You’re eating right and taking your prenatal vitamins, but what’s in them and why are those ingredients so important? Here are some key nutrients and why they matter for you and your baby:
- Protein: These are the building blocks for many things from enzymes and antibodies to muscles and collagen. While pregnant, your protein needs will increase from about 50 grams to 71 grams per day.
- Fats: Critical for baby’s brain and eye development, omega-3 fatty acids—particularly DHA— are in short supply for many women. Your obstetrician may recommend a DHA supplement as it’s only contained in a handful of foods.
- Fiber: Fiber can help with constipation, a common, if not commonly talked about, side effect of pregnancy.
- Carbohydrates: Carbs are the primary fuel for you and your baby. Try and choose whole grains, fruits and vegetables which provide fiber along with other important nutrients. It’s best to avoid carbohydrates with added sugar (leave the pastries where you found them).
- Calcium & Vitamin D: Together, these make the foundation for healthy bones and teeth. If you don’t manage to get enough in your diet, your body will actually deplete your bones of these vital nutrients to make sure baby gets what they need. To guard against this, your doctor may recommend a Calcium supplement, a good idea for most pregnant women.
- Folic Acid (Folate): This B vitamin is essential for spine and brain development, and for building DNA cells. Make sure your prenatal supplement contains Folic Acid.
- Iron: A mineral necessary for your baby’s neural and red blood cell development. Iron also helps prevent anemia, an iron deficiency, that is common among pregnant women.
- Iodine: You’ll need more iodine while pregnant. Try using iodized salt when you cook as a simple method of getting more.
- Choline: This B vitamin has been shown to help support brain development.
- Zinc: A mineral that helps build a healthy immune system. If you’re a vegetarian, you might have a difficult time getting zinc into your diet.
The first trimester matters
During the first trimester, your baby’s spine, brain and other organs, such as lungs and liver, are taking form and require some special nutritional care. Folic acid and zinc are must-have nutrients during the first trimester to support your baby’s developing nervous system. It can be hard to get in the habit of remembering your prenatal vitamins, and even more difficult to make changes to your diet. Just remember that what you eat is what baby eats. Your baby needs you, and you’ll be there for them, folic acid supplements and all.
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