3 foods that expectant mothers in Ghana should eat (and 3 things they should avoid)

It's essential for expectant moms to be even more careful than usual about what they put into their bodies. Here're a few foods that are good for mom and baby, and a few substances that must be avoided.

Mildred Bayor

Mildred Bayor

Public Health Nurse, Nyaho Medical Centre

Proper nutrition is essential for everyone, but especially for pregnant women, where the mother must eat to nourish both herself as well as and the growing baby.

Here're a few DOs and DON'Ts when it comes to what pregnant women should put into their bodies to ensure a happy birth.

DO eat Turkey Berry (Common name in Ghana: Abedru / Sɛbɛbibii)

Turkey berry is a highly nutritional plant rich in Iron and helpful in the treatment of anemia. 

It aids in the production of new red blood cells to increase the hemoglobin level of the expectant mother who may have a low hemoglobin. It is supposed to be eaten raw and not cooked. It is grown locally in Ghana and available in most market places nationwide.

First photo by: Tu7uh, Second photo: Franz Xaver

DO eat legumes and grains

Examples of foods in this group include wheat, oats, and beans. Legumes and grains have numerous vitamins and minerals which are needed by the body for various functions. 

They are a great source of Iron, Folate, Calcium and Zinc. Folate, for instance, helps in the prevention of neurological disorders in babies such as Spinal Bifida. As a result, expectant mothers who eat a lot of legumes and grains deliver healthy and sound babies.

A delicious bowl of lentils. Photo by James Sutton

DO eat sweet potatoes

Nyaho Healthy Living Pregnancy Nutrition Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes contain high levels of vitamin A and C as well as Iron and fiber. Vitamin A boosts eyesight. An expectant mother should consume about 700 micrograms of Vitamin A in a day. Consuming 1 cup of cooked sweet potatoes with its skin provides about 1922 micrograms of Vitamin A.

Dietary fibre helps in free bowel movement. Constipation in pregnancy is very common thus taking foods rich in dietary fibre can help prevent constipation

Vitamin C is required in the diet of every expectant mother. This is because Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron, repair of worn out tissues and also boosts the immune system.

Iron is essential in the production of hemoglobin for mother and baby during pregnancy. It also helps in the transfer of oxygen to the growing baby. Consuming sweet potatoes baked in its skin will provide half the daily recommended amount of Vitamin C, while a cup of sweet potato will provide 1.38 mg of Iron.

DON'T drink alcohol

Photo: Sérgio Alves Santos

When alcohol is taken by an expectant mom, it goes straight into her blood stream, through the placenta to the fetus. Its effects include miscarriage, still birth and a lifelong condition known as Fetal Alcohol syndrome.

Fetal Alcohol syndrome is characterized by poor growth, facial abnormalities and damage to the child’s central nervous system. Alcohol is considered a depressant because it slows down vital functions and causes slurred speech, unsteady movement, reduced ability to think (interferes with a person’s sense of judgement) .

DON'T smoke cigarettes

Cigarettes are dangerous to both mother and baby when the expectant mother smokes. Cigarettes contain numerous cancer causing agents including nicotine and carbon mono oxide

Smoking during pregnancy causes complications such as:

  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • Miscarriages
  • Still birth
  • Respiratory problems such as Asthma
  • Heart conditions such as Hole in Heart
  • Brain issues like low intelligence quotient (IQ)

DON'T drink coffee

Photo: Nick Karvounis

Coffee contains caffeine which is known to be unhealthy when taken in excess. Coffee and other products that contain caffeine deplete minerals and nutrients in food.

The acidity of coffee causes poor absorption of nutrients in food that has been taken in which can lead to anaemia, miscarriage, low birth weight, urine disorders and possible damage to the baby’s heart.

Consult a pregnancy nutrition specialist

We have multiple departments at Nyaho Medical Specialists that can provide guidance about pregnancy nutrition. Learn more about our Antenatal Classes, our Obstetrics / Gynaecology Specialist Clinic, and our Family Practice Clinic.