Nutrition and your baby: 8 tips for a healthy pregnancy

Written by: Miss Ghada Salman
Published: | Updated: 06/09/2023
Edited by: Emily Lawrenson

Nutrition is one of the key factors in ensuring your baby’s normal brain development while in the womb. The right kind of nutrition and certain types of food can affect your baby’s memory and learning capacity. In this article, we will talk through some of the things you should be eating, and what you should be avoiding while pregnant.

1. Avoid alcohol

Nowadays, this pretty much is a given when thinking about pregnancy diets – but even moderate amounts of alcohol can damage a baby’s brain while in the womb. No matter what type of alcohol it is (wine, spirits, or beer), both your baby’s social and learning skills can be affected.

2. Take the right vitamins

Most obstetricians/midwives will advise you on the correct vitamins that you should be taking, but it’s essential that you include folic acid & vitamin B12 for red blood cell development, vitamin C for collagen production, and vitamin D to help develop the bones. Zinc can also help with brain development.

3. Protein is key

While you are pregnant, both you and your baby need protein – your growing baby in particular. Protein helps build cells in the body, and allows the baby to make the hormones essential to their growth and development. Your protein intake should be up an extra 10g every day.

4. Eat regular, balanced meals

It’s advisable to eat regularly, and make sure that your meals are balanced throughout the day. Don’t just grab a quick burger two hours after your lunch should have been – try to eat five or six meals a day, to ensure you get the nutrients both you and your baby need.

5. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables

Eating balanced meals also involves getting the right amount of colour in your life through the intake of fruit and veg. Fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which are good for us at any age, but can help protect the tissue in your baby’s brain from damage. The more colourful, the better.

6. Get the iron you need

Your iron intake is important in a normal diet, but during pregnancy, it should double. Iron helps deliver oxygen to your baby, both keeping it alive and ensuring it can grow properly. Many people do not get the iron they require, so ask your doctor or midwife for advice on the best way to increase your iron intake.

7. Boost your baby’s brainpower with omega 3

Omega 3 can help improve brain function, and one of the easiest ways to boost your omega 3 intake is by including fish in your diet. If you’re vegetarian, or don’t like fish, you can take supplements to up your omega 3 intake. You must, however, be aware of your mercury intake. Some types of fish (king mackerel, swordfish, and shark) are not consumed as often, but it’s important to note they contain high levels of mercury, which is harmful to your baby. Some fish such as salmon, shrimp, and pollock contain mercury but in lower levels, so they can be eaten, but with caution.

8. Avoid raw meat and eggs

Eating raw meat and eggs increases your chance of getting food poisoning, as uncooked meat and eggs may contain a particular type of parasite. This parasite can cause food poisoning, which may make you feel unwell, but can be detrimental to the health of your baby, causing hearing loss and blindness, among other things. You can lower the risk of getting food poisoning by ordering your meat to be cooked though (avoid rare meat) at restaurants, and avoiding any kind of sauce containing raw eggs. When cooking at home, wash your utensils thoroughly, and make sure your food is cooked before serving. 

By Miss Ghada Salman
Obstetrics & gynaecology

Miss Ghada Salman is a well-respected and highly experienced consultant gynaecologist who specialises in early pregnancy, premature birth, and 20-week ultrasound scanning. She also possesses a high degree of expertise in pelvic pain, fibroids, ovarian cysts, and heavy periods. She currently practises at London International Patient Services (LIPS), The London Clinic, and The Portland Hospital. 

Miss Salman, who is an also an expert when it comes to abnormal bleeding, menstrual disorders, hysteroscopy, myomectomy, hysterectomy, and cervical smear testing, successfully completed an MBChB at the Sassam College of Medicine in 2001, which she followed up with the completion of advanced training in gynaecology and early pregnancy, which she obtained in the UK, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. 

Miss Salman is a current member of the British Society for Gynaecological Imaging and has nationally and internationally published and presented her research on topis such as early pregnancy and ultrasound scanning. Notably, she is the author of a substantial amount of scientific chapters in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology. 

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