As mothers tend to sacrifice during their lives to meet their children's needs, a mother's body will give up its own essential nutrients to provide health and growth for her developing baby. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) is often so nutritionally deficient that even this sacrifice does not guarantee adequate nutrition for the unborn baby.
Fortunately, there are a number of tips that, if followed during pregnancy, can help both baby and mother stay healthy and vital!
Here is my top 10 list for ensuring a healthy pregnancy. It includes recommendations on nutrition, vitamins, minerals and other common-sense tips that can lead to a happier, healthier and more vital pregnancy:
- Zinc Inadequate zinc is the most common and problematic deficiency during pregnancy. Zinc is critical for two reasons: proper growth and for developing a healthy immune system for the baby. Studies suggest that inadequate zinc may even cause immune deficiency in the next generation (i.e., your grandchild) as well. Be sure to get at least 15 milligrams per day of zinc in your diet, which can be found in high protein foods such as meat and beans.
- Folic Acid Getting enough folic acid is critical both before and during pregnancy to help assure proper growth and to prevent birth defects. It is present in deep green, leafy vegetables. Women should get at least 400 to 800 micrograms per day.
- Magnesium Magnesium deficiency is routine in the American diet and can increase the possibility of high blood pressure and seizures during pregnancy, a condition known as eclampsia. To prevent this deficiency, take 200 milligrams of magnesium in the glycinate form daily. Whole grains, green leafy and other vegetables and nuts are good sources of magnesium. Taking the proper amount of magnesium a day also helps to decrease the leg cramps and constipation often experienced during pregnancy. In addition, magnesium is critical for more than 300 other body functions and will generally help you to feel a lot healthier.
- B Vitamins These are critical for energy, mental clarity and to prevent depression. B vitamins have also been found to improve pregnancy-related complications such as gestational diabetes. Taking 200 milligrams a day of vitamin B6 can improve the health of those women suffering from this form of diabetes. But please note that only women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy should take this high level of B vitamins, and should drop the level of consumption to 100 milligrams per day during the last month. For all other soon-to-be moms, take approximately 25 to 50 milligrams a day of B vitamins and plenty of vitamin B12 for normal nerve function.
- Fish Oils The human brain is made predominantly of DHA, an essential fatty acid found in fish oils. Perhaps this is why there is an old wives' tale about fish being brain food. Regardless, DHA deficiency is very common and it is critical that pregnant women get adequate fish oils so that their baby can develop healthy and optimal brain tissue. DHA may also decrease the risk of postpartum depression. Unfortunately, though, the FDA has raised concerns about high mercury levels in the same deep sea fish (salmon and tuna) that have the highest levels of these oils. An excellent alternative for those who'd rather not risk it is to take one half to one tablespoon of Eskimo 3 fish oil. This is a special form of fish oil that actually tastes good (most do not), and has been tested to make sure that it does not have mercury or other problematic compounds.
- Calcium Ideally, pregnant women should ingest 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day. It is best to take this at night (it helps with sleep) in the liquid, powdered or chewable form. Many calcium tablets are simply chalk and do not dissolve in the stomach, and therefore are not absorbed properly. Each cup of milk or yogurt contains 400 milligrams of calcium.
- Iron Approximately 18 to 36 milligrams of iron per day can be helpful. Interestingly, iron deficiency can sometimes cause infertility. Also, pregnant women who don't get enough iron are at risk for anemia, fatigue, poor memory and decreased immune function.
- Water Be sure to drink plenty of water. When pregnant, blood volume can increase about 30 percent and it is easy to become dehydrated. If your mouth or lips are dry, drink more! Adequate salt is also helpful in preventing dehydration (less so if you have problems with fluid retention).
- Check Your Thyroid Millions of women suffer from an underactive metabolism, also known as hypothyroidism, which often goes undiagnosed. This results in fatigue, weight gain and simply feeling like you've run out of gas. Hypothyroidism accounts for more than 6 percent of miscarriages and can be cause for learning disabilities in the child. Treating a low thyroid is both safe and easy during pregnancy. The earlier it is treated the better. Either once you start trying to get pregnant, or as soon as you know you're pregnant, take a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) blood test to check your thyroid. Most doctors do not yet know that the TSH has to be less than three — anything above and you need treatment — so look at the test result yourself (many doctors still use the dangerous and outdated criteria of a TSH over five being abnormal). If you like, you can get a lab requisition for a TSH to take to your lab by visiting www.Vitality101.com (click on "online program" then on "Laboratory Requisition Form"). If you were on thyroid medication before getting pregnant, it is normal to increase the dose during pregnancy (the TSH should be kept between .5 and 2.0). If your doctor is not familiar with the new guidelines, he or she can send an email to the Web site above and a copy of the guidelines will be sent to them.
- Things for Pregnant Women to Avoid A few cautions for pregnant women: avoid taking more than 8,000 units of vitamin A per day. And don't partake in anything that can raise your body temperature too high (hot tubs, saunas or steam rooms). These have been implicated as possibly increasing the risk for birth defects. Most pregnant women are also, of course, aware that smoking, drugs and alcohol should all be avoided during pregnancy. Exercise, on the other hand, has been shown to be very beneficial and results in babies and moms that are quite healthy.