Saturday, June 29, 2013

The importance of a good diet and a good prenatal during pregnancy

There is a magic formula for a healthy pregnancy diet, you have to eat well and supplement!   As in previous posts, the nine months in utero can be the most consequential in a person’s life determining genetic predisposition, illness and even the hard wiring of the brain, so it makes sense to have laid the ground work before even trying.  If you have,  the basic principles of  healthy eating remain the same as when you were eating well and supplementing prior to trying for a baby. Nutirient needs do change a little at each trimester. However, a few nutrients in a pregnancy diet do deserve a special mention. Here's what tops the list.


The recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron during pregnancy is 22-36mg (10-20mg more than the non-pregnant state). The amount needed depends on the amount of iron the mother has 'stored' in her body prior to pregnancy. If a woman's iron stores are very low, she may need to get more from a supplement. I have a client at the moment who is carrying twins and her iron levels at first trimester are very low. Iron supplements are regularly recommended to pregnant women, as it's often difficult to get enough iron from food, especially if the woman does not like or eat red meat. However, iron supplements in the inorganic ‘sulphate’ format, often given by doctors can cause constipation, so seek out a professionals help here and don’t routinely add iron as this builds up in the body and too much isn’t good!  Never self-prescribe with iron as some people have an issue with iron build up in the body and unless you routinely test its not wise to keep on loading up!
If you want to read more on this click the link below

The RDI of calcium during pregnancy is 1200mg per day; 300mg per day more than for non-pregnant women. During the third trimester of pregnancy, there is a large shift of calcium to the baby as it starts to develop and strengthen its bones. If the mother isn't getting enough calcium in her diet, the calcium needed by the baby is drawn from the mother's bones. This may have a negative effect on the woman's bone health in later years. Low calcium intake  during pregnancy may also cause the baby to have weak bones and impaired bone development. Dietary sources of calcium are: pine nuts, tahini, sardines with bones, seaweed  ( nori), salmon, almonds, figs, yoghurt, spinach and watercress. These are all higher than milk!


Is a very important mineral to take in all trimesters and should be in a good prenatal also.  Prior to preconception zinc is involved in over 100 enzyme reactions in the body and is vital for immunity, hormones and bone development. Its is also vital for male fertility as it helps to improve motility sperm count and the morphology of the sperm. If you are low in this mineral it can affect your mood. Mothers with Post Natal Depressions have been tested  and have very low levels of zinc. Zinc is also needed to help heal and repair after birth and a massive dose is taken from the mother by the baby prior to birth which can leave the mother very low. Zinc is needed specifically by new-borns. If you have low levels if breastfeeding this can lead to a unsettled and unhappy baby, however if you have adequate levels in a decent prenatal this should not be a problem. 

Omega 3

A decent  intake of Omega 3 fat is essential to maintaining the balanced production of the hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help regulate many important physiological functions including blood pressure, blood clotting, nerve transmission, the inflammatory and allergic responses, the functions of the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract and the production of other hormones.

Large amounts of Omega 3 are needed during pregnancy to help ensure the growing foetus has enough fats to develop, Omega-3s have been found to be essential for both neurological and early visual development of the baby. However, the standard western diet is severely deficient in these critical nutrients. This omega-3 dietary deficiency is compounded by the fact that pregnant women become depleted in omega-3s, when the foetus uses omega-3s for its nervous system development. Omega-3s are also used after birth to make breast milk. So unfortunately if you don't like the taste, you still need to take this until you decide to stop breastfeeding!  Research has confirmed that if pregnant women supplement their diet with EPA and DHA it has a positive effect on visual and cognitive development of the baby. Studies have also shown that higher consumption of omega-3s may reduce the risk of allergies in infants. Omega-3 fatty acids have positive effects on the pregnancy itself. Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labor and delivery, lower the risk of pre-eclampsia and may increase birth weight.  


Folate is a B-group vitamin. Insufficient folate intake during pregnancy has been linked to neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in the unborn baby and other issues such as facial clefts. To counteract the higher levels of spina bifida pre 1990s some governments apply a mandatory enforcement of fortification of flour with folic acid.  In the UK some food industry giants have adopted this on their own, but in countries like the USA, Canada  and Costa Rica this has been in place for some time.  Australia introduced mandatory folic acid fortification in 2009. In the UK there are some concerns that folic acid on its own increases colorectal cancer and also cause B12 deficiency, so the debate continues.

Folate should be taken before conception and  during the whole pregnancy ( contrary to advice!) If this is implemented it can prevent seven out of 10 cases of neural tube defects. Low folate intake also increases the risk of multiple births, such as twins. Women who are in the early stages of pregnancy (or likely to become pregnant) should take folate supplements  daily and a good prenatal should provide this. I wouldn't advise you to take folic acid on its own as this imbalances the other B vitamins and isn't in nature meant to be isolated. Have it as part of a good prenatal. Good food sources of folate, which should be included in everyone's diet, include leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and asparagus, and legumes, nuts, and avocados.

Issues with Folic acid

Some people may not be able to absorb folic acid, and in many cases without knowledge of this, giving them the synthetic form of folate ie folic acid as a supplement may be very detrimental to them.

' About 40% to 60% of the population has genetic polymorphisms that impair the conversion of supplemental folic acid to its active form, l-methylfolate in the body.
In vivo, the body converts dietary folic acid to l-methylfolate through a series of enzymatic processes. The final stage is done with the enzyme methyltetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). Those with certain polymorphisms have inadequate MTHFR activity'.
More on how this can impact fertility  in my next post!

Other vitamins and minerals that are important

As well as iron and calcium, the other nutrients that should be boosted in the first, second and third trimesters include vitamin C,  B vitamins like B1, B2, B3, B6 and especially B12), and magnesium, vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is at quite an alarming rate particularly in the UK, so get your levels tested for this and if low supplement with a therapeutic amount of Vitamin D3 suggested by your nutritionist or naturopath.