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5 minutes read

What Is a Pregnancy Nutritionist?

Pregnancy is an exciting yet overwhelming period, filled with questions and considerations regarding a mother's nutrition and the well-being of her growing baby. Planning and adhering to a healthy diet is one of the best ways to ensure both your and your baby’s health.

How a Pregnancy Nutritionist Can Help You

Expectant mothers have access to many resources, and it can be overwhelming to sift through them all to find the most relevant information. One of the benefits of working with a pregnancy nutritionist is that they can help you hone in on the most relevant, science-backed information that’s specific to you and your pregnancy journey. 

A pregnancy nutritionist will know the best sources of nourishment for you and your growing baby and can write up this information in a detailed but flexible nutrition plan. The program can be adjusted throughout your pregnancy to meet your changing needs and cravings.

For instance, you may have specific food aversions in your first trimester that a nutritionist can help you overcome or avoid. A nutritionist will also have the expertise to inform you of what foods you should completely abstain from while pregnant. 

A pregnancy nutritionist also understands the optimal amount of healthy weight gain you should have while pregnant. Studies show that only 32% of women achieve the recommended weight gain during their pregnancy. Adequate weight gain is a good indicator of the healthy growth of the fetus. Pregnancy nutritionists understand how to track healthy eating habits and the best ways to help you reach your weight goals. 

Your nutritionist will also have a strong understanding of your nutritional needs. They'll design a plan specific to you and your pregnancy, incorporating nutrients like protein, calcium, iron, and folic acid. All of these nutrients are essential for your baby's growth. 

What Does a Pregnancy Nutritionist Do?

In addition to the standard qualifications of a registered dietitian or nutritionist, a pregnancy nutritionist will have comprehensive training in personalized prenatal and postpartum nutrition. 

Besides building an individualized nutrition plan for you, pregnancy nutritionists can provide insight into prenatal health topics, such as general wellness, acid reflux, gut health, and consuming the best nutrients for breastfeeding

Pregnancy is not one-dimensional; every pregnancy is a unique experience. Even if this is your third or fourth pregnancy, a registered dietitian trained in prenatal nutrition can help you reduce nausea, heartburn, bloating, and acid reflux symptoms, which can vary significantly from pregnancy to pregnancy.

Your nutritionist can help you feel more confident in your body and provide techniques for increasing energy levels, reducing stress, and getting better sleep. They can also help you feel more positive, resilient, and prepared for various stages of pregnancy and delivery.

What Is the Difference Between a Pregnancy Nutritionist and a Pregnancy Dietitian?

While a pregnancy nutritionist and a pregnancy dietitian have similar roles, there are some differences between the two positions. Ideally, pregnancy nutritionists and dietitians should have nutritional insight specific to pregnant women and know the best ways to help them throughout their pregnancies. However, they have different ways of helping expectant mothers due to varying levels of training. 

Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, or even a pregnancy nutritionist, without formal training. On the other hand, a registered dietitian has completed a rigorous degree as well as thousands of hours of a supervised clinical internship. They have also passed a national examination and earned a license. 

All registered dietitians are nutritionists, and registered dietitians who call themselves pregnancy nutritionists have also completed additional training in prenatal health. At Top Nutrition Coaching, all of our pregnancy nutritionists have credentials as registered dietitians (RDs) or registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), so you can rest assured that all experts on our team have the extensive experience to meet your needs.

What are the Credentials of a Pregnancy Nutritionist?

There are several steps an individual must go through to earn credentials as a registered dietitian. Many healthcare providers will only work with pregnancy nutritionists who have completed the following steps to ensure they are well-trained in prenatal and pregnancy nutrition.

Earn a bachelor's degree in nutrition

Like all registered dietitians, pregnancy nutritionists must earn a bachelor's degree in nutrition or a related academic subject. This degree lays the foundation they need to develop a basic understanding of how the human body works and uses food as fuel. 

A bachelor's degree in nutrition is the starting point for all registered dietitian nutritionists, regardless of the specialty they eventually choose for their career. Nutritionists have the opportunity to narrow their field of study and often take courses related to their desired career path to ensure they're well-prepared for the future. For aspiring pregnancy nutritionists, this means taking classes on prenatal and postpartum health and nutrition.

Additional education and training in prenatal nutrition

There are many aspects of prenatal nutrition that a nutritionist-in-training must understand before they practice nutrition. An experienced pregnancy nutritionist can help pregnant women with gut health, proper weight gain, acid reflux, overall wellness, and more. This knowledge is essential to ensuring that the pregnancy nutritionist can properly help mothers-to-be, no matter how complex their pregnancy may be. 

