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An Obstetrician's Role In Prenatal Nutrition

The foods a pregnant woman eats or doesn't eat during pregnancy can have an impact on the health of her unborn baby. Nutritional counseling during pregnancy can help protect the health of a pregnant woman, but it can also start her unborn baby on a path toward good health later in life. Obstetricians can have an influence on their patients' diets when they take the time to talk about the importance of nutrition and by telling pregnant women what they should and should not be eating.

Lifelong Nutrition Starts Prenatally

Pregnancy is a missed opportunity to improve the health of future generations, according to the Infant and Toddler Forum. The nutritional and health state of a pregnant woman, before, during and after pregnancy, can have a very real impact on the lifelong health of her children. Women who eat plenty of nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods and whole grains, during pregnancy, tend to have babies who aren't nutritionally deficient later in life. These women are also less likely to deliver babies with birth defects, such as spina bifida, which can occur when a pregnant woman doesn't consume enough folic acid.

How Obstetricians Can Help

A brief outline of what a healthy pregnancy diet looks like can go a long way toward changing the nutritional outcome of unborn babies. Obstetricians can cover this vital information as part of their first prenatal appointments with expectant mothers. A handout about eating a variety of foods from each of the food groups, for example, can help pregnant women eat enough fruits, vegetables, lean meats, calcium-rich dairy foods and whole grains. Obstetricians should also counsel pregnant women about their increased need for certain nutrients, such as iron and calcium, and make recommendations for women to increase their intake either through food or supplements.

The Obstetrician's Role in Weight Gain and Weight Control

Pregnant women absolutely need to gain weight because it helps support a healthy pregnancy, as well as the normal development of their unborn babies. Gaining too much weight, however, can have an impact on the growth of an unborn baby and negatively impact overall health and well-being. Nutritional counseling (at obstetric centers like North Florida Women's Care) can help by enabling obstetricians to teach women about appropriate weight gain so they don't end up heavier than necessary. The exact amount of weight women need to gain depends on how heavy they were before getting pregnant. Counseling women about eating enough calories, but not going overboard is a key piece of this puzzle. For example, women should be advised to limit intake of high-calorie, low nutrition foods such as fast food, fried foods, packaged baked goods and many processed snacks.