Are you pregnant with twins, triplets or more? Congratulations! Be prepared for an exhilarating and exhausting ride for the next few months and years. One thing that you do have control over is how you eat for the next few months. How you eat can influence how well you do with your pregnancy. A multiple pregnancy produces an additional strain on Mom and her reserves.
Multiple pregnancies are at risk for delivery early (preterm), small babies (low birth weight or intrauterine growth retardation), diabetes and preeclampsia (high blood pressure with pregnancy, also called “toxemia”). Your blood volume increases much more than if you are having one baby, so you are at higher risk for anemia. See my article How to Avoid Anemia during Pregnancy on this site.
This article will focus on general nutrition. Because this topic is so broad, I will divide the subject and do another article on minerals and supplements.
For each baby, you need to add extra calories. A single baby is about 300 calories. Two babies is 600 calories, three is 900 calories, etc. This should be slightly modified by whether or not you were overweight or underweight when you began the pregnancy. If overweight, add a bit less, if underweight, add a bit more. You should consult with your physician and possibly a nutritionist early in your pregnancy when you find out you are having multiples to set your goals.
General principles for your diet include eating more protein and fats and a lower amount of carbohydrates. This is especially important early in pregnancy. You should divide your meals into three main meals and three smaller meals. As pregnancy progresses and your uterus begins to press on your stomach, divide the meals a bit more equally if necessary to avoid fullness. Make sure to drink lots of water to keep hydrated and help prevent early labor. Suggestions range from 2 quarts (eight 8 oz glasses) to 1 gallon (sixteen 8 oz glasses). From personal experience, this is very important.
Several sources suggest that weight gain early improves mom’s nutrient stores. This may help the placenta grow and may help babies grow later in pregnancy. This does not mean eating lots of sweets or binging. Eat healthy, well balanced meals. During the entire day you should consume 3 servings in the milk group, 3 in the meat group, 3 in the vegetable group, 2 in the fruit group and 6 in the bread/rice/pasta group.*
The milk group includes milk, cheese, and yogurt. Note that a “serving” of cheese is one ounce. The meat group includes lean meat, fish (check with your doctor or nutritionist about which fish are safe to eat during pregnancy), skin free poultry, eggs, dried peas, and tofu or other non-meat sources of protein.
Fish is an important source of the omega 3 fatty acids. My sources suggest that low mercury sources are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish. You should avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. You can get supplements. Other sources include sunflower, safflower, corn and soybean oil, some meats, egg yolk and spinach. This nutrient may help prolong your pregnancy and help babies grow somewhat larger. Both are great goals during multiple pregnancies.
For vegetables, you should use one cup of raw or cooked vegetables, with 2 cups of green leafy veggies counting as a serving. Fruit servings are one cup, whether dried or fresh. The bread group servings are 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready to eat cereal or a cup of cooked rice or pasta. To help keep your sugar down, it is better to use brown rice as well as whole wheat and multigrain breads and pastas.
All of this advice is general and should be reviewed with your physician or nutritionist. Please use these as guidelines to help you have a healthy pregnancy. As a mom of triplets, I know that everything that I could do to have a healthy pregnancy was important to me. I hope you find this and any of my other articles helpful. Good luck with those babies!
*2002 American Dietetic Association Serving Suggestions for Multiple Pregnancy of Normal Body Mass Index
Goodnight, W, MD, Newman, Roger, MD, Optimal Nutrition for Improved Twin Pregnancy Outcome, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Nov 2009, 1121-1134
My other articles about nutrition with pregnancy or triplets on associatedcontent.com:
Vitamin Challenges if You Are Having Twins or More
How to Avoid Anemia during Pregnancy
15 Things I Learned during My Triplet Pregnancy
Raising Triplets, the Early Years
6 Helpful tips if your friend is having twins, triplets or more!