Nutrient requirements in pregnancy

Energy requirements

  • In pregnancy, energy requirements are increasing during the second and third trimester by approximately 340 kcal and 450 kcal per day, respectively. However, energy requirements depend on individual’s characteristics such as women’s pre-pregnancy weight, age and activity level and whether it is a singleton or multiple pregnancy .
  • For adult pregnant women with a healthy pre-pregnancy BMI, energy requirements can be covered via a balanced and diversified diet, focusing on eating foods rich in nutrients rather than eating more.

Macronutrient requirements in pregnancy

  • Carbohydrate requirements in pregnancy can be covered by eating 6-9 servings of starchy foods (one third of what they eat), preferably whole grains and at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Protein requirement are slightly increasing during pregnancy. In undernourished pregnant women, protein requirements may be higher to reduce the risk of low birth weight babies. Pregnant women should eat protein-rich foods such as beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat (except liver), poultry and nuts. Dairy foods are also good sources of protein. Lean meat and low fat dairy should be preferred.
  • Fat requirements do not increase during pregnancy. Pregnant women should reduce the intake of foods that are high in saturated fat and replace those by foods high in unsaturated fat such as vegetable oils.

Micronutrient requirements in pregnancy

  • The requirements of many minerals and vitamins are increasing during pregnancy.
  • Folate is particularly important in early pregnancy to prevent congenital birth defects. Many health organisations including the WHO recommend 400 µg (0.4 mg) of folic acid supplementation daily. The WHO additionally recommends 30 mg to 60 mg of iron supplements per day, particularly if at risk of deficiency. In addition to supplements, the intake of foods rich in iron (meat, fish, eggs) and folate (dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit) are recommended.
  • Other micronutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, iodine and iron supplementation may be needed in pregnant women at risk.