Nutrient requirements for mothers

Happy Mother’s Day! Becoming a mother is hard work from the second the baby is conceived. Therefore, nutrient requirements for mothers typically increase when compared with females in the same age group.

It makes intuitive sense that pregnant and breastfeeding women need to eat more. However, just eating more is not enough. Moreover, some women might not be able to tolerate extra food (e.g. due to morning sickness when pregnant) or not have the opportunity to prepare meals (e.g. when breastfeeding). Thus, it is important to choose nutrient-dense food sources, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, lean meats, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds.

Nutrient requirements for mothers

To answer the question how do nutrient requirements change with motherhood (and age), we can look at the nutrient reference values (NRVs), which are the recommended intakes for most of the population to prevent health issues. Note these values are set at the population level, and individual requirements may vary.

Rather than giving the actual quantities for each nutrient, the charts below have been prepared using relative differences in requirements when compared to the “control” (i.e. non-pregnant or lactating) population in the same age group. The actual values can be found at: www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients. Differences were calculated using the recommended dietary intake (RDI) when available, otherwise the adequate intake (AI).

The table below shows which nutrients have increased (+), decreased (-) or equal (=) requirements with pregnancy and lactation for females up to 50 years old. It also shows change of nutrient requirements for females over 50 years old, which are not related to motherhood.

The chart below shows the relative requirement changes for each nutrient for pregnant and breastfeeding females 14-18 years old compared to non-pregnant or lactating females in the same age group.

The chart below shows the relative requirement changes for each nutrient for pregnant and breastfeeding females 19-30 years old compared to non-pregnant or lactating females in the same age group.

The chart below shows the relative requirement changes for each nutrient for pregnant and breastfeeding females 31-50 years old compared to non-pregnant or lactating females in the same age group.

The chart below shows the relative requirement changes for each nutrient for females 51-70 years old and 71+ years old when compared with females 31-50 years old. As mentioned before, these requirement differences are not due to pregnancy or lactation, but changes in health due to ageing.

References

  1. National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, New Zealand Ministry of Health. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2006.

[Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash]

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