Some nutritionists may have the option to take prenatal nutrition courses as part of their bachelor's degree in nutrition, or they may decide to take classes after earning their undergraduate degree. 

Professional or internship experience

Many programs are available to help registered dietitians expand their knowledge of prenatal nutrition. Some nutritionists may participate in an internship that involves working with pregnant women. In addition to earning the proper credentials as a pregnancy nutritionist, nutritionists who complete internships develop compassion, knowledge, and best practices regarding prenatal or pregnancy nutrition. 

The internship experience encourages pregnancy nutritionists to build a deeper, more personal understanding of what expectant mothers need. An internship also often furthers the nutritionist's knowledge of the best ways to support and interact with clients while providing hands-on opportunities to develop their understanding of pregnancy nutrition in a professional setting. 

What Are the Benefits of Working with a Pregnancy Nutritionist?

Working with a pregnancy nutritionist has many significant benefits, such as improving the client's peace of mind, bringing expert knowledge to a potentially challenging situation, and providing individualized attention and nutrition advice.

Peace of Mind

Working with a pregnancy nutritionist can offer you unparalleled peace of mind regarding your and your growing baby's health. There are so many aspects of diet and nutrition to remember when pregnant. Rather than doing hours of research on your own, a pregnancy nutritionist can help funnel you information on ideal foods, portion sizes, and essential micronutrients, giving you a sense of calm during your pregnancy. 

Expert Knowledge

When you decide to work with a pregnancy nutritionist, you will receive medically sound nutritional advice regarding your growing baby's health. A pregnancy nutritionist will understand your specific dietary needs and be aware of the nutrients necessary for a healthy pregnancy. 

Your registered dietitian will make it easy for you to meet the nutritional requirements for folic acid, calcium, iron, and other vitamins and minerals during your pregnancy. These experts in prenatal and postnatal nutrition can also help you plan for the best postpartum diet for you.

One-on-one Help

When you choose to work with a pregnancy nutritionist, you will receive one-on-one guidance from a nutrition expert. They will be available to answer any question or concern that you might have, no matter how minor. They will be a compassionate and supportive presence throughout your pregnancy, as well as a sounding board to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

An Individualized Plan

A pregnancy nutritionist will work with you to create an individualized plan that meets your nutritional needs and those of your growing baby. There is an incredible amount of information available to anyone with internet access, but this information can be misleading or generic. When you work with a nutritionist specializing in pregnancy, you'll get a plan tailored to your food preferences, allergies, likes, and dislikes.

Am I a Good Candidate to Work with a Pregnancy Nutritionist?

You might choose to work with a pregnancy nutritionist for many reasons. Here are a few things to consider before you decide if this is the best path for you. 

Symptom Management

Pregnancy has many potential symptoms, including heartburn, painful bloating, acid reflux, nausea, morning sickness, and more. If you choose to work with a nutritionist who specializes in helping pregnant women, they can help you reduce these common yet unpleasant symptoms. Your nutritionist will help you understand which foods are best for your pregnancy symptoms and which can exacerbate them. 

Avoid Complications

You may be worried about developing certain health complications while pregnant. A prenatal nutritionist can help you avoid certain complications and ease your anxiety about them. Some mothers may fear or be at risk of developing preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or having a baby that isn't the proper birth weight.

Alongside appropriate medical care from your doctor or midwife, a pregnancy nutritionist can guide you toward a healthy diet that lessens the likelihood of developing complications that can create potentially dangerous scenarios for you and your baby. 

Reduce the Risk of Deficiencies

As a pregnant woman, it's essential to ensure that your body takes in the correct micronutrients. Nutrient deficiencies can have lasting adverse effects on your baby's development and long-term health. A pregnancy nutritionist helps you prevent nutrient deficiencies while pregnant by analyzing your lab results and determining which foods best nourish you and your baby. 

Take the Guesswork Out of Pregnancy

Have peace of mind putting your nutrition—and your baby’s—in expert hands. Nutrition counseling during pregnancy is an excellent way to ensure you’re staying healthy while growing your little one. 

At Top Nutrition Coaching, our pregnancy nutritionists are on standby to meet you! Get matched with a prenatal dietitian after taking our quiz.

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About the author

Nicolette Star Maggiolo, RD, LDN
I'm a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with education from Boston University and clinical training from both Brigham & Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I specialize in helping the military and non-military individuals embrace nutrition as a partner in both their mental and physical health.

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