Support a Healthy Pregnancy With These 4 Vitamins
Proper nutrition during pregnancy can be tricky. Between the intense nausea, not-so-nutritious cravings, and lack of motivation to cook, getting all of the essential nutrients for a healthy pregnancy can seem impossible.
Nutrients provide the building blocks for a new life, not to mention the fuel to help keep an expectant mother healthy and able to get out of bed in the morning. Several dietary supplements are necessary to support optimal health.
A quality prenatal vitamin should not cause any added nausea or indigestion. Choose a vitamin that is free of artificial colors or flavors, hydrogenated oils, or artificial sweeteners. Vitamins that are food-based are easier to digest and not as likely to cause discomfort.
Some prenatal vitamins also contain herbs, such as raspberry leaf. Although many herbalists support the use of raspberry leaf during pregnancy, conflicting scientific evidence brings its benefits into question.
Many prenatal vitamins also contain ginger. Ginger is a spice that is helpful in relieving nausea and also works as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Fish oil is rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is found in large amounts in the brain and eyes, and is essential for the healthy development of these vital organs. A deficiency in DHA has been shown to adversely affect birth weight, brain function, and future learning development.
Plenty of DHA is important for a mother’s health as well. A developing or nursing baby tends to deplete the mother of her DHA stores. A deficiency in DHA may result in postpartum depression.
An added benefit of taking fish oil is that it can bring relief to inflamed joints. A natural anti-inflammatory like omega-3 can help to alleviate joint pain.
According to The American Pregnancy Association, pregnant and lactating women should take 300 mg of DHA per day.
Folate is essential for the healthy development of fetal nerve cells. It is recommended that anyone who is planning to become pregnant should supplement with folate before conception.
Many women make the mistake of thinking that their prenatal has enough folate to help prevent neural tube defects. Unfortunately, most prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, the synthetic form found in nature only in small amounts.
In order for the body to use folic acid, it first must be converted into tetrahydrofolate using dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR). Research has shown that this process is inefficient in humans, and folic acid that is not converted ends up in blood plasma and urine. People often carry excess amounts of folic acid as a result of eating fortified foods, like bread and pasta.
Dietary supplements that contain tetrahydrofolate or L-5-methyl tetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) are already in the active form of folic acid. Government guidelines suggest that pregnant women take 400 mcg of folate each day. This dose should be increased to 600 mcg for those who are already pregnant, and 500 mcg for those who are breastfeeding. Those who have already had a child with a neural tube defect should take larger doses.
Most prenatal vitamins contain 27 mg of iron, which is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) during pregnancy. Sometimes there are issues with absorption and an extra iron supplement is needed.
Many women struggle with low iron levels when they become pregnant. It is important to get levels tested in order to determine whether there is a need for an additional iron supplement.
Iron deficiency can be detrimental to the health of a developing baby and may result in a low birth weight or premature delivery. An iron-deficient mother may feel added fatigue, sluggishness, and “fuzzy-headed”.
There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron, found in meats and fish, is the most absorbable. Non-heme is found in foods like dried fruit and blackstrap molasses.
Desiccated liver is a good heme iron source that may be taken in tablets as a dietary supplement. Iron bisglycinate is a vegetarian form that is one of the more absorbable iron supplements. Both desiccated liver and iron biglycinate are easy on the digestive system and non-constipating.
The amount of supplemental iron that should be taken by a pregnant woman will be determined by her physician.
Optimal nutrition is the key to a healthy pregnancy. Diet is most important, but sometimes it can be difficult to meet all of the necessary requirements. A nutrition supplement regimen that includes a quality prenatal multivitamin, fish oil, folate, and iron will help keep both mother and baby happy and healthy.