During pregnancy it is more important than ever to have a balanced diet. In fact, a woman should begin paying attention to certain nutrients “before” she becomes pregnant. A healthy diet not only enhances fertility, but also provides the nourishment a developing embryo needs during the early days after conception.
The first few weeks of pregnancy is when all the cells form that will develop into the baby’s organs; therefore, an adequate supply of essential nutrients is critical. As the baby develops, specific nutritional needs will change. For example – during the second trimester when bone and blood development increases – more calcium is required. In the last trimester the baby will have a huge growth spurt, nearly doubling in size and more protein is required.
Poor diets lacking any nutrients for the mother also deprive the fetus of necessary building materials. The following supplements are recommendations for maintaining your health during pregnancy.
**NOTE** Pregnant women should NOT take any drug, vitamin, mineral or herbal medicine without first consulting with a knowledgeable physician.
Iron. By the end of pregnancy about 20% of women are anemic because of iron deficiency. Nutritionists recommend eating a lot of foods containing iron; which include alfalfa, blackberries, cabbage, currants, eggs, liver, parsley, raisins and spinach. The herbs dandelion, sorrel and stinging nettle are good sources of iron as well. Fresh fruits that contain vitamin C will enhance iron absorption. Because it is difficult to get enough iron in the diet, prenatal vitamins are usually recommended. Take 30 milligrams of iron daily (or as directed by physician), with 100 milligrams of vitamin C.
Folic acid (B9) is especially important in the weeks immediately before and after conception in order to prevent spinal and brain defects. It also helps alleviate heavy menstrual bleeding and hemorrhaging in childbirth and improves milk production. Food containing folic acid include broccoli, endive, fruits, liver, spinach and turnip greens. Taking 800 micrograms of folic acid daily reduces the chance of birth defects such as spina bifida.
Protein is needed to provide for the 20% increase in blood volume during pregnancy. A lack of protein has been linked to birth defects. Use protein from a vegetable source, such as soy. Take as directed on label.
B complex vitamins. Prenatal vitamin formulations provide a healthy and balanced dose of the B complex vitamins. Some physicians suggest an additional 100 to 300 milligrams of vitamin B6 to relieve morning sickness.
Vitamin E. Premature and low birth weight infants are often deficient in vitamin E. It may also prevent toxemia. Take 400 IU daily.
Vitamin A in the form of natural beta carotene. The beta carotene is converted into vitamin A in the liver. Caution: Do not substitute vitamin A in place of beta carotene. Excessive intake of vitamin A has been linked to birth defects. Foods containing vitamin A may also cause problems. Foods containing beta carotene however, are not harmful. Rich sources of beta carotene are yellow and orange fruits, such as mangoes and papayas, orange root vegetables such as carrots and yams and in green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, sweet gourd leaves and sweet potatoes. Take 25,000 IU daily of natural beta carotene. Avoid beta carotene if you have hypothyroidism – your body probably can not convert beta carotene into vitamin A.
The dietary minerals; such as, calcium and phosphorus, soar during pregnancy. Generally women get enough phosphorus in the foods they eat; however, calcium is a bit harder to get, especially if you do not like milk or have difficulty digesting dairy products. Supplements of calcium and vitamin D (needed for the absorption of calcium) may be advised. Take 1,500 milligrams calcium daily and 1,000 IU vitamin D daily.
Magnesium is needed to balance with calcium. Take 750 milligrams daily.
Zinc. Insufficient zinc intake may be a cause of low birth weight. Use zinc gluconate lozenges for best absorption. Take 15 to 25 milligrams daily. Do not exceed 75 milligrams daily.
Acidophilus provides necessary friendly bacteria to prevent yeast infection, protect the baby at birth and ensures proper assimilation of nutrients. And it may help promote production of folic acid.
Alfalfa tea or tablet is a good source of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin K, which is essential for normal blood clotting. Use during last trimester of pregnancy to decrease chance of hemorrhaging. It also increases the production of breast milk.
Blessed thistle, blue cohosh, false unicorn root and squawvine are beneficial taken in the last four weeks of pregnancy. They aid contractions and help prepare the body for an easier birth. DO NOT TAKE IN THE FIRST TWO TRIMESTERS OF PREGNANCY.
Ginger is helpful with nausea.
Red raspberry leaf tea is high in iron and calcium, also helps to enrich the mother’s milk, helps with nausea and helps the uterus contract more effectively. Drink no more than 1 cup daily until the last four weeks of pregnancy – then drink 1 quart daily.
Peppermint leaf tea may be consumed after the first trimester.
It is helpful in relieving nausea/morning sickness and gas. It is also useful in removing toxic matter from the body.
Dandelion root tea promotes bile to relieve constipation. It is one of the best herbs for strengthening and cleansing the liver. Dandelion root coffee is a great coffee substitute.
Stinging nettle leaf tea is full of nutrition, high in iron, calcium and an excellent source of folic acid.
Psyllium is a good source of fiber. It helps to relieve constipation and prevent hemorrhoids.