Pregnancy

10 Most Important Pregnancy Nutrients For a Wholesome Baby Development

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Have you ever wondered why most pregnancy issues and hiccups tend to be similar across many women?

Well,

Ask any pregnant woman in their third trimester, and they will tell you almost similar stories.

The back pain. The hip and joint pain. Leg swelling, thyroid issues, and so forth.

During my 3rd pregnancy, I experience many challenges.

I remember waking up one day, and I couldn’t move my legs. The hip and joint pain were too much. Mind you, neither had I done strenuous jobs nor walk in stilettoes. And don’t even think of telling me I spent a lot of time lazing around. No, I tried to be as active as I could.

So what factors could contribute to this pain and emotional instability during pregnancy?

There are so many factors that contribute to pregnancy sickness and discomfort. And I mean as many as the symptoms.

One of them is poor nutrition that does not offer the daily demands of your body and the baby. Once the storage of these nutrients in your body is deprived, you start feeling the symptoms.

This post highlights the essential vitamins and minerals every pregnant woman should never miss in their diet.

Here we go.

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The Most Important Vitamins and Minerals During Pregnancy

1. Iron for the Production of Red Blood Cells

Let me ask you, mama. Have you sometimes woken up during your pregnancy and felt dizziness or lightheadedness?

Or better still, do you always feel unexplained fatigue, body weakness, shortness of breath after taking a few steps, mild but persistent headaches, or even cravings for chewing ice?

Well, you could be suffering from iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy.

According to Mayo Clinic, pregnant women have a higher risk of developing iron deficiency anemia.

Your body needs more iron for more blood that can supply oxygen to the two of you; mother and baby.

However, if you do not have adequate levels of iron, depletion in your body storage may happen along the way. This will cause low blood production and less oxygen distribution, resulting in pregnancy anemia.

As a result, you’ll suffer from frequent dizziness, headache, and weakness

But that is not all.

Iron deficiency anemia may increase the risk of premature birth for your developing baby. Delivery may occur as early as before 37 weeks.

Similarly, you may risk having a low birth weight baby and postpartum depression.

In severe conditions, some studies suggest an increased risk of infant death immediately before or after birth.

What risk factors may predispose you to iron deficiency during pregnancy?

  • You have closely spaced pregnancies
  • You are expecting more than one baby
  • You are suffering from severe vomiting due to morning sickness
  • Your diet plan does not offer enough iron-rich foods
  • You have suffered from  anemia before

 How can you prevent iron deficiency conditions during pregnancy?

The answer is simple. Eat foods and supplements rich in iron.

According to medics, you need 27 milligrams of iron per day. And you can adequately get these irons in a daily diet.

Consequently, Prenatal vitamins containing iron may supply you with the recommended dose.

If your iron deficiency has hit a critical stage, your professional health provider may recommend an iron supplement that suits your needs.

Good nutrition and Dietary sources of iron may include;

  • Animal proteins that are easily absorbed, like lean red meat, poultry, and fish.
  • Iron-fortified breakfast cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans, and peas.

To better absorb iron from plant sources, incorporate food containing vitamin C — like orange juices and strawberries. Similarly, you may go for a vegan iron supplement with vitamin C, such as Naturelo Vegan Iron Supplement
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2. Calcium for the Formation of Strong Bones

Calcium is another essential nutrient during pregnancy. This nutrient is necessary for the formation and maintaining healthy bones and teeth for mommy and baby.

Remember, your baby is developing. It thus needs calcium to form bones, teeth, and the entire skeleton.

But where does your baby get its calcium?

From you, mama. During pregnancy, the baby gets all its calcium from its mother regardless of whether your intake is adequate.

If you take the recommended calcium dose, both of you will be safe. However, if the system has depleted your reservoir, it will only ensure that that baby gets what it needs, leaving you with so little.

And that is when you start getting tooth cavities, weakened bones, or an increased risk of osteoporosis later in life.

What happens if you don’t take calcium during pregnancy?

Lack of enough calcium in pregnancy increases your risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes brittle bones.

Although you may still recover lost bone mass after childbirth and breastfeeding, it’s exceptionally recommended that you get enough calcium to avoid the risks altogether. After role, once you lose a tooth, it becomes impossible to recover.

How do you know whether you’re suffering from calcium deficiency during pregnancy?

If you’re suffering from severe calcium deficiency, you may experience the following symptoms;

  • High blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Premature or low birth weight.
  • Finger Numbness.
  • Retarded baby growth
  • Heart problems.
  • Muscle and leg cramps.

So what is the deal?

  • To eat foods rich in calcium. These foods may include leafy greens, fortified dairy products, nuts, and seeds.
  • Get a prenatal vitamin that contains the required daily dose of calcium
  • Get a calcium supplement like Calcium carbonate or Calcium citrate

When should a pregnant woman start taking calcium supplements?

