Pregnancy – The Most Crucial Supplements And Foods To Consume When Pregnant Or Trying To Get Pregnant

Pregnancy is a very special time in a woman’s life. Not only is it special because of the outcome, but also the pregnancy itself is quite a spiritual process that is very exciting and fulfilling. 

During pregnancy, the amount of nutrients the woman’s body needs is also special in that it is exceptionally high. 

Many women gain much weight during pregnancy because they are eating a lot of food. The body is asking for much food because it wants to fulfill its nutrient needs. But when the wrong foods are consumed, there will be feelings of never ending hunger, and thus lead to weight gain with its accompanying problems.

When the right foods and supplements are consumed, the body will feel that its needs are met and excessive eating will not take place. 

Optimally, you should gain between 7.5-10 kgs (16.5-23 lbs) during pregnancy. If more than this is gained, then the foods or supplements you are consuming are not supporting your body’s needs. 

Even in highly industrialized countries, the risk of inadequate intakes of specific nutrients in pregnancy and lactation is high.

Furthermore, excessive weight gain during pregnancy is associated with later life obesity for the offspring and problems with glucose metabolism in the offspring as a child and as they grow into adults, with increased cardiometabolic risk. [1]

You do not have to wait until are pregnant to eat healthy for you and your baby. In fact, eating well and taking the right supplements before becoming pregnant will not only boost your fertility and lower the risks of birth defects, it will also allow your child to lead a longer life in health through the power of epigenetics. 

Current research also shows that the first 1000 days of life, from conception up to two years, are crucial for the prevention of later life diseases. [2] 

 As a future mother, you will want a mix of healthy foods packed with nutrients, and supplements to support your’s and your baby’s needs.

So which supplements and foods are best consumed before and during pregnancy to ensure both mother and baby health?

Here are 7 Health-Boosting Dietary Recommendations and Supplements for pre-pregnancy and the pregnant mother:

  1. Folate – This B Vitamin is one of the most crucial nutrients you can take before and during your pregnancy. Not only is folate essential for forming healthy cells, it also helps prevent birth defects in the newborn, because of its role in the biosynthesis of DNA and RNA, and in protein metabolism and in methylation of homocysteine to methionine. You can find folate in foods like green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy), whole grains, oranges and strawberries, nuts, and beans, peas and lentils, beetroot, quinoa, mango, asparagus, avocado, okra, parsnips, chia and flax seeds. It is advisable to additionally take a supplement that has 600-800 mcg of folic acid per day, preferably starting two months before conceiving and 600mcg during breastfeeding. You can find a higher level B complex which will usually has these levels. Since the B vitamins are water soluble, any excesses will leave the body in the urine with no harm done from over consumption. 

2. Calcium – This nutrient can keep your reproductive system functioning at its best and can even help you conceive faster. 

During pregnancy, calcium is necessary for fetal development, so it’s vital to stock up on this mineral because you will need a stable supply for your baby’s bone and teeth development. 

Calcium requirement increases during pregnancy (from 50 mg/day at 20 weeks, and reaches 330 mg/day at the end of pregnancy), and is also high during lactation. Low calcium levels are associated with higher risk of preterm delivery, and disturb blood pressure control so it is crucial to get sufficient levels during pregnancy and lactation.

You can find calcium in vegetables like cabbage, okra, kale and broccoli and in high levels in seeds and whole sesame paste that can be used as a salad dressing and in making tahini, a very healthy sandwich spread. Also calcium-set tofu is a great source of calcium.

3. Iron – Iron deficiency during pregnancy is one of the leading causes of anemia in infants and young children as well as in the pregnant mother. This mineral is very important because it shuttles oxygen throughout the body, and it delivers oxygen to the baby as well. Furthermore, research also shows that low iron intakes during pregnancy are associated with increased risk of heart disease for the offspring in later life.

Iron requirements progressively increase up till the third month of pregnancy.

To prevent anemia, if you are a vegetarian, it is important to take supplements, best in the form that does not cause digestive issues including constipation, as iron bisglycinate. 25-40 mgs a day during pregnancy is good depending on the iron levels in your diet. You will also want to consume iron rich foods including lentils, chickpeas, peas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots, prunes and figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereals. [3]

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids – These fats should be included early in your pre-pregnancy diet. This is because Omega-3 fatty acids can help regulate key ovulation-inducing hormones and increase blood flow to your reproductive organs. In contrast to this, try to cut back on saturated and trans fats. 

DHA is the major polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid in the brain and eyes and, thus, is essential for brain and eye development of the fetus during pregnancy. DHA also plays major roles in psychomotor neurodevelopment of the baby. [4, 5].

DHA should be taken in supplement form, as well as taking omega 3 fatty acids from foods such as brussel sprouts, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds which the body will convert into DHA as needed.

Smoking during pregnancy leads to deficiencies in DHA, and can negatively influence the intelligence of the newborn baby.

5. Iodine – With the help of this mineral, your body can make thyroid hormones that work to control your metabolism. Iodine is essential for growth, formation and development of organs and tissues.

