Carrying a developing baby is arguably the most vital time in human development and there are certain nutrients to take while pregnant that will help to facilitate a healthy child. Pregnancy is a wonderful time in many women's lives- it's a miracle to be able to grow life inside of you, give birth to that life and then nourish it with your own body! Taking the proper steps to make sure your child has the best possible start in life is crucial. Apart from knowing what essential nutrients to take while pregnant, you'll also want to eat healthy, moderately exercise on a regular basis and avoid toxins as much as possible. Here is a list of some nutrients that are essential for fetal development and some cool facts about them!
1. Folic Acid
Folic acid, also known as Vitamin B9, is one of the extremely essential nutrients to take while pregnant. This nutrient is responsible for the normal production of red blood cells and the function and repair of DNA. During the first trimester, one of the first things to form is the neural tube, which eventually develops into the brain and spinal cord. When abnormalities occur, such as defects, it's usually in the very early stages of pregnancy before women even know they're pregnant. This is why it's important to take folic acid before you plan on getting pregnant, which reduces your baby's chances of a neural tube defects by 50-70%!
DHA is another brainy nutrient! DHA is an omega fatty acid that's found in fish and some fortified dairy products, or as a supplement. DHA is essential for normal brain and eye development and can even lower your risk of preterm labor, preeclampsia (a high blood pressure condition that can be serious) and postpartum depression. Eating 2 fish meals per week at most is a great way to get DHA in your diet, however be cautious because certain fish contain higher levels of mercury, which is a neurotoxin! Most prenatal vitamins now contain DHA so just check the labels.
3. Calcium & Magnesium
I know calcium and magnesium are two different nutrients, however they work well with each other in that magnesium aids in proper calcium absorption along side Vitamin D. Magnesium regulates protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function that aids in normal heart functioning, it reduces heart palpitations and gets rid of those pesky charley horses you get while pregnant! Calcium of course is ideal for proper bone health and development for a growing fetus. Calcium in a pregnant woman helps in maintaining normal blood pressure and reduces the risk of preeclampsia, so make sure you're getting your calcium and magnesium daily! I've also noticed that magnesium dramatically reduces my stress and anxiety levels- another benefit and necessity while carrying a child.
4. Vitamin D
If you don't live in a very sunny area of the world, then you're probably deficient in vitamin D. As mentioned before, Vitamin D works with calcium and magnesium for proper absorption so if you're deficient in Vitamin D, you won't be getting enough calcium and magnesium even if you're supplementing. Vitamin D not only maintains normal energy levels and supports a healthy immune system, but for a growing fetus it prevents bone growth abnormalities, low birth weight, and for the mother it lowers the chances of a C-section delivery and again, preeclampsia.
Iron is an essential blood nutrient and even more crucial when you're pregnant, and here's why: your body produces 50% more blood volume during pregnancy for the placenta and growing baby's demands, so naturally you will be needing more iron during this time! Iron is important for hemoglobin, myoglobin and collagen production- all related to blood, oxygen and connective tissue. Iron-related anemia is a risk in iron deficient pregnant women and can result in preterm labor and low birth rate.
6. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is amazing because it has been shown to alleviate symptoms of morning sickness! Apart from that bonus, it helps your body metabolize proteins, carbs and fats. As far as baby goes, B6 is vital for brain and nervous system development, as well as the formation of new red blood cells, antibodies and neurotransmitters. Most prenatal vitamins contain adequate amounts of B6, but you can also get this vitamin from beans, nuts, fish and lean meats.
7. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that has benefits when taken alongside folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects. It helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a certain type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people weak and tired. You should take more vitamin B12 while pregnant and there are even some studies that suggest babies born from mothers who took adequate amounts of B12 were up to 8 times less likely to cry excessively!
These are just some of the vitamins out there that are required for a healthy pregnancy (and for health in general). The best thing to do is to make sure you have a varied, healthy diet and take a prenatal vitamin that contains DHA. Did any of these facts surprise you? What other vitamins do you suggest to take for health benefits?