Pregnancy is a critical time of human development, and anything that compromises fetal environment may have important and lasting effects on a child’s future health. It is important as society to prioritize helping women understand the impact that their lifestyle choices have on their children. Maximizing the health of the pregnant lady will ensure her child the best start in life possible.

Nutrition is a vital component of fetal development, as the baby cannot build the materials he or she does not have. Limiting exposure to damaging substances such as nicotine, caffeine, food-borne bacteria and alcohol will also aid in a child’s development. Helping women deal with the unpleasant side of pregnancy as well as more serious ones should be a focus on prenatal support.

Finally, encouraging healthful lifestyle practices during pregnancy such as moderate exercise and healthy eating will impact not only child’s long term health, but potentially mother’s as well.

Post-Operative Diet Progression

After open surgery or laparoscopic surgery diet is progressed gradually which allows patients to move through different stages of the diet eventually leading to eating solid (regular) diet without experiencing any complications like nausea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal distension etc. The diet plan is as suggested by the treating doctor. The various stages of dietary progression after surgery are:

Stage 1: Water or clear liquids followed by all liquids – After prescribed 2-24 hrs. of varying post-operative period of NBM (Nil by mouth) depending upon the operation performed, patient is advised to drink water to break pre-operative fast. Patient usually informs nursing staff if feeling nauseous or has vomiting following water or liquid intake. If the patient feels comfortable in case of short procedures she / he eat ice cream, lemon juice, fruit juice milk or tea& are discharged from the hospital. Other category of patients will follow diet plan as suggested.

Stage 2: Soft diet or solid food intake –After surgery sooner you start solid foods; prompt is the recovery of bowel function. However, patient starts eating solid food on same day or after few hrs. to 12-24 hrs. after surgery as per doctors’ advice. Patient is also encouraged to be mobile as soon as possible after surgery unless there are contraindications for the same. Balanced solid food diet with cereals like rice, vegetables, fruits and proteins in the form of pulses, curds, milk are started. Proper liquids intake is emphasized. Delivered patients are advised for adequate fluid intake as they are lactation too. High protein diet is given when patient is malnourished.

Stag 3: Full Diet – Is advised after the patient has no complaints in terms of nausea, vomiting and or abdominal distension which can be there because of weak or absent bowel movements. After 24 hrs.once soft diet is tolerated by patient she / he is now on full diet as per advice of doctor. A balanced meal consisting of all five food groups is given.

Post Discharge patient is advised to consume adequate amount of nutrition in terms of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and fat to recover from the surgery.