Diet, Weight, and Nutrition
For mothers-to-be, it is essential to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet during preconception and throughout pregnancy. Your body will require additional nutrients during this time period, and it’s important to take care to properly nourish both you and your baby.
Body weight is also important. Being overweight or underweight has the potential to affect normal ovulation, reduce the chance of getting pregnant, and increase the risks of pregnancy complications.
Certain nutrients are especially crucial during this time, including vitamin D, iron, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and folic acid. Most of these nutrients can be obtained through a healthy diet. However, adding prenatal supplements to your routine helps to make up for any nutritional deficiencies.
- Obtaining enough maternal iron is essential for a baby’s normal growth and development. Appropriate levels of B vitamins decrease risks of congenital heart defects. And calcium and magnesium play key roles in bone development, and, like vitamin D, also lower preeclampsia risks. A good prenatal multivitamin will provide safe doses of all five important nutrients.
- Fatty acids, in particular DHA, play a critical role in the neurodevelopment and visual