Pregnancy Nutrition


Nutrition in Pregnancy:

  • Good nutrition during pregnancy helps to keep a developing fetus & mother healthy.
  • The need for certain nutrients such as Protein, Calcium, Iron and Folic Acid is increased during pregnancy.
  • Protein is required for the physical growth and cellular development of fetus.
  • Need for Protein increases during pregnancy.

What are Proteins?

Proteins are one of the macro nutrients essential for growth. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids.

What are Amino acids?

Amino acids are building block of proteins. Human body requires a number of amino acids as they play a very important role in metabolism.

Classification of Amino acids:

Amino acids are classified into two groups:

  • Essential Amino Acids: These cannot be made by the body and must be supplied by food.


Isoleucine, leucine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan, histidine, methionine, valine, phenylalanine. Sources: chicken, fish, egg, milk, cheese, nuts, grains, soya, etc.

  • Non-Essential Amino Acids: These are not required by the body, as they are synthesized by the body from the essential amino acids or normal breakdown of proteins. Examples: aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine,etc.

Functions of Protein:

  • Protein plays an important role in the body including the following:
  • Repair body cells
  • Build and repair muscles and bones
  • Provide a source of energy
  • Control many of the important processes in the body related to metabolism

Importance of Protein during Pregnancy:

Protein is required for the physical growth and cellular development of fetus. It is also required for the formation of placenta, amniotic tissues, and maternal tissues.

Protein is required to nourish the growing infant during lactation.

Women with severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (hyper emesis), urinary protein losses (preeclampsia), or those who follow strict vegetarian diets are at higher risk of protein deficiency.

Poor protein intake during pregnancy can have a negative effect on fetal brain development or also increases the risk of a low birth weight of an infant.Thus Pregnancy & Lactation significantly increases protein demands.

Different Types of Protein:

  • Whey Protein
  • Whole egg
  • Casein
  • Soy Protein concentrate
  • Milk Protein

Whey Protein: The Gold Standard Protein

Whey protein is a collection of globular proteins that is high quality protein obtained from cow’s milk. It is often referred to as the “Gold Standard” of protein as it is the most nutritious protein available.

Whey protein is an excellent protein choice for individuals of all ages. It is a rich source of essential amino acids. In addition to this, Whey protein is preferred more to soy protein due to its rich content of essential amino acids & its quick absorption rate.

Benefits of Whey Protein:

  • Whey protein is a pure, natural, high quality protein & has the richest source of essential amino acids.
  • It is more soluble, very easy to digest than casein with higher quality. It is often referred to as a fast protein for its ability to quickly provide nourishment to muscles.
  • Compared to other proteins, on a gram to gram basis whey protein delivers more Essential Amino Acids without fat or cholesterol & easily get digested.
  • Contains Immunoglobulins; so supports immune system.
  • Whey protein has the highest Biological Value of any known protein.

Incomparable Quality in all Quality Assessment Parameters:

Source: Protein Quality Evaluation, Report of the Joint FAO/WHO Consultation

  • PDCAAS: The amino acid score with an added digestibility component.
  • Amino Acid Score: A chemical technique that measures the indispensable amino acids present in a protein and compares the values with a reference protein.
  • Protein Efficiency Ratio: Measures the ability of a protein to support growth.
  • Biological Value: Biological value is the value that measures how well the body can absorb and utilize a protein.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs):

Essential fatty acids are the fatty acids that cannot be synthesized within the body but should be obtained from the diet.

Need For EFA in Pregnancy:

  • Adequate intake of the essential fatty acids results in numerous health benefits during pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women have increased needs for these fatty acids, as they are needed for fetal growth, brain development.
  • Essential fatty acids are necessary for the formation of healthy cell membranes, proper development & functioning of the brain and nervous system, of the fetus.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) Beneficial in Pregnancy:

  • Docosahexaenoic acid - DHA (Omega 3 fatty acid)
  • Gamma linolenic acid - GLA (Omega 6 fatty acid), found primarily in vegetable oils.
  • Role of DHA in Pregnancy & Lactation:
  • DHA Supplementation in pregnancy boosts baby’s intelligence.
  • Prevents postpartum depression.
  • Helps in developing infant’s cognitive functioning & motor development.

- Am. J. Matern. Child Nurs., 2000;25(2):71-75, Br. J. Nutr. 1995 Jul;74(1):55-68, K J Tallon, PhD.

Role of GLA in Pregnancy & Lactation:

  • Prevents preterm delivery
  • Assists the baby's brain & eye health and pre-programs the baby's cell membranes for optimum lifelong wellness.
  • Improves immunity.

- Midwifery Today Int. Midwife. 2004 Spring; (69):26-31.

Vitamin B Complex & Micronutrients:

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are only needed in very small quantities by the body but are important for normal functioning, growth & development.