When making the decision to act as a surrogate, your diet and nutrition are super important! It’s essential to realize that the baby you are carrying isn’t your own, so the food choices don’t just affect your and your family, but a whole other family as well. While the eating and nutrition guidelines for a surrogate aren’t stricter than those given to pregnant women in general, it’s important to always follow them.
Here’s what you need to know when you are eating for two as a surrogate.
Eat for nutrition
When you are pregnant, it’s important to make sure that you are eating all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. Each of the major macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins – contribute important nutrients needed for proper development of the baby.
The key is to find healthy versions of these foods. For example, cookies are a carbohydrate, but shouldn’t be a major part of anyone’s diet. Healthy carbohydrates include whole grains, sweet potatoes and other fruits and vegetables.
The same principle applies with proteins and fats. Cheeseburgers and french-fries; not healthy. Opt for healthy fats (in moderation) instead, like nuts, avocados, and fatty fish. Ideas for healthy proteins include lean meats (think turkey, chicken, fish) and non-meat sources, such as tofu, tempeh, and soy.
In addition to the macronutrients, it’s important to eat a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Nutrients like calcium, iron, potassium, and folic acid are especially important when pregnant. Making sure that your plate looks like a rainbow, meaning that it contains lots of different colors of vegetables, is a great way to ensure that you are getting a variety of different nutrients.
Maintain a healthy weight gain
Being overweight can increase both you and the baby’s risk for health complications during the pregnancy and the birth. A woman’s risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and cesarean delivery are all increased
Your doctor will give you specific guidelines, but in general, women who are a normal weight before pregnant and are carrying one baby are advised to gain 25-35 pounds. Most women are advised to gain a few pounds in the first trimester and then a pound or two per week in the second and third trimesters.
Women who are overweight before pregnancy should gain less weight, usually around 15 to 25 pounds.
Women who are underweight before they get pregnancy should gain a little extra weight; somewhere around 28 to 40 pounds.
Keeping an eye on your weight gain at each appointment can help you gauge your eating habits. If you aren’t putting on enough weight from month to month, you may need to increase your food intake. Someone who is putting on more than what is recommended, may want to keep an eye on what they are eating to make sure that they are making nutritious choices. The doctor can make suggestions or even refer you to a nutritionist if you are having difficulty finding healthy foods that you enjoy eating.
Take your vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are so important! They are a little different than regular vitamins because your nutritional needs are different when you are pregnant. One of the most important nutrients to consume while you are pregnant is folic acid due to the risk of a certain type of complication known as a neural tube defect, where the spine or spinal cord doesn’t finish forming. Taking a prenatal vitamin ensures that you are getting enough of this and other important nutrients.Speak with your doctor for a recommendation on the type of vitamin you should take. Some women have difficulty swallowing or tolerating their vitamins, especially in early pregnancy. If this is happening to you, speak to your doctor! There are many different options available and they can help you find the right one.
Avoid harmful foods or substances
In addition to eating enough of the right foods, pregnant women will need to avoid certain other types of harmful foods. Foods or beverages that pregnant women should avoid include:
- Alcohol: Alcohol crosses through the placenta and will directly affect the baby. No amount of alcohol is okay during a pregnancy.
- Certain types of fish: Fish with high levels of mercury should also be avoided. These types of fish include swordfish, shark, king mackerel, orange roughy, marlin, and tilefish.
- Unpasteurized dairy products: Imported soft cheeses, raw milks or other unpasteurized foods can carry a type of bacteria known as listeria. If the baby becomes infected, it can cause stillbirth or other serious complications.
- Deli meats and hot dogs: Deli meats and hot dogs can also carry listeria and should be avoided during pregnancy.
- Rare or raw meat/fish: Uncooked fish or meats can carry a number of bacteria that can cause serious infections. Make sure that all meat is well-done and thoroughly cooked.
Dealing with cravings
Let’s face it; cravings and pregnancy go hand in hand. Most pregnant women get cravings for particular foods at one point or another. However, when you are acting as a surrogate, taking care of your body is the utmost priority! While you may have felt comfortable eating junk food regularly during your own pregnancies, it shouldn’t regular occurrence as a surrogate.
So, what’s a pregnant surrogate to do? Find a different, and healthier, way to satisfy those cravings. Want something sweet? Grab a piece of fruit, or an all fruit smoothie. Toss some blueberries (frozen or fresh both work well) in some unsweetened cocoa powder instead of a candy bar. Want something salty instead? Toss chickpeas with a little olive oil and roast in a hot oven until crispy. Season with salt, taco seasoning or your favorite flavor combination.
While exercise is generally regarded as safe during pregnancy, it is important to speak with both your fertility doctor, who will manage you during early pregnancy and your obstetrician. Women who are very active can probably continue their regular routine with some modifications, but should still check in with their doctor. Women who do not regularly exercise can probably participate in light walking or prenatal-fitness programs, but again, check with the professional before jumping in.
The bottom line
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is usually all that is needed during pregnancy, even as a surrogate. Your doctor may have different instructions so make sure to speak with him or her about your specific situation.