Many women have questions about diet and exercise during pregnancy. It is important to understand how your needs change during pregnancy so you can optimize your energy and your baby’s development. 

The importance of prenatal vitamins during pregnancy

Let’s start with nutrition and the role of vitamins when you are pregnant. A daily prenatal vitamin (PNV) is the first step to ensure you have the vitamins and minerals your baby needs to develop. These vitamins are sold over the counter but your doctor may also prescribe them.

There are a few things you may want to consider. 

When should I start taking a prenatal vitamin? 

It is safe to take a PNV anytime, whether you are pregnant or not.

  • It helps to have been taking your PNV even before you become pregnant because some critical fetal development happens in the weeks before you know you are pregnant. Starting a PNV as soon as you begin trying to conceive is a good idea. 
  • If you have just had your first positive pregnancy test and were not already taking a PNV, it is not too late to start one now!

Do I need iron? 

  • Maybe. If you have a history of anemia, you may want to choose a PNV with iron.
  • About 300 mg is an appropriate amount to take daily.
  • Iron can cause constipation. Let your doctor know if you are unable to tolerate oral iron.

Do I need folate?

Yes! 0.4 milligrams of folate are recommended daily for all pregnant women.

  • Most PNVs will come with at least 0.4 milligrams per pill.
  • If you take medicines to prevent seizures, you need extra folate -- about 4.0 milligrams are recommended for you.

What if I have nausea and vomiting in the first trimester and cannot take my PNV? 

PNV can sometimes make nausea and vomiting worse. Some tips for taking your PNV:

  • Starting your daily PNV before you become pregnant can help improve your tolerance. 
  • Some individuals tolerate a chewable or gummy PNV better than a tablet.
  • Call your doctor! We have good medicines to help with your nausea so you can take your PNV. 
  • Take your PNV after lunch or dinner instead of first thing in the morning. Sometimes taking it later in the day will decrease the nausea and vomiting associated with taking it.

Nutrition, calories, and dietary recommendations during pregnancy 

Your caloric needs increase each trimester. In the first trimester, you need about 2000 kcal daily, or about the same as when you are not pregnant. In the second trimester, you need about 2350 kcal daily. And in the third trimester, you need about 2450 kcal daily. 

  • Focus your diet on proteins (lean meats like chicken, fish, or pork and tofu) over carbohydrates for blood sugar control and to reduce risk of gestational diabetes
  • Complex carbohydrates like quinoa, brown rice, lentils, beans, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn are also good options.
  • Remember your fruits and veggies!

Weight gain during pregnancy

Healthy weight gain in pregnancy depends on a healthy diet and exercise. Estimated weight gain in pregnancy varies depending on your pre-pregnancy weight, but everyone is expected to gain weight more rapidly in the third trimester compared to the first trimester. Remember, pregnancy is not a good time to try to lose weight!

Exercise during pregnancy

Exercise can also help promote and maintain healthy weight gain in pregnancy. It is also important for maintaining good cardiovascular and circulatory function, while decreasing the risk of pregnancy complications such as blood clots. 

Is exercise safe in pregnancy? 

If you exercised before pregnancy, it is usually safe to continue your routine during pregnancy. 

  • We recommend stopping any exercises with a high risk of falling, collision, or direct abdominal trauma.
  • In the first trimester, most exercises are safe. But as you grow in the second and third trimesters, your growing belly can affect your balance. Your risk of low back pain and injury can also increase as your center of gravity changes. 

What exercises should I do while I am pregnant?

  • Running, walking, swimming, water aerobics, and stationary biking are all good pregnancy exercises.
  • Pregnancy yoga, Pilates, and stretching are all great for maintaining a strong core and lower back. You may need to modify some exercises to accommodate your growing belly. 
  • Light weight-bearing exercises can help maintain muscle tone. 
  • Olympic lifting and CrossFit are not recommended due to the use of heavy weights and risk of injury.

If your favorite exercise is not listed here, ask your doctor - these are just some of the possibilities! 

Please keep in mind that these are just general guidelines. We encourage you to discuss specific questions with your provider.

For more information on healthy pregnancy and how we can help you and your baby, visit our website. 

Emily G. Blosser, MD, PhD

Emily G. Blosser, MD, PhD

Emily G. Blosser, MD, PhD, is an obstetrician-gynecologist with Newport Women’s Health, a Lifespan Physician Group practice.