Beyonce is pregnant with twins, and loving it.
Pregnancy is an ideal time for health promotion, it is a time in a woman’s life where she regularly has contact with her health care provider, and is an opportunity for empowerment around a healthier lifestyle for both mother and her family.
Nutritional considerations should be at the forefront of every pregnancy health plan given their impact on fertility, health of the mother in pregnancy, prevention of pregnancy complications, health of the baby inutero, in preventing birth defects, ensuring optimal birth weight, and their impact on long term health of the mother and infant.
If you’re pregnant, or planning to be, here are the key pregnancy supplements to consider augmenting your diet with:
A multiple micronutrient supplement, aka a ‘prenatal’ multivitamin, is a must. Multi nutrient formulations help cover any nutritional gaps in the mother’s diet. According to one study published in 2008, women who took a daily multivitamin had 18% reduction in infant mortality and 14% reduction in low birth weight compared to women who did not. Taking a daily prenatal vitamin has been shown to reduce the risk of childhood cancers, including brain tumors and leukemia.
Health gut flora confers immunomodulatory protection against atopic diseases of infancy. One study found that the risk of developing eczema was significantly reduced in the first two years of life compared to placebo. Supplementation with probiotics four weeks prior to birth and while breastfeeding enhances the immunoprotective potential of breast milk and reduces the incidence of positive group B strep culture in mother. GBS is the most common cause of severe infection in newborns, particularly in the first week after birth.
Iron is an essential nutrient for placental growth and brain development of baby. Did you know that only 1 in 5 women begin pregnancy with adequate iron levels? Iron deficiency is linked to low birth weight, pre-term labor, post-partum depression and miscarriage. There is a higher rate of deficiency with each subsequent pregnancy if not treated. For all you hopeful mamas, iron deficiency is also linked to ovulatory infertility.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids are well, just that. Omega 3’s, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaoic acid (EPA), docosahexanoic acid (DHA), and Omega 6’s, linoleic acid (LA), gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) have been shown to reduce occurrence of pre-term labor, pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction; especially in the third trimester. DHA levels continue to decline in pregnancy and mother cannot meet the high requirements of the growing baby without supplementation. Babies of mothers who supplemented with 4g of fish oil (2.2g DHA and 1.2g EPA) had better hand eye coordination, better social, speech and hearing performance, and scored higher in language and vocabulary scores. Supplementation with DHA during pregnancy has also been shown to lower incidence and duration of childhood colds and flus.
Folic acid, B6 and B12 are particularly important, and often become deficient in women with a history of long-term oral contraceptive use. Deficiency of folic acid is linked with neural tube defects, congenital heart defects, childhood leukemia, pre-term labor and pre-eclampsia. B6 increases progesterone levels, induces ovulation and helps reduce nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy. B12 reduces homocysteine levels. Elevated homocysteine has been linked with spina bifida, leukemia, Down’s syndrome, birth defects, gestational diabetes and recurrent miscarriage.
This fat-soluble vitamin is important for the growth and development, especially for bone and teeth formation. Vitamin D supports hormone production in men and women, and low levels are associated with infertility. Deficiencies are also linked with gestational diabetes and insulin resistance, low birth weight and increases the risk of infant osteoporosis and childhood asthma. A 2006 study showed that 49% of pregnant women were vitamin D deficient.
Dr. Alaina Overton ND
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