When a woman is contemplating having a baby, all sorts of emotions are racing through their minds. The decision to have a child is one of the most momentous and scary things people ever do. The decision carries with it all sorts of joy but also responsibilities. One of these responsibilities is to be as healthy as possible before and during the pregnancy to give the baby his or her best chance at being healthy. This includes things like avoiding alcohol and other substances which are known to be harmful to the health of the newborn. You should not eat too much of certain kinds of fish since there may be too much mercury. It also includes making sure you do have all the nutrients required for the baby to develop properly. Women who are pregnant have additional needs for these nutrients over and above the normal requirements.
It is agreed among health professionals that the best source of all nutrients is the diet, but many moms-to-be struggle with eating a perfect diet at some point in the pregnancy with morning sickness and other issues complicating the problem. It is important that pregnant women are conscious about the nutrients which might be deficient during these times.
Calcium is very important to help build teeth and bones. It is also involved in other functions of the body like nerves. Dietary sources include dairy and sardines. If a supplement is needed, some forms like calcium citrate are better and more easily absorbed than the calcium carbonate commonly found on drug store shelves. You need about 1000mg of calcium daily while pregnant.
Vitamin D aids the absorption and utilization of calcium to help build the baby’s teeth and bones. If you are not deficient in Vitamin D, about 600 units per day is recommended.
B-vitamins, especially Vitamins B-6, B-12, and folic acid are essential for red blood cell formation and maintenance of nerves. The folic acid, or folate, also has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the brain and spinal cord. The Birth defect Spina Bifida is directly linked to deficiency of folic acid in the mother’s diet. For folic acid the recommendation for healthy adults is 400 micrograms per day which increases to 600 micrograms per day during pregnancy.
Iron is also required in additional amounts for pregnancy. It is found in red meats, dried beans, peas and iron-fortified cereals. Pregnant women need about 27mg of iron per day.
Vitamin A is also required for proper fetal development. It is needed for healthy skin, bone growth, and eyesight and is found in sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, and carrots. We have to be very careful getting Vitamin A in a supplement form because excess amounts higher than the recommended amount has been involved in birth defects. An alternative method would be to supplement the beta carotene form of vitamin A which has to be converted to active Vitamin A within the body rather than use the pre-formed, active Vitamin A directly.
Vitamin C is also important during pregnancy and is found in citrus fruit, tomatoes, broccoli, and strawberries.
Most obstetricians suggest that women take a prenatal vitamin containing these nutrients. For the health of the baby, it is critical to get these nutrients along with adequate protein and essential fatty acids.