Written by Chelsea Hohnstein
I have finally reached an age where people around me are trying to get pregnant, and it is important to ensure that mom-to-be is getting her body ready for what I call “the great nutrient heist”. Growing babies takes a LOT of nutrients, and if one is preparing for a second baby, re-establishing a nutrient balance after the first “robbery” is even more important.
I am going to state for the record that any recommendations must be 100% approved by your healthcare practitioner, as each couple has varied circumstances. This list is certainly not conclusive, either! But, here are some things I believe all moms-to-be should start to investigate to prepare their body for the adorable little thief.
1) Prenatal Vitamin and Folic Acid (of course)
More than likely, someone looking to become pregnant has gotten this far. A prenatal vitamin serves as our base to fill in nutritional gaps, but it does not grant permission to eat poorly either, so ensure your diet remains full of vegetables and fruit, clean sources of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
In a good quality prenatal, you will not see the word “oxide” or “carbonate” in brackets after any of the minerals. You will also not find any dyes or colors added to the product either.
Folic acid is used to prevent the occurrence of neural tube defects, but also promotes healthy birth weight. Many doctors recommend around 400mcg of folic acid on top of what is in your prenatal vitamin, but run this by your doctor first. When buying folic acid, you have two options. You can get the standard run of the mill folic acid that women have been using for years OR, you can take folate, which is the active form of folic acid meaning that no conversions are required to make it “useful” in the body. This has recently become available in Canada in a supplement form, which explains why it is not as commonly recommended.
2) Omega-3 + Vitamin D
Though separate components, I group them together because many Omega- 3 supplements are found combined in one supplement, which eliminates one extra capsule per day (or every other day).
Omega-3’s are gaining more and more attention, as many of us are aware of potential contamination issues with fish, and the fact that we do not consume enough fish. Omega-3’s are constituents of the fetal brain and retina, and are particularly important when entering the second trimester. It has also been shown to be helpful in prevention of post-partum depression. When choosing an Omega-3 supplement, ensure that it has been third party tested for the removal of PCB’s, mercury and dioxins. I would not advise taking cod liver oil during pregnancy, as the amounts of Vitamin A are quite high. Though there are natural health practitioners who advise otherwise, I prefer to err on the side of caution-pregnancy is not the time to “test things out”.
Vitamin D has numerous responsibilities, and if mom is deficient, baby will be deficient. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium thereby significantly impacting bone health, modulating the immune system and regulating mood. Vitamin D is very important for developing language centers of the fetal brain. It is also speculated that low Vitamin D can impact proteins in the brain that influence learning, memory and motor control.
Magnesium deficiency is estimated to effect between 68% to 80% of the North American population.
Magnesium has been shown to prevent complications of pregnancy such as muscle tension and cramps, preeclampsia, constipation, headaches, premature birth AND it is even suggested that it could help prevent gestational diabetes and morning sickness.
I know I should write in more detail the benefits of probiotics, but the list is so long that it is reserved for another blog post. In short, probiotics benefit the digestive system and immune system of both mom and baby. There is clinical evidence to support that the consumption of probiotics in the last few weeks of pregnancy can prevent eczema in babies, and that babies who are breastfed by moms who took probiotics have high amounts of probiotics in their intestinal tract; meaning their digestive and immune function will be better supported3.
1) Learn to effectively manage stress-you’re going to need to be able to do that when baby is born!
2) Eat as clean as possible
3) Get in the habit of drinking plenty of water
4) Start cutting back on your caffeine consumption; it will make it a lot easier to do once you find out you are pregnant
Anyone planning on having a baby has a lot to think about, and nutrients should absolutely be on the top of that list! Eating properly can help you to achieve a positive nutrient status but there are many things that we cannot get through diet alone. If you have any questions, make sure you ask your healthcare provider.
 Coletta MJ et.al.2010 Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Fall; 3(4): 163–171. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3046737/
 McCann, Joyce et.al 2007 Is there convincing biological or behavioural evidence linking vitamin D deficiency to brain function? The FASEB Journal Vol22 (4) 982-1001 Retrieved from: http://www.fasebj.org/content/22/4/982.long
 Pelucchi, C et.al. 2012 Probiotics supplementation during pregnancy or infancy for the prevention of atopic dermatitis: a meta-analysis. Epidemiology Vol 23 (3) 402-414 Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22441545