Iodine is also crucial to the metabolism of glucose, proteins, lipids, calcium and phosphorus, and in maintaining body temperature.

Iodine is necessary for the production of fetal thyroid hormones from week 12 of pregnancy and this further increases iodine needs after the 12th week of pregnancy.

Iodine deficiency increases the risk of spontaneous abortion, birth defects and neurological disorders [6], and is considered by the WHO to be the most important preventable cause of brain damage in babies.

The recommended dose is 200 mcg per day. You can get sufficient levels from your diet when consuming wholegrains, potatoes, green beans, courgettes, kale, spring greens, watercress, and strawberries, while also using iodized salt.

6. Fiber – Fiber in your diet can help boost your fertility level. Also, by increasing your fiber intake by 10 grams a day, you can lower the risk of developing gestational diabetes by 26%. Great sources of fiber include beans and legumes (lentils, black beans, lima beans, kidney beans, split and chickpeas beans), whole grains (wholegrain bread, oats, quinoa), high-fiber cereals, fruits berries and vegetables are all high in fiber.

7. Protein – Protein is crucial for normal growth and development of the baby as well as for producing hormones, enzymes and antibodies for the immune system of the fetus, and for building tissues and repair of tissues in the newborn. 

Protein demands progressively increase during pregnancy to support the building of tissues and to support fetal growth as well as maintaining the mothers tissues. Low protein intake is associated with low weight babies and a shorter length at birth.

Protein rich plant based sources include spirulina, edamame and anything made from soy beans including tofu, and tempeh. Also all legumes, including all peas, beans and lentils, nutritional yeast, spelt, teff, nuts and seeds.

Good to Know

I do not recommend taking a prenatal multi nutrient supplement since there are many combinations of vitamins and minerals that, when consumed together, actually cause deficiencies, because some nutrients block the absorption of others. Instead, I recommend taking Spirulina as a multi nutrient and high protein superfood, as well as a B complex supplement with 600-800 mcg folic acid, an omega 3 fatty acid supplement, and iron in the form of iron bisqlycinate, while consuming foods rich in calcium and fiber, which are both quite easy to consume in sufficient quantities to prevent any imbalances in the diet. I also recommend that all pregnant women supplement with vitamin D at a dose of 600 IU/day if they do live in a sunny location, and 2000 IU/day if they do not live in a sunny location, since vitamin D deficiency, which is very common, is associated with an increased risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes mellitus. Vitamin D is also necessary for calcium metabolism.

It is also important, that once you do get pregnant, to ensure that you reduce any intake of vitamin A supplements (in case you’re taking a multivitamin supplement), as too much of vitamin A can harm the baby. Consuming betacarotene, the precursor of vitamin A is fine during pregnancy. Spirulina has high levels of betacarotene. [7]

Also, high protein diets, which are low in carbohydrates will negatively affect fetal development and should be avoided.

I also deeply recommend breastfeeding your baby at least for the first 7 months of life. Learn why this is so crucially important in a video I made on this subject which I will add a link to at the end of this video.

I wish you much health and an easy pregnancy and birth of a healthy baby.

Feel free to comment below and let me know what you liked best about this article.

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Thank You, 🙂

Dr. Galit Goldfarb

References:

  • [1] Berti C., Cetin I., Agostoni C., Desoye G., Devlieger R., Emmett P.M., Ensenauer R., Hauner H., Herrera E., Hoesli I., et al. Pregnancy and infants’ outcome: Nutritional and metabolic implications. Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 2016;56:82–91. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2012.745477. 
  • [2]Adair L.S. Long-term consequences of nutrition and growth in early childhood and possible preventive interventions. Nestlé Nutr. Inst. Workshop Ser. 2014;78:111–120.
  • [3] Sabina Bastos Maia, Alex Sandro Rolland Souza, Maria de Fátima Costa Caminha,Suzana Lins da Silva, Rachel de Sá Barreto Luna Callou Cruz, Camila Carvalho dos Santos, and Malaquias Batista Filho. Vitamin A and Pregnancy: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2019 Mar; 11(3): 681. 
  • [4] Innis S.M., Friesen R.W. Essential n-3 fatty acids in pregnant women and early visual acuity maturation in term infants. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2008;87:548–557.
  • [5] Koletzko B., Agostoni C., Bergmann R., Ritzenthaler K., Shamir R. Physiological aspects of human milk lipids and implications for infant feeding: A workshop report. Acta Paediatr. 2011;100:1405–1415. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2011.02343.x.
  • [6] Trumpff C., Vandevijvere S., Moreno-Reyes R., Vanderpas J., Tafforeau J., Van Oyen H., De Schepper J. Neonatal thyroid-stimulating hormone level is influenced by neonatal, maternal, and pregnancy factors. Nutr. Res. 2015;35:975–981. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2015.09.002. 
  • [7] Noran M. Abu-Ouf, and Mohammed M. Jan. The impact of maternal iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia on child’s health. Saudi Med J. 2015; 36(2): 146–149. doi: 10.15537/smj.2015.2.10289.

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