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The fourth month of pregnancy is a time when the unpleasant side-effects of pregnancy, such as headaches, morning sickness, and mood swings, disappear. You may not feel strong food aversions after the first trimester, and you may have food cravings. The second trimester is regarded as the most comfortable of the three trimesters. This is also the period when your baby grows the most and your blood volume increases so that the baby can get nourishment from the nutrients absorbed by your blood. Hence, your diet during the fourth month of pregnancy should include all the nutrients that are required for the baby’s growth and development.
What to Include in Your Fourth-Month Pregnancy Diet
It is important to plan what to eat during the second trimester of pregnancy. Your fourth-month pregnancy diet chart should include the following:
1. Iron-rich Foods
As your blood volume increases in the fourth month, you should include iron-rich foods to meet the higher level of iron requirement. Examples of iron-rich foods are meat, fish, tofu, liver, soybeans, whole grains like brown rice, nuts and seeds, dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, dried fruits, and eggs.
2. Fibre-rich Foods
In the fourth month of pregnancy, the hormone progesterone slows down digestion. Your uterus starts to grow in size to accommodate your growing baby. This causes constipation. To prevent constipation and stimulate regular bowel movements, you should eat foods rich in fibre. Examples include whole grains like oatmeal, bran, and barley, seeds like flaxseeds and chia, nuts like almonds, pecans, and pistachios, vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, sweet corn, artichokes, and green peas, and fruits like raspberries, strawberries, figs, apples, bananas, and pears.
3. Calcium-rich Foods
4. Foods Rich in Zinc and Vitamin C
Zinc is a trace element essential for building proteins, and the development of a healthy nervous system and immune system. Foods rich in zinc include oysters, lamb, beef, spinach, wheat germ, mushrooms, pumpkin and squash seeds, nuts, chicken, and beans. Vitamin C is essential for the absorption of iron in the body. Foods rich in Vitamin C are green and red peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and leafy greens.
5. Foods Rich in Omega Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for eye and brain development in the foetus. Omega-6 fatty acids are important for heart health, proper functioning of the reproductive system, and skin, hair, and bone growth. Foods rich in omega fatty acids include vegetable oils, salmon, sardines, soybeans, nuts like walnuts and almonds, and seeds like chia and flax.
6. Fruits and Vegetables
It is important to include at least five portions of fruits and vegetables per day. Fresh produce has the highest level of nutrients, followed by frozen produce. You should also include some raw vegetables in the form of a salad. Fresh fruit is healthier than fruit juices.
7. Proteins and Carbohydrates
Proteins are the building blocks of muscles, tissues, and DNA. Carbohydrates are the energy source for our body. Include adequate amounts of proteins and starchy carbohydrates in your diet. Examples of proteins are legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, nut butter, meat, chicken, quinoa, and soybeans. Examples of starchy carbohydrates are potatoes, rice, pasta and bread. An Indian diet during the pregnancy’s fourth month should, therefore, include dal, whole wheat roti, porridge made from ragi, oats or dalia, dosa, chana (chickpeas) and rajma (kidney beans).
8. Foods Rich in Folic Acid
Your body needs extra blood during pregnancy, and folic acid helps with just that. Research has shown that almost 70% of neural tube defects can be prevented by consuming folic acid. Most prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, but you can also get your daily requirement through food. Some foods rich in this essential nutrient are lentils, green leafy vegetables, beans, and nuts.
9. Vitamin D- rich foods
Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption in the bones, which is needed for the baby to develop strong bones and teeth. It also helps maintain healthy skin and eyesight. Milk and fatty fish like salmon are good sources of Vitamin D, along with sunlight, of course.
Fourth Month of Pregnancy – What to Avoid?
There are some foods which may harm the baby if eaten during pregnancy. Here is a list of foods to avoid during the fourth month of pregnancy:
Consuming excessive amounts of black liquorice during pregnancy has been linked to lower IQ in babies. Liquorice also contains chemicals that can trigger uterine contractions, causing preterm labour. Hence, it is best to avoid foods containing liquorice.
2. Refined Flour
Refined flour, known as maida in India, is difficult to digest and can cause constipation and even lead to haemorrhoids post-delivery. It also spikes up blood sugar levels, as it has a high glycaemic index. This can lead to gestational diabetes, which is harmful to both the mother and baby. Stick to whole-wheat foods and avoid refined flour.
3. Ocean Fish
Ocean fish like white tuna, king mackerel, and swordfish contain high levels of mercury. Mercury can cause brain damage in the foetus and has been linked to mental retardation in babies. So, avoid ocean fish and stick to freshwater fish like salmon or trout.
4. Blue Cheese
Blue cheese like Camembert and soft cheeses like Brie may contain microorganisms like bacteria or listeria that can cause food poisoning in the mother. This will affect the baby’s health and development. So, avoid blue cheese and soft cheeses, and eat only hard cheeses like Parmesan or Cheddar.
5. Raw Eggs and Undercooked Meat
Raw eggs may contain salmonella bacteria that can cause salmonellosis, a kind of food poisoning. This can harm the baby. So, eat only cooked eggs. Undercooked meat can also cause salmonella poisoning, so make sure all the meat you consume is thoroughly cooked.
Pâté is a mixture of cooked ground meat and fat in the form of a spreadable paste. Any type of pâté has a risk of listeria infection. Hence, it is better to avoid pâté during pregnancy.
Excess consumption of caffeine increases your heart rate and also causes nervousness, irritability and sleeplessness. It can be harmful to the baby and has also been linked to miscarriages. Hence, it is better to limit caffeine intake to 200 milligrams per day.
8. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are not harmful when consumed within a limit. However, try and substitute natural sweeteners such as honey, dates, or maple syrup whenever possible.
Salt retains water in the body and causes bloating and increases blood pressure. Hence, consume salt in moderation. Try and use low-sodium salt, which is much healthier.
Diet Tips for the Fourth Month
Here are some diet tips to follow during the fourth month of pregnancy:
- Drink enough water. A pregnant woman, on average, requires around 2.3 litres of water per day.
- Avoid eating excessive quantities of fried food, spicy food or food containing high amounts of salt or sugar.
- Ground flax seeds can be sprinkled over your salads or in oatmeal, yoghurt, etc. They are a great source of dietary fibre and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Do not eat too many sweets, as it will lead to gestational diabetes and unnecessary weight gain.
- Avoid having tea or coffee with meals and iron supplements, as the tannins present in them can prevent iron from being absorbed by the body.
- Make sure fruits and vegetables are thoroughly washed to remove germs, soil and pesticide residues.
The fourth month of pregnancy is a comfortable time for the mother-to-be. Regular exercise, healthy food, and remaining stress-free and calm at this time will ensure that your baby is healthy. Make sure you consult your doctor for advice before making any changes in your diet.