Nutrition in pregnancy is essential to ensuring that both the mother and fetus stay healthy throughout the pregnancy. A balanced diet is the best way for your baby to receive nutrients during the pregnancy. Vitamins should only be used to ensure you are receiving the proper amount of nutrients and should not in any way replace a healthy diet.
A healthy diet is one that consists of a variety of organic vegetables, organic fruits, proteins, and fats. Calories are very important for pregnant women therefore for most women, weight loss should not be attempted during pregnancy. Calories provide energy, aid in the expansion of red blood cells, as well as aid in the growth of the uterus and breasts. Excessive calorie intake can be detrimental leading to complication related to obesity. Your obstetrician will closely monitor your weight to ensure normal pregnancy weight gain and counsel against excessive fat accumulation.
Some of the nutrients important in pregnancy are listed below. Many are contained in a quality pre-natal vitamin.
- Vitamins: Its important to note that vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble meaning they are better absorbed if you consume these vitamins with meals that contain fat.
- Vitamin A – Important for reproduction, healthy skin, and promoting normal vision. There are 2 types of Vitamin A. The first type is found in meat, poultry, fish and dairy. The second type is more heavily found in fruits and vegetables.
- Vitamin C – Aids in the absorption of iron which is needed to make red blood cells. This can be found in many of the citrusy fruits.
- Vitamin D – Vital in the development of fetal teeth and bone as well as necessary for metabolism of calcium and phosphorus. The best sources of Vitamin D is the sun although we don’t recommend more then 10 minutes of direct sunlight daily. Fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, and cod liver oil contain vitamin D. We do recommend you have your Vitamin D level tested before and during pregnancy as many patients in the Northeast have low Vitamin D.
- Vitamin E – A very potent antioxidant that helps in maintaining cell integrity. Vitamin E is found in a variety of foods including wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts and mangos.
- Vitamin K – Aids in the prevention of neonatal bleeding. Often found in green leafy vegetables.
- B6–Helps to prevent morning sickness, preeclampsia, and diabetes. Should not be taken in excess. Fish and starchy vegetables like potatoes are a great source of Vitamin B6.
- B12 – Functions in protein metabolism and DNA synthesis. B12 is mainly found in animal products such as fish, poultry, meat and eggs. If you are a vegan or vegetarian you may be low in vitamin B12.
- Minerals are also important throughout your pregnancy.
- Iron- The fetus consumes maternal iron stores to make red blood cells. It is important that the mom consults with her healthcare practitioner for the amount of iron she should be taking to help prevent anemia and other iron deficiency conditions.
- Folate/ Folic acid-Helps prevent neural tube defects and low birth weight infants. It also prevents certain types of anemia and increases protein effectiveness in the body. Make sure you are taking the right form for you, as folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and not right for everyone. We recommend folinic acid for most women although there are patients who should be using Methylfolate. A simple functional medicine blood test can help determine which form of folic acid is right for you.
- Calcium- Another mineral important to supplement during pregnancy as it has been found to increase bone mineral density in offspring. Recommended dose are usually between 900-1200mg/day. Your calclium level can be monitored through bloodwork. Excess calcium should be avoided as it can lead to kidney stones in some patients. Nutrient monitorin in general is important in pregnancy.
- Zinc-Necessary for DNA and protein synthesis as well as for the prevention of congenital malformations.
- Besides vitamins and minerals, Omega 3 acids such as DHA, play a vital role in the development of the brain, central nervous system, and visual system. Fetuses rely on DHA from their mother so it is imperative that the mother has adequate intake in her diet and supplements. Selecting a quality Omega 3 supplement is important to ensure that if consuming Fish Oil, it has been properly tested for mercury. Brands do matter. You would not want to take Omega 3 supplements from brands sold at Walmart, Costco or BJ’s. Mercury tested brands are essential if considering any fish oil supplement.
- Choline is an essential for proper brain development. Studies have shown that high choline diets during pregnancy resulted in improved cognitive function in offspring.
- Probiotics have shown to reduce the risk of allergies and eczema in offspring during pregnancy. These are also important because infants are born with a sterile intestinal tract. The mother’s flora is needed to build the intestinal flora of the baby. A quality probiotic can be recommended and is suggested especially if the mother has any gastrointestinal concerns before or during pregnancy.
All supplements should be prescribed by your healthcare provider or under direct supervision of a healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider before changing or including supplements in your daily routine.