The final stretch of your pregnancy is here! The third trimester is from 28 weeks onwards and it is important to remember that you are the only source of nutrients that your baby has so you should aim to have as healthy a diet as possible. Eating well is vital but also remember to keep yourself well hydrated, especially if your third trimester falls during the summer.
Protein is especially important as it helps promote your baby’s growth in the second and third trimesters. About 71g/day is required. A few good sources of protein include lean meat, fish, poultry and eggs. For vegetarians (as well as non-vegetarians) beans, peas, tofu and dairy are good protein sources.
Fibre and fluids
In the last trimester you may feel, bloated , constipated and experience heartburn. A diet high in fiber and water is therefore recommended to reduce and in most cases avoid the discomfort completely because dietary fiber, the indigestible part of fruits and vegetables helps to keep your bowel movements regular. You will need about 25g of fiber daily. To give you an idea of how to measure whether you are receiving enough fibre, there are 3g in a medium avocado or banana, a serving broccoli, brown rice or beans. Other high fibre foods include whole grain bread and cereal products, legumes, nuts, vegetables and fruit. You are also recommended to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day.
Iron is required in order to prevent anemia. It is used in the production of hemoglobin (red blood cells), which are used to transport oxygen within the body. Blood is required in larger quantities during pregnancy as your baby requires his/her own blood and oxygen supply. Nutrients are transported to your baby via the placenta in the blood and the blood also carries away the waste. A low blood supply increases the risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight not to mention the fact that it decreases the amount of oxygen and nutrients baby receives as well as not effectively getting rid of the waste. About 27mg of iron is required per day and this can be obtained from vegetables, fruits and lean meat. Iron from animal sources is however more easily absorbed. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption so eat plenty citrus fruits such as oranges or orange juice, nartjies, grapefruit as well as tomato juice and strawberries. You will need about 40-60mg per day.
About 80% of your baby’s calcium stores are absorbed during the third trimester. More calcium is therefore required as your baby’s bones grow and become stronger. Calcium needs are almost doubled at this stage to anything between 1500mg- 2000mg a day. Calcium sources include fortified breakfast cereals, dried fruit (figs and apricots), dairy products (especially yoghurt), bread, almonds, green leafy vegetables and broccoli.
Vitamin D helps facilitate the absorption of calcium and decreases the chances of your baby suffering from vitamin D deficiency which can lead to the development of rickets in infants (soft bones leading to skeletal deformities). Foods that contain vitamin D include oily fish, fortified margarines, some breakfast cereals and of course, the sun. A little time spent sunbathing can help you acquire some of the vitamin D that you need. I recommend about 15 minutes a day.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids help with brain and eye development which is critical during the third trimester. A very good source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish. Remember to stay clear of seafood that contains too much methylmercury such as shark and swordfish as it causes a variety of birth defects. I refer you to Eating Right- Trimester 2 for more information on this.
Your baby is at great risk of iodine deficiency while in the womb. Iodine is needed in the production of thyroid hormone, which regulates body temperature, growth, blood cell production and nerve and muscle functions. Mild to moderate iodine deficiency results in impaired motor function and learning difficulties. About 220micrograms is required per day. Iodine can be found in milk, vegetables and iodized salt. Be sure not to overdo it though as too much salt causes high blood pressure.
Zinc helps maintain the structural integrity of proteins and helps regulate gene expression. It is important to get enough to cater to for rapid cell growth which occurs during pregnancy. About 9-11mg per day is required. Good zinc sources include lean meat (especially red meat), wholegrain cereals, milk and nuts.
This is the final leg of the race. Soon you will get to hold the little human being that is forcing you to eat healthy. Wishing you rapid growth and no constipation these next few weeks.