During pregnancy, a woman needs to be aware of her nutritional needs. Her immune system can weaken, making her more vulnerable to common infections like influenza, cough, and colds. Pregnancy can also cause a woman to tire easily, and other areas of her health are affected.
It is vitally important at this time that her nutrition and dietary requirements are met! It is also important to remember that the unborn child can also be affected by the mother’s own health care. The mother should be extra careful since everything she does can affect her growing baby.
If you are finding you are sensitive to certain smells or foods, or coping with morning sickness and unable to keep much of your food down, investing in a good prenatal vitamin is one of the best things you can do.
Here are just some of the basic nutritional requirements that can assist a healthy pregnancy.
Essential Fatty Acids
Not only do Essential Fatty Acids contribute to glowing skin, and healthy hair, they are vital for fetal brain development. Make sure you and your baby have the healthiest brains possible and be sure take some oily fish supplements. We generally do not get enough in our diet and most multi-vitamin formulas do not include DHA or EPA, therefore, a separate supplement is required.
Folic acid or Folate is part of the B complex vitamins. It is recommended that all women of child-bearing age supplement with Folic Acid.
Folic acid is a vitamin found in oranges, whole grains, broccoli, spinach, chick peas, asparagus, kidney beans, liver, fortified cereals, tofu, peanuts, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and squash.
Sadly, a deficiency can lead to neural tube birth defects such as Spina bifida (occurs when the spine does not develop normally) and Anencephaly (occurs when the brain and the skull do not develop normally).
Neural tube defects are believed to occur 25 to 29 days into the pregnancy, and unfortunately, many women do not even realize they are pregnant at this time. Plus, a lack of folic acid may result in low birth weight or premature delivery.
Many professionals feel once women stop taking ‘the pill’, they should immediately begin taking Folic Acid. Don’t forget to read the multi-vitamin label. If you are pregnant, look for a pre-natal vitamin that contains at least 1mg of Folic Acid.
Taking prenatal vitamins and supplements can certainly help provide the required amount of folate. Therefore, it is recommended to supplement with Folic Acid during your child-bearing years; especially since it is difficult to attain the correct amounts from diet alone.
Iron and Calcium
When you are pregnant, you need iron and calcium in order to support the baby’s developing bones and teeth, and cardiovascular system.
Iron helps increase blood volume and prevent anemia. Calcium is an important mineral needed by the baby’s skeletal development. It is also essential for the muscular, circulatory and nervous system.
Ensuring you have enough will keep you both healthy and strong.
Food sources of iron include cabbage, lettuce, spinach, collard greens and turnips. Foods rich in calcium include dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, salmon, broccoli, beans and calcium-fortified orange juice. It’s very important to note that you also need magnesium to help calcium absorption.
Herbs high in iron include: Yellow dock, nettles, porridge/oats, chickweed, dandelion leaves, and horsetail.
Herbs high in calcium include: Nettles, comfrey, horsetail, sesame seeds and watercress.
Vitamins – B12, C and D
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is important for brain function and the nervous system of both mother and child.
Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and development. Vitamin D promotes the growth of strong, healthy bones. Good sources of vitamin D are fatty fish and getting out in the early morning sun.
Vitamin C helps boost the immune system, which tends to be more sensitive when pregnant. It also helps heal wounds faster, teeth and bone development of the fetus and promotes proper metabolic processes. Citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C.
Due to the rapid multiplication of cells, there is a high need for zinc during pregnancy. A deficiency has been linked to painful labor and low birth weight.
There are many vitamins and minerals that a pregnant woman needs for a safe and healthy pregnancy. If necessary, vitamin and mineral supplements are helpful when nutritional requirements are not met.
However, following a healthy diet assists the growth and development of the fetus and keeps the mother healthy too, and the total health of both mother and child starts with good nutrition.