Protein in pregnancy: what you need to know
As a pregnant woman, you probably already know the importance of consuming a healthy diet, to pass on all the necessary nutrients and building blocks to your developing baby, to heighten her chance of healthy growth.
Protein in pregnancy is one of the many vital aspects of a balanced, healthy diet. This article focuses on what you need to know about protein in pregnancy.
1. Why Do You Need Protein during Pregnancy?
Proteins are rich in amino acids, which basically help build your body’s cells and that of your baby’s too. Therefore, consuming the correct amounts of protein is highly recommended, throughout pregnancy, but especially during the last five months. This is because the growth of your baby is taking place very fast, and your organs are also getting larger to accommodate your baby’s needs.
Movements occur at certain times because the baby is alternating between sleep and alertness. Often babies can be at their most active between 9 pm at night and 1 o’clock in the morning. The reason for this is because of the changes that are happening in your blood sugar levels.
2. How Much Protein Do You Require During Pregnancy?
So, how much protein should you be consuming for the best results?
For pregnant women, the protein requirement ranges from 40g to 70g per day. However, this depends on your current weight. You are not required to get the exact recommended amount of protein each day, but instead, you can focus on reaching that amount as an average over a week.
Most ladies, especially in the United States, consume more protein than they really require. Therefore, you will probably have no issues meeting your daily protein requirements during pregnancy. If due to any reason, you don’t eat meat, you can meet your body’s protein demands via other protein sources such as beans, dairy, soy or eggs.
Note that by eating too little protein, you may not feel strong enough to carry out some tasks. On the other hand, if you take in too much, there are side-effects involved. You will not only be causing damage to your health but that of your unborn child too.
3. What Are Good Sources of Proteins during Pregnancy
There are many sources from which pregnant women can get their protein from. Some of these include:
Meat is the most common source of protein. Consumption of meat helps deliver proteins to the body quite efficiently since the components in meat are more similar to those in our bodies. In other words, the body is able to implement the building blocks from meat to build and maintain your body, plus that of your baby.
Although meat is quite beneficial, it has the potential to bring its own complications. Therefore, you need to ensure that you thoroughly wash it before cooking. During the preparation process, make sure that it is well cooked.
Meat should also be taken in small amounts as excess intake could lead to health issues. For instance, eating liver, which is considered offal, can lead to birth defects and liver toxicity.
When pregnant, you should avoid consuming too much oily fish like trout, salmon, herring, and mackerel. This is due to the fact that they contain toxins and pollutants. You should also avoid taking raw or partially cooked eggs since you could be at risk of salmonella.
To ensure that you are familiar with what foods should be avoided in pregnancy, we recommend reading the NHS guidelines about what is unsafe to eat when you are pregnant.
There is an abundance of proteins that you can enjoy in beans and pulses. Beans come in a wide array of flavours, including butter beans, kidney beans, and black beans
Dairy products like cheese, milk and yoghurt are quite important during pregnancy, as they are rich in calcium and other vital nutrients that you and your baby need. You should consider going for low-fat varieties like reduced-fat cheese, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, or low-fat yoghurt.
Cheese is a good source of protein, however, its soft type should be avoided during pregnancy. This is because it could contain listeria, harmful bacteria linked to the dangerous infection, listeriosis. Pregnancy leads to hormonal changes that affect the body’s immune system, making it complicated for it to deal with such infections.
While most people would regard them as carbs, most grains actually contain small components of proteins. An example of such a grain is quinoa, which contains nine amino acids. A single serving of quinoa contains up to 8g of proteins. Quinoa is quite adaptable and can be used together with other ingredients that you might already have at home. As long as you learn to cook it, you will be able to get your desired protein levels.
Consume 3-4 servings of protein per day, and you will be able to achieve a healthy pregnancy and baby.
4. Protein and Morning Sickness
The cause behind morning sickness is not well understood, and there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding it. Nausea during pregnancy is very common and affects four out of five pregnant women.
Despite this, numerous pregnant women have reported that consuming a good amount of protein helps alleviate morning sickness. There has been a link between vitamin B6 and dietary ginger to a reduction of nausea – these two substances result in an improved rate of protein-absorption in the body.
In late 2017, the University of Cambridge, published a medical study that took eight years to carry out. This study focuses on a particular protein, GDF15, which has been linked both to morning sickness, but also a lack of it has been linked to miscarriages. You can read an overview of this study, about the role of this particular protein in pregnancy.
5. How to Know Your Body Requires More Protein during Pregnancy
Some signs that you are not getting enough proteins include weight loss, frequent infections, muscle fatigue, and severe fluid retention. If you happen to be experiencing such symptoms, it could be a sign that you are not eating enough protein. However, rather than assuming this, be sure to seek medical advice immediately.
Consumption of a healthy diet is a key part of leading a healthy lifestyle at any time, but it is more vital when pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Getting all the nutrients your body requires during pregnancy is of the utmost importance, as it will help your baby develop and grow. It is important that you consume a variety of foods, but the effectiveness of proteins in the body during pregnancy cannot be ignored. Proteins are bodybuilding foods, which need to be consumed according to the recommended daily amounts. As mentioned earlier, you can calculate the daily amounts over a week.
Click on Nutrition in Pregnancy to see our range of articles.
Pregnancy Scans, Testimonials and Information
What Our Patients Say
“This is my second visit to Merrion Fetal, I was very pleased on both occasions. Lovely quiet waiting room, appointment was on time. The 20-week scan is very detailed we enjoyed watching our baby on the large TV screen. We got some beautiful photos. The nurse was very pleasant and talked us through all the measurements and anatomy. I would highly recommend this scanning clinic.”
“I had the best experience at the Merrion Fetal Health clinic for my 20-week big scan. The staff were so friendly and so nice and the lovely lady who did my ultrasound scan was amazing. She was so thoroughgoing to absolutely everything and gave me such reassurance on how my baby was growing and developing. I would recommend any Mother to be to attend here if you are looking for a comfortable, reassuring and super pleasant experience.”
“Highly recommend! We had an early scan due to a little scare at the start of pregnancy and then another at 12 weeks to make sure all was good again. Helen who was scanning on both days was fantastic. We felt totally relaxed and un-rushed while she took her time finding the best angle of baby to get us the clearest pictures as keepsakes all while making sure everything was perfect with baby. She reassured us throughout and I can honestly say it was the best money we ever spent getting both scans done.
Please let Helen know we are 18 weeks now and flying along Highly recommend!
Scans & Services
Videos By Consultants
Midwife sonographer facilitated
Consultant Led, Centre of Medical Excellence
All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.