You should ensure you get adequate calcium throughout the pregnancy. However, it’s essential to know that in the third trimester, there is vigorous growth and bone formation for the fetus.

This fetal development may pose an increased need for calcium.

Calcium deficiency in the last three months may increase your risk of hypertension and preeclampsia. It’s thus crucial that you ingest the recommended dose.

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3. Folate and Folic Acid for the Formation of Neural Tube

Folic acid is a B vitamin crucial for your baby’s development. Although everyone needs folic acid to regenerate new cells in their bodies, women of reproductive age, like pregnant women, need more.

In the early days of baby formation, folic acid helps form the neural tube. The neural tube is responsible for developing the brain and spine.

Folic acid is crucially at this stage to help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain, nervous system, and spine (spina bifida).

According to medics, 400 mcg of iron daily may be adequate for pregnant women. And you can obtain this amount of iron from your diet or supplements.

How do you get enough folic acid for a healthy pregnancy?

Good sources of folate include beef liver, beans, citrus, dark green vegetables, and fortified cereals.

Also, pregnant women are encouraged to start antenatal clinics early so their health providers can recommend a desirable folic supplement for proper baby development.

What are the symptoms of folic acid deficiency during pregnancy?

  • Persisted tiredness or fatigue.
  • paraesthesia
  • Sores in the mouth
  • muscle weakness.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Moodswings, depression, and confusion.

When is folic acid most important during pregnancy?

According to CDC, birth defects of the baby occur in the early days of pregnancy. Roughly between 3-4 weeks after conception. This is when their brain or spine are actively forming or developing, yet most women will have hardly realized that they are pregnant.

The CDC advocates for continuous intake of folic acids for all women of reproductive age so that even if you get unplanned pregnancy, your body will still be positioned to aid a healthy baby’s development. You should thus start taking daily folic acid supplements before conception until at least 12 weeks of pregnancy.

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4. Iodine for Thyroid Hormone Synthesis

According to NIH, pregnant women need iodine for thyroid hormone synthesis. Iodine is also crucial for normal neurodevelopment in babies.

Iodine deficiency during pregnancy has been associated with infant neurologic and psychological development impairments.

What does a lack of iodine do to a fetus?

Iodine is a crucial mineral for making thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate body metabolism, bone formation, and brain development during pregnancy.

NIH associates severe iodine deficiency in pregnant women with permanently causing stunted growth in the fetus, intellectual disability, and delayed sexual development.

Additionally, Less severe iodine deficiency may result in lower-than-average IQ in children and may persist even in adulthood

Symptoms of lack of iodine

  • Neck swelling
  • Weakness
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Thin hair
  • Trouble remembering thing
  • Feeling colder most of the time
  • Dry  skin

How do you obtain iodine during pregnancy?

You can find iodine in iodized salt. Also, certain foods like sea fish and dairy products may offer a significant level of iodine in your body.

Ensure you use iodized salt or products that are labeled “iodized” when cooking. Eating fish like tuna, shrimp, and cods in moderation may be a plus for you

5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Baby Brain and Retina

Do you want a baby with an excellent brain and sharp eyes? Well, consume adequate omega- 3 fatty acids.

According to the National Library of Medicine, low intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy can lead to visual and behavioral deficits in infants.

And these effect is not reversible even with the consumption of postnatal supplementation at a later stage. That is according to research done on animals in the recent past.

Fetal brain growth begins during the third week of gestation and accelerates in the second half of pregnancy. The infant’s brain growth rate remains high during the first year of life and continues even into later years.

For this reason, you must ensure that you have adequate omega -3 during your pregnancy and when breastfeeding.

Omega-3 fatty acids are critical building blocks of the fetal brain and retina. They also play a critical role in determining the gestation period and reducing the risk of perinatal depression.

The biological forms of these essential fatty acids are EPA and DHA and are easily found in marine sources such as seafood and algae.

You may consider consuming fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and herring. If you are concerned about organic mercury or other toxins that could harm your fetus, try sticking to 2 servings of these types of fish in a week.

Also,  fish oil supplements, flax seed oil, and vegetable oils may be safe and healthy options to offer your baby the requisite EPA and DHA.

When should you start taking omega-3 during pregnancy?

Start taking omega-3 as early as you notice that you are pregnant. Studies show that fetus brain formation starts at about three weeks of gestation.

During this time, there is a division of neural progenitor cells. And it goes a long way to form the basis of the nervous system. For this reason, medics advise pregnant women to ensure they get recommended dose of omega-3 from the early days of pregnancy and during breastfeeding.

Can you have too much omega-3?

