Pregnancy is undoubtedly the most challenging phase of a woman’s life. With a baby on its way, your body not only goes through physical changes, but also psychological ones. Diet and nutrition are two of the most important things for a pregnant woman.
To make up for the extra 300 calories you need to eat every day to ensure your little one’s healthy growth, a well-balanced diet is necessary. Besides a wholesome diet, your body also requires an extra dose of essential nutrients to ensure proper growth of your baby, which is where prenatal vitamins come in.
Why Are Prenatal Vitamins Essential?
Prenatal vitamins were introduced to ensure that an expecting mother doesn’t fall short on the vitamins that are extremely important for a healthy pregnancy and baby. They often form a cornerstone of pre-conception care and would-be moms rely on them to make sure their body is receiving all the vital nutrients.
A combination of vitamins and minerals such as folic acid and calcium, a prenatal is known to have several benefits. Most pregnant women need 600mg of folic acid, 30mg of iron, and 1,000mg of calcium each day. While iron is essential for production of hemoglobin which enables efficient transport of oxygen to the growing fetus, folic acid protects your baby from neural tube defects. Vitamins A and D as well as calcium are critical for the overall development of the baby.
But how important are these prenatal vitamins? Is it possible to get them from natural foods alone? We ask the experts.
Can You Get Them From Natural Foods?
Madeline Given, a certified holistic nutritionist based in Santa Barbara, believes that getting your daily allowance of nutrients from food is the best route and a nutritionist can sketch a diet plan to accommodate your growing needs.
She says, “You shouldn’t use a supplement to correct a poor diet, but rather to support a good one. Women are no longer getting enough nutrients through the modern American diet. This nutrient shortfall makes supplements essential for a healthy pregnancy. However, you can take them from natural sources, too.”
- Folic acid supplements contain a synthetic form of folate, the natural form of which is present in strawberries, citrus fruits, leafy greens and dried beans.
- Calcium can be obtained by incorporating dairy, greens and fortified foods in your diet.
- Several fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber and other essential compounds that are not present in supplements.
- Probiotics reduce the risk of preterm labor and help in getting rid of bloating and digestive issues. They also protect the baby from childhood allergies by training his/her immune system to resist infections.
Given also recommends fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) for a healthy pregnancy. “Most prenatal multi-vitamins contain synthetic forms of vitamin A and other vitamins that can be harmful. But FCLO contains the best ratio of vitamins A and D. These fat-soluble vitamins are necessary for growth and development, while the omega-3 fatty acid DHA is necessary for brain development,” she says.
Why Is Iodine Crucial?
Dr Duffy MacKay, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) in New Hampshire, believes iodine is the most essential trace element for all pregnant and lactating women. Similar to folic acid, adequate iodine is critical early in pregnancy, when the fetal brain is growing rapidly.
He says, “New guidelines encourage all manufacturers and marketers of multivitamin/mineral supplements for pregnant and lactating women in the US to include adequate iodine to support normal cognitive development in children. Research has shown that women of childbearing age do not get enough iodine, which could lead to serious health complications for their babies.” (Also read: Fast Five: Reasons To Include Seaweed In Your Diet)
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