Nutrition and pregnancy refers to the nutrient intake, and dietary planning that is undertaken before, during and after pregnancy. Nutrition of the fetus begins at conception. For this reason, the nutrition of the mother is important from before conception (probably several months before) as well as throughout pregnancy and breast feeding. An ever-increasing number of studies have shown that the nutrition of the mother will have an effect on the child, up to and including the risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes throughout life.
An inadequate or excessive amount of some nutrients may cause malformations or medical problems in the fetus, and neurological disorders and handicaps are a risk that is run by mothers who are malnourished. An estimated 24% of babies worldwide are born with lower than optimal weights at birth due to lack of proper nutrition. Personal habits such as consumption of alcohol or large amounts of caffeine can negatively and irreversibly affect the development of the baby, which happens in the early stages of pregnancy.
Iron is needed for the healthy growth of the fetus and placenta, especially during the second and third trimesters. It is also essential before pregnancy for the production of hemoglobin.There is no evidence that a hemoglobin level of 7 grams/100 ml or higher is detrimental to pregnancy, but it must be acknowledged that maternal hemorrhage is a major source of maternal mortality worldwide, and a reserve capacity to carry oxygen is desirable. According to the Cochrane review conclusions iron supplementation reduces the risk of maternal anaemia and iron deficiency in pregnancy but the positive effect on other maternal and infant outcomes is less clear.
Vitamin D levels vary with exposure to sunlight. While it was assumed that supplementation was necessary only in areas of high latitudes, recent studies of Vitamin D levels throughout the United States and many other countries have shown a large number of women with low levels. For this reason, there is a growing movement to recommend supplementation with 1000 IU of Vitamin D daily throughout pregnancy.