Since omega 3- fatty acids are lipids that are not synthesized in the body, it’s crucial to ingest them through diet and supplements. AGOG advocates a daily dose of about  200–1200 mg/d. Thus, you may invest in an optimal daily dose of about  500 to 1000mg/d, considered safe in pregnancy.

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6. Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)

Why do you need vitamin C during pregnancy?

Besides fortifying your immunity, vitamin C is essential for forming healthy gums, strong bones, teeth, and ligaments.

Additionally, it may enhance iron absorption, especially for vegetarians, and may prevent infections.

Vitamin C is an immune booster, and lack of it may predispose you to recurring illnesses. Other symptoms of vitamin C deficiency during pregnancy may include unexplained fatigue, gum inflammation, dry skin, and slow-healing of minor wounds

Since your body does not store vitamin C, you must consume them daily to meet the demands of pregnancy.

The dietitians recommend a daily dose of about 85mg for pregnant women, which you can get from the following types of food.

  • citrus fruits ( lemon or lime)
  • tomatoes
  • berries
  • bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • leafy green vegetables

Related: 13 Costly Pregnancy Mistakes to Avoid if you want a Healthy Baby

7. Vitamin A and D

Vitamin A is crucial during pregnancy for healthy skin and eyesight formation. These vitamins are readily found in Carrots, green leafy vegetables, and sweet potatoes.

On the other hand, D vitamins significantly affect the formation of a fetus’s bones and teeth, and you can get them from morning or evening sunlight.

Do you want your baby to have healthy skin and excellent eyesight? Eat more vitamin A.

Similarly, vitamin D works together with calcium, and it will be your best bait if you want a strong baby with healthy teeth, gums, and bones.

Vitamin D deficiency may also increase your risk of undergoing a cesarean section, having preeclampsia, preterm birth, and gestational diabetes.

While your skin may synthesize vitamin D from sun exposure, it may not be adequate in pregnancy. You must also eat foods rich in vitamin D like fatty fish, egg yolks, fish liver oils, and foods fortified with milk or cereals.

8. Zinc Mineral

Do you know zinc deficiency during pregnancy may cause preterm birth or even prolong labor? Well, that is according to one study that sought to determine the significance of zinc minerals during pregnancy.

Zinc is a mineral that plays a crucial role in constructing fetus cells and DNA during pregnancy. It aids in cell division and tissue growth, thus, supporting fetal growth and development.

Additionally, Zinc is essential for boosting immunity. Likewise, Zinc deficiency may contribute to recurring illnesses in pregnant women.

How much Zinc does a pregnant woman need?

NIH recommends that women of reproductive age consume at least 8 milligrams of Zinc daily. However, your body needs more during pregnancy. Thus, NIH recommends 11-12 milligrams ​of Zinc per day for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

How do you know whether you’re suffering from zinc deficiency?

Symptoms of zinc deficiency during pregnancy may include:

  • Hair loss and color change in your nails.
  • Persisted diarrhea.
  • Recurring infections due to weak immunity
  • Inability to control your moods /feeling irritable.
  • Loss of appetite and inability to taste food
  • impaired vision or eye problems.
  • Retaded growth in infants
  • poor immune system function
  • lack of alertness
  • unexplained weight loss
  • getting preterm babies

How do you get the required amount of Zinc during pregnancy?

As a pregnant woman, you may obtain your daily required amount of Zinc through diet and supplements.

A dietary change that includes foods rich in zinc minerals is the best way to fortify your body with this vital mineral.

The US Agricultural department provides a comprehensive list of foods that contain Zinc, and it includes;

  • red and white meat
  • seeds and nuts
  • whole grains like wheat germ, wild rice
  • legumes
  • oysters

Similarly, you may treat your zinc deficiency with supplements. This can be a prenatal multivitamin supplement with Zinc or a specific zinc supplement.

If you choose a supplement to boost the level of Zinc in your body, be sure to consult, especially if you’re on other medication. Zinc can interact with some antibiotics or arthritis medications.

Related: 12 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going Into Labor and Childbirth

9. Choline

Do you want your baby’s brain to develop appropriately? Well, ingest more of Choline.

Choline is a vital nutrient that enhances a baby’s brain development during pregnancy. It plays a crucial role in preventing developmental abnormalities of the brain and spine in the fetus.

One research suggests that a pregnant woman’s recommended choline intake is closer to 930 mg daily. And you can adequately obtain this nutrient with a proper diet and supplements. Some foods that contain high Choline include;

  • beef liver
  • eggs
  • mushrooms
  • soybeans
  • kidney beans

Remember that most prenatal vitamins don’t contain Choline. So look for one that does as Mega Food baby and Me prenatal Supplement.

