Pregnancy FAQ's

Pregnancy FAQ's

Harriet Walker; Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Accredited Sports Dietitian. A leader in the sports nutrition space within Australia, specialising in strength sports.

FAQs: Supplements, Nutrition

and You

 

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How much extra energy do women need during pregnancy?

During pregnancy higher energy is required to meet the everyday energy needs of the mother, plus support the growth of the baby. Most importantly, the focus should be on nutrients (vitamins/minerals, etc) and consuming high-quality food, and less of total energy. Across the 9 months of pregnancy, it has been estimated that an extra 75-80,000 calories of energy are expended. However, it is usually quite surprising for women to find out that the additional energy requirements during pregnancy are not large.

1st Trimester: No additional energy required

2nd Trimester: Increase energy intake by 340 calories per day (about 1 extra snack)

3rd Trimester: Increase energy intake up to 450 calories per day (a small meal)

Can I take a protein supplement during pregnancy?

This is a very common question coming from mums-to-be, especially those who have been active leading up to pregnancy and who might have habitually used protein powder to supplement their daily protein needs. However, there is not a great deal of information or research that directly answers this question, as such, it is better to proceed with caution with recommendations until further research has been conducted. Protein is important for cell growth and repair and to maintain muscle mass. Adequate protein during pregnancy is important as it is a time of rapid cell growth. Generally, adequate-protein can be consumed from food, and food should be the priority as it contains other important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants required for a healthy pregnancy.

 

The general protein recommendations for women during pregnancy are 1g per kilogram of body weight, per day during pregnancy in the 2nd and 3rd trimester (NHMRC). During the first trimester, there is no need to change your diet specifically, however, a pregnancy multivitamin containing 0.4mg folate is recommended (RANZCOG, 2008). The focus during pregnancy should be wholefoods as beyond just macronutrients (carbs/fats/protein) food provides other vital nutrients that count towards a healthy balanced diet. Protein needs can be readily met with foods such as lean meats, fish, legumes, tofu, eggs, and dairy and these sources should be prioritised over supplements.

 

A World Health Organisation review on protein supplementation for pregnant women (in particular, under-nourished women), reported that high protein supplementation was not recommended, does not have any positive health benefits, and could cause harm to the unborn child. (WHO, 2018). As such, it is generally recommended that women use food in order to meet their daily protein needs. The concern is also raised about protein supplements during pregnancy due to the risk of product contamination. Contamination of supplements can occur when rigorous food safety standards are not adhered to. Body Science works very closely with its suppliers to ensure they comply with their stringent supplement safety policies.

 

Until further research has been conducted specifically looking at the safety of protein supplementation during pregnancy, any supplements should be discussed with a registered health care provider to assess whether the product is right for you.

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Key nutrition and supplements

  • There is an increased need for certain nutrients during pregnancy. The focus should be on getting these nutrients from food via a healthy balanced diet.
  • Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Iron, Folate, B12, Omega 3 fatty acids, and calcium are some of the nutrients which may need to be supplemented. These should be supplemented under the supervision of registered health care professional. Supplements should not be taken before consulting a doctor.
  • While in the future recommendations may change with further research, at this stage it is safest to recommend that protein supplements not be used during pregnancy.

What is a healthy weight gain during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, rates of weight gain will vary across women. For women who are within a healthy weight range at conception, around 400-500g/week is recommended. These recommendations are different for women outside of the healthy BMI rage of 18.5-25, and a woman should seek personalised advice about what is healthy for them.

 

How much extra energy to women need while breast-feeding?

The production of milk is an energy-intensive activity for the female body to undertake! As such, extra nutrition needs to be eaten while breastfeeding to ensure mum and bub are well fed. The energy recommendations on top of usual intake while breastfeeding is:

0-6 months: An additional 500 calories per day

7-9 months: An additional 400 calories per day.

 

How much protein is required while breastfeeding?

While breastfeeding it is estimated that women only need an additional 20g per day to meet the demands of milk production. It is recommended that protein needs are met through foods that are rich in protein such as lean meats, eggs, dairy, fish, legumes, soymilk, and tofu.

 

The Australian recommendation for protein during lactation is 1.1g/kg body weight. This can generally be met through a healthy balanced diet. Protein-rich foods include lean meats, eggs, fish, dairy, legumes, soymilk, and tofu.

 

However, using a protein supplement can be useful for women who are finding it difficult to meet their daily needs- i.e. have no hands available to feed themselves while carrying a baby around! This is also a consideration of women who follow a plant-based diet, as protein requirements can be difficult to meet consuming plant-based sources.

 

It is important to discuss totally daily protein intake, and where a protein powder might fit in with a registered dietitian. It is also important to ensure you are aware of the safety policies that are in place with any supplement, as contamination can be a risk with any supplements. Body Science takes product safety very seriously and has well-established relationships with its suppliers and takes all possible steps to ensure product safety.

 

Whey based proteins, derived from milk, contain all the essential amino acids and are easily used to boost the protein intake of smoothies and snacks. Body Science’s Whey Protein is available in major supermarkets and is naturally sweetened, naturally flavoured, and contains beneficial prebiotic fiber.

 

For those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, a protein that includes a blend of plant-based proteins is beneficial as it ensures all essential amino acids are present. Body Science’s Clean Protein offers a high-quality protein source from plants including pea, ancient grains, and brown rice proteins.

Is weight loss safe during breastfeeding?

It is common for new mums to ask the question about weight loss. It is important to first point out that there is no rush- weight loss will vary from woman to woman. However, it is important for the long-term health that pregnancy weight is lost, especially between pregnancies as extra weight can lead to complications during subsequent pregnancies. A safe rate of loss is around 500g per week. It is important not to crash diet, as this can impact milk supply and your health. A healthy balanced diet and some light exercise once you have been cleared to do so are the best way to lose.

 

If I want to find out more information, what are some credible sources?

Refences:
Frances Picciano, Mary. (2003). Pregnancy and Lactation: Physiological Adjustments, Nutritional Requirements and the Role of Dietary Supplements1. The Journal of nutrition. 133. 1997S-2002S. 10.1093/jn/133.6.1997S.
Dewey, K (1997) ENERGY AND PROTEIN REQUIREMENTS DURING LACTATION, Annual Review of Nutrition, 17:1, 19-36
National Health and Medical Research Centre, Australia, Nutrient Reference Values
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2008), Vitamin and minerals supplementation in pregnancy. www.ranzcog.edu.au
Word Health Organisation (2016), WHO recommendations on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience. ISBN 978 92 4 154991 2.

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