Nourishing Baby in the Womb
Vitamin B is for BabyREAD MORE
B for Baby
The first letter in the expectant mother’s alphabet is B, as in Vitamin B. Pregnant women need extra folate (B9) in particular, which aids in the production of blood and protein and in enzyme activity. According to the experts at Mayo Clinic, women need 800 micrograms (.8 mg) of folate even before conception and 1,000 micrograms (1 mg) throughout pregnancy. The important message is that conceiving and pregnant women require a significant up-tick in folate intake to create a healthy in utero environment. Folate deficiency has been linked to birth defects including abnormalities of the brain and spine. Deficiencies in folate may also increase the risk of early delivery.
Preventing Birth Defects with Folate
For the first time in half a century, the FDA in 1998 ordered fortification of the food supply. The agency mandated that folic acid be added to breads and flour with the goal of reducing birth defects. Neural-tube defects such as spina bifida are the most common disabling defects in newborns. A study sponsored by the CDC found that by 2004 the number of infants born with neural-tube defects had decreased by 25 percent. LESS
Vitamins and Minerals for a Healthy Pregnancy
Iron is needed by red blood cells to carry oxygen through the circulatory system to the mother’s organs and tissues, and to her fetus. In a childbearing woman, blood volume expands to help nourish the baby and to produce the baby’s own blood supply. In keeping, iron requirements double during pregnancy. Without adequate amounts of the mineral in her system, a mother runs the risk of developing anemia. Other associated risks include susceptibility to infection, preterm delivery, and low birth weight. READ MORE
Minding DRI’s During Pregnancy
In addition to folate and iron, the dietary reference intakes (DRI’s) of other vitamins and minerals rise for moms-to-be. According to recommendations provided by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, here’s a breakdown of important nutrient supplies for childbearing women.
|Nutrient||DRI||How It Helps Mother and Child||Best Sources|
|Calcium||1000 mg||Builds strong bones and teeth||Milk, cheese, yogurt, sardines|
|Iron||27 mg||Helps red blood cells deliver O2||Lean red meat, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereals|
|Vitamin A||770 mcg||Forms healthy skin, helps eyesight, aids bone growth||Carrots, dark, leafy greens, sweet potatoes|
|Vitamin C||85 mg||Promotes healthy gums, teeth and bones. Aids iron absorption||Citrus fruit, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries|
|Vitamin D||600 IU||Helps build baby’s bones and teeth||sunlight exposure; Vit D fortified milk; fatty fish like salmon|
|Vitamin B6||1.9 mg||Helps form red blood cells, helps body use other nutrients||Beef, liver, pork, ham, whole grains, bananas|
|Vitamin B12||2.6 mcg||Needed to form red blood cells, maintains nervous system||Animal foods such as liver, meat, fish, poultry, milk|
|Vitamin B9 (folate)||Minimum 600 mcg||Needed to produce blood and protein; helps enzyme function||Green, leafy veggies, liver, orange juice, legumes and nuts|
Why take a pre-natal vitamin?
Multivitamins and nutrient supplements are marketed with a good deal of hype. Though the healthiest option is usually to acquire recommended allowances of vitamins and minerals in whole foods, a pregnant mother may inadvertently become deficient in key nutrients if she depends exclusively on her diet.
Pre-natal supplements can help fill the nutrient gap. However, pregnant women should consult a doctor before undertaking a regimen since there are risks associated not only with nutrient excesses and deficiencies, but with medication interactions and chronic conditions. An obstetrician can help calculate intake levels of vitamins and minerals that are appropriate for the mother’s overall health, body mass index, and due date. LESS
From Confusion to Clarity: Sorting Out Pregnancy RecommendationsMixed Bags
As if expectant moms didn’t have enough to worry about, nutritional advice can often seem contradictory. Let’s sort out a few of the head-scratching pro’s and cons that surround important sources of vitamins and minerals. READ MORE
Pro: Great source of iron, protein, and Omega-3’s
Con: Risk of high mercury; risk of ingesting bacteria or viruses
What To Do: Include up to 6 ounces of fish per week, avoiding large fish like shark and swordfish which prey on smaller fish and are more likely to be high in mercury. Avoid shellfish. Cook fish all the way through, and as a rule avoid sushi and lox.
Fruits & Vegetables
Pro: Your go-to sources for essential vitamins and minerals
Cons: Accidental consumption of bacteria, pesticides, chemicals
What To Do: Cut away damaged and discolored portions. Wash all produce thoroughly before eating. Ideally, rinse once, let the fruits or vegetables soak in a large bowl, and then rinse again. Avoid all sprouts (alfalfa, clover, radish, mung bean) since they may contain bacteria that cause disease.
Pro: Important sources of iron, B vitamins, and protein
Con: Risk of bacterial exposure
What To Do: Never eat undercooked meats. Even if you prefer your beef medium-rare, switch to medium-well. Do not eat deli or lunch style meats due to potential risk for listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium which can cross the placenta.
What is a Vegetarian to Do?
Sustaining adequate levels of vitamins and minerals can be challenging for any vegetarian, pregnant or not. The fact that animal foods such as meat, liver, and milk are the primary sources for vitamin B12, for instance, underscores the recommendation for childbearing women to supplement the diet appropriately. Meats, fish, and poultry are also the best sources of iron and zinc, though the same minerals can and should be sought by vegetarians in dried beans, seeds, nuts, and leafy greens. LESS