Ensure you check the indicated quantity; if it falls below the daily recommendation, you may buy a separate choline supplement. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider to ensure the amount is right for you.

10. Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral for maintaining the normal functioning of the nerve system and muscle cells.

Also, you require Mg to regulate body temperature, nucleic acid, and protein synthesis.

In pregnancy, Mg is an essential mineral that promotes the growth of the fetus, reduces the risk of preeclampsia, and may also help regulate blood sugar levels.

Although it is never included in most prenatal supplements, Mg shouldn’t be something to worry you.

The recommended upper limit of this mineral during pregnancy is about 300 mg. Which you can adequately get in your daily diet.

The best food sources of magnesium are greens, nuts, seeds, dry beans, and whole grains. This can include;

  • seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, and almonds
  • wheat germ
  • tofu
  • spinach
  • cashew nuts
  • black beans

Related: 13 Natural Remedies for Vaginal Dryness During Pregnancy and After Childbirth

3 Best and Critical Supplements for a Healthy Pregnancy

Prenatal Vitamins

The demand for micro nutrients during pregnancy is high; that is where prenatal vitamins come in.

According to medics, prenatal vitamins are a unique multivitamin formulated to meet the increased micro nutrient body demand during pregnancy.

These vitamins are never meant to replace a proper diet for pregnant women; instead, they help prevent nutritional gaps, which, if ignored, can negatively impact both mother and the baby.

According to the Mayo Clinic, prenatal vitamins may reduce the risk of preterm birth and preeclampsia. It serves to improve the general well-being of a mother and the fetus.

Ideally, you should be on your prenatal vitamin before conception. And it is recommended that you take the vitamins during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Often, Prenatal vitamins are prescribed by professional health providers based on your body’s needs and are available over-the-counter.

Since they are multivitamins, they consist of other vitamins and minerals. For this reason, it may not be necessary to take additional vitamin or mineral supplements unless your health care provider suggests.

What should you look for when choosing a prenatal supplement?

  • Nutrition content; ensure you choose a supplement with a wide range of vitamins to meet your pregnancy needs.
  • Ingredients; Ensure that your supplements are made from quality ingredients. You may want to stick to natural ingredients that are free from additives.
  • Testing and approval; Always buy supplements that have been tested and approved by a third-party organization. This will give you confidence about their safety.

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Fish oil supplements with (docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

Do you want to enhance the proper development of your baby’s brain?

Well,

Fish oil supplement may be your best bait.

With an abundance content of DHA and EPA essential fatty acids, medics often recommend fish oil in pregnancy to enhance your baby’s brain development.

Taking Supplementing with DHA and EPA like fish oil in pregnancy has been associated with boosting post-pregnancy brain development and improved cognitive function in infants.

Though inconclusive, some studies suggest that supplements with DHA and EPA may decrease maternal depression.

Probiotics Supplements

Probiotics are living microorganisms that are beneficial to women’s health. According to studies,  most women use probiotics for vaginal and gut health.

These microorganisms help keep your gut and vagina healthy by preventing the overgrowth of harmful organisms. Also, they help restore a balance between good and harmful bacteria, especially after prolonged use of antibiotics.

But you may be wondering,

Why do you need probiotics during pregnancy?

Research suggests that using probiotics during pregnancy may reduce the risk of pregnancy complications, gestational diabetes, eczema in infants, and postpartum depression.

And that is not all.

Pregnant women suffer from compromised immunity due to changes in the body’s metabolism. Likewise, opportunistic infections like vaginal yeast and diarrhea can easily throw you off balance. That is why you must fortify the bacterial balance in your gut with healthy probiotics.

If you’re wondering about their safety during pregnancy, the answer is simple. Yes, probiotics are safe, and you can use them in pregnancy.

Research and studies suggest that when used in moderation, probiotics have no adverse effect on pregnancy.

How do you choose a probiotic?

The key factor to consider when choosing a probiotic is its intended use. For a pregnant woman, probiotics may be intended to enhance gut health and boost immunity. That is why going for a product like Dr.Formulated probiotics with multi-strains may be the best option to improve your health.

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Take Away

Vitamins and minerals are a must-have during pregnancy. They help in the baby’s development and the general well-being of your body.

Have a diet plan that incorporates all the necessary nutrients. Consequently, ensure that you start your prenatal clinics early enough. Doing so may enable your health care provider to assess any anomalies and put you on appropriate treatment.

Above all, do not forget to take your prenatal supplement as they feel the nutritional gaps, especially if you cannot eat well in the first trimester due to nausea.

The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. I’m not a health practitioner and as such, this information should not be used as a substitute for consultation with your professional service provider.

 

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Irene Twala
As a freelance writer and a mompreneur, Irene helps mothers to hone their parental skills, learn how to start and run an online business while taking care of their health.

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