9 Foods Recommended for a High-Risk Pregnancy

Foods are an essential part of a high-risk pregnancy. These nutrients prevent fatal complications. Learn about them here.
9 Foods Recommended for a High-Risk Pregnancy

Last update: 07 July, 2023

When you have a high-risk pregnancy, nutritional needs change and must be met for the health of the mother and her growing child. A dual-purpose diet is required, one that’s nutritious and protects against hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, among others. Learn what foods are recommended for a high-risk pregnancy.

Remember that this is a medical situation that must be strictly controlled by the obstetrician/gynecologist, who will have the final word on treatment.

Nutritional needs in a high-risk pregnancy

The nutritional needs of the high-risk pregnant woman are intensified due to health conditions. For example, a pregnant woman with diabetes must take special care with her sugar intake. Also, in the case of pre-eclampsia, sodium, potassium, and vitamin D should be more closely monitored.

In addition, in a high-risk pregnancy, the baby may have health problems before, during, or after delivery. So, a good diet will help supply the nutrients needed to restore health, meet the body’s extra demands, and support the baby’s growth.

Among the nutrients to consider are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, which will ensure the energy quota. Other key elements are folic acid, iron, fiber, calcium, omega-3, and other nutrients that will be part of the foods in the diet. Let’s review what they are below.

9 foods to eat in a high-risk pregnancy

Below, we’ll bring you a list of the top foods that should be part of your diet in a high-risk pregnancy.

A pregnant woman chopping fruit.

1. Fruits and vegetables

A recent article published in the American Journal of Obstetric and Gynecology includes vegetables and fruits among the healthy foods for pregnancy. The reasons are numerous: They’re rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and folate. The fiber they contain can help prevent constipation, a constant complaint during pregnancy.

This food group also contains antioxidants in the form of vitamins or polyphenols, among which anthocyanins and carotenoids such as lycopene stand out. The International Journal of Food Properties points out that antioxidants reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Selecting the best fruits and vegetables will depend on each high-risk case. For example, a pregnant woman with diabetes should consume fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index, as they affect blood sugar levels to a lesser extent. These include avocado, pear, peach, apples, and kiwi, among others.

2. Fish rich in omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids shouldn’t be lacking in the diet of the high-risk pregnant woman. This fat is necessary for the baby’s brain and visual development. In addition, it reduces the risk of premature birth. This is indicated in an article published in the journal The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Its main sources are fatty fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, and anchovies. In addition, these fish provide low concentrations of mercury and are therefore considered safe.

3. Eggs

There are several reasons that justify the use of eggs in the diet of the high-risk pregnant woman. They’re loaded with protein with all the essential amino acids, which ensures the formation of tissues during the growth of the baby.

But also some experts, such as Wallace and Fulgoni who published an article in the magazine Nutrients magazine, distinguish it for its choline content. This is an essential nutrient for brain development and the health of the baby’s nervous system.

Other key nutrients contained in eggs that are promoted by the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition, for the proper development of pregnancy are vitamin B12, folate, selenium, and pantothenic acid, among others.

4. Lean meat

Fat-free meat is an excellent source of good-quality protein that facilitates the baby’s growth. They also contain heme iron, which is absorbed 20-30% more than from vegetable sources.

Iron is required to prevent anemia, which can cause some complications such as premature births and low birth weight. It also helps to oxygenate the blood.

Georgieff’s work published in the journal The Annual Review of Nutrition reiterates the importance of iron for pregnant women. According to them, adequate iron intake reduces maternal morbidity and increases fetal health.

5. Skimmed dairy

Most of the calcium and vitamin D required in pregnancy are obtained from dairy. They’re the nutrients that support the baby’s bone development and the mother’s bone health. They also provide vitamin B12 and protein.

They should be consumed skimmed to prevent the increase of lipids in the blood, especially in the case of pregnant women with cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, or obesity.

6. Legumes

Legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, peas, beans, and others, are a source of vegetable protein and fiber. They also provide iron and folic acid, which are crucial for developing red blood cells and stimulating the formation of the baby’s neural tube.

A paper reviewed in the journal BMC Pregnancy Childbirth in 2018, suggests that the higher the consumption of legumes, the lower the risk of low height for gestational age of the baby. In addition, legumes are also associated with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, as stated in an article published in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

7. Whole grains

Whole grains such as rice, oats, corn, wheat, and whole wheat bread help maintain blood sugar levels and promote satiety during pregnancy.

They provide insoluble fiber that helps reduce the risk of constipation and hemorrhoids that occur during this stage. They also provide B-complex vitamins that are necessary for the development of the baby and the maintenance of energy levels in the mother-to-be.

8. Nuts

Nuts provide a little bit of everything for pregnancy. They’re a good source of protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, omega-3 fats, and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.

A paper reported in the European Journal of Epidemiology in 2019, indicates that nut intake from early pregnancy is associated with better long-term neuropsychological development of the child.

A black pregnant woman drinking water.

9. Water

Although we know that water isn’t a food, it must be included as an essential element in the diet of women with high-risk pregnancies. According to the journal Nutrition Reviews water, in addition to maintaining bodily processes, is involved in the formation of amniotic fluid, breast milk production, blood circulation, and the general health of the mother.

Unsuitable foods for a high-risk pregnancy

Certain foods should be off the menu in high-risk pregnancies. For example, those high in sugar and saturated fat should be excluded, as they can contribute to obesity and excess weight with associated complications, according to the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Raw or undercooked foods can pose a risk of infection by bacteria and parasites that can be harmful to the baby.

Fish and shellfish with high mercury content must also remain off the diet plan. Swordfish, shark, yellowfin tuna, tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, and king mackerel should be avoided.

Finally, caffeine consumption should be restricted, and, above all, alcohol, and tobacco consumption should be avoided as much as possible. According to a group of specialists whose work was published in the journal BJOG, alcohol can cause premature delivery, low birth weight, and problems in the baby’s development.

One last review

High-risk pregnancy requires paying special attention to diet. Choosing the right foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, fatty fish, eggs, and lean meats helps prevent and avoid complications.

Don’t forget to exclude foods that can worsen the high-risk condition, such is the case of fatty foods, sugars, ultra-processed foods, pastries, cakes, pastries, butter, chips, and cake, among others.

Also remember to seek the advice of professionals, as these recommendations are a starting point for you to discuss nutrition with your doctor.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.