Your nutritional intake during pregnancy has a great impact on your overall health and that of your baby. Whilst a balanced diet is the best way through which to obtain these nutritional requirements, vitamin supplements can also help.

If it’s normal for you to follow a healthy diet, then no drastic changes are required once you’re pregnant. This is what Karen Wright, Certified Nutrition Specialist and practitioner at Metro Integrative Pharmacy in New York City had to share on the importance of adequate vitamin and mineral intake.

Protein during pregnancy

Karen Wright, CNS: “An additional 25 grams of protein are needed during pregnancy for the baby’s growth.  Protein is used as a source of energy and for repair of important body parts like the brain and muscles. Studies have shown that babies whose mothers did not get adequate amounts of protein had a lower birth weight. Low birth weight is associated with a range of issues.”

Omega-3 fatty acids

Karen Wright, CNS: “Essential fatty acids are the main source of energy needed for fetal growth and development. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for the heart and for lowering the risk of preeclampsia. There are some studies showing that mothers with omega-3 deficiency had a higher risk of postpartum depression. DHA and EPA are critical for the development of cell membranes for the brain, retina and other neural tissue.”

Vitamin A

Karen Wright, CNS: “Vitamin A deficiency can cause malformation of the lungs, urinary tract, and heart. A mother with low vitamin A levels is at risk for anemia. After birth, vitamin A helps with postpartum tissue repair. Vitamin A is best gotten from food because too much can lead to toxicity. Deficiency is more likely to occur in the third trimester when nutrient needs are greater.”

Iodine and thyroid health

Karen Wright, CNS: “Iodine is needed for thyroid health. Deficiency while pregnant can cause hypothyroidism for the mother and impaired motor and mental development for the baby.”

The importance of vitamin D in pregnancy

Karen Wright, CNS: “Vitamin D is needed along with calcium to help the baby’s bones and teeth develop. It also reduces the risk of rickets. Vitamin D is important for the skin, eyesight, immune system and for reduction of inflammation. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. The risk of osteoporosis later on in life may increase if there is a deficiency of vitamin D during pregnancy.”

Calcium in pregnancy

Karen Wright, CNS: “Calcium is needed throughout the pregnancy to protect bones and maintain healthy blood pressure. During the third trimester, the fetus requires more calcium since this is the time when the bones are forming at a higher rate. A calcium deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk of hypertension and osteoporosis for the mom. The baby can be born with skeletal and teeth issues as well as rickets when calcium levels are low. Dairy is one source of calcium but many people are allergic to dairy.”

The importance of folate during pregnancy

Karen Wright, CNS: “Getting enough folate in the diet is important for neural tube and brain development, and organ and tissue growth. Though the synthetic form of folate, folic acid is often found in prenatal supplements, eating foods that contain folic acid on a regular basis will give added protection to the developing fetus. Anemia during pregnancy is also associated with low levels of folate.”

Magnesium

Karen Wright, CNS: “Lack of magnesium, especially in the second trimester, can cause the mother to have fatigue, muscle cramps and increased risk of hypertension. Premature birth is a problem associated with magnesium deficiency.”

Iron needs during pregnancy

Karen Wright, CNS: “Iron needs increase during pregnancy and because these needs are extremely important, a woman’s ability to absorb iron from food increases. If a woman is low in iron they are at a higher risk for low birth weight and preterm babies. Iron deficiency can cause anemia.”

Other dietary considerations during pregnancy

Karen Wright, CNS: “Vitamins, minerals and, antioxidants protect the fetus from damage. For example, low levels of zinc have been linked to birth defects and low birth weight. Vitamin E deficiency has been associated with birth defects and miscarriage. Constipation is often an issue for pregnant women. Consuming dietary fiber and water in adequate amounts addresses this issue. Staying hydrated can prevent urinary infections which are common during pregnancy.  Hydration needs increase while pregnant.”

Karen Wright is Certified Nutrition Specialist and practitioner at Metro Integrative Pharmacy in New York City.

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