Top Tips for Pregnancy Nutrition
Which vitamins and nutrients are key to your baby's health?
Good nutrition during pregnancy improves your chances of having a
healthy baby. It may even reduce the risk of certain chronic conditions in your
child, long after he has grown.
Eating for Two During Pregnancy
Whether you waited months for a positive pregnancy test or this pregnancy
took you by surprise, you'll probably need to make over your eating habits.
Many women begin pregnancy with shortfalls of nutrients central to a healthy
pregnancy, including iron, calcium, and brain-building fats.
"Never in a woman's life is nutrition so important as when she's
pregnant and nursing," says Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, author of
Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy.
Indeed. Research suggests that, along with other healthy habits during
pregnancy, eating right influences a child's well-being at birth, and
"We've discovered that a child isn't only what she eats, but also what
you ate during pregnancy, and possibly what your mother ate," says Randy
Jirtle, PhD, a researcher in the field of epigenetics. Increasingly, research
shows that mom's lifestyle affects her baby's chances for conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Focus on Folic Acid During Pregnancy
Getting adequate folic acid is one way of helping your child become the
healthiest person possible. During the first month of pregnancy, folic acid
reduces the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida.
Be sure to take a daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms folic acid until
you replace it with a prescription prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement.
Choose grains fortified with folic acid, including breakfast cereals, breads,
rice, and pasta, every day too.
Multivitamins Have Multiple Effects During Pregnancy
Multivitamins do more than supply the necessary folic acid for growing
babies, according to a population study conducted at the University of
Researchers there found that women in early pregnancy who took a
multivitamin or prenatal vitamin regularly reduced their risk of preeclampsia by 45%. Preeclampsia, which causes
elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine, is a leading cause of
premature delivery and fetal death.
Despite the benefits, you may find swallowing pregnancy supplements
difficult. The pills are often large, and they contain high doses of iron that
can irritate your stomach and cause constipation.
"If you find yourself having trouble taking prenatal vitamins or you're
having unwanted side effects, talk to your doctor about other, safe
options," advises Jennifer Shu, MD, pediatrician and co-author of
Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality.
And always tell your doctor or midwife about all the dietary supplements you
take, including herbal remedies.
Make Calories Count During Pregnancy
During the first few months of pregnancy, you may not notice a big weight
Some women may even lose weight during the first trimester of pregnancy
because of queasiness that prevents them from eating and drinking normally.
Tell your doctor if you experience persistent vomiting or nausea – you may
become dehydrated. So-called morning sickness can last for the entire
pregnancy, but it typically starts to dissipate after about 13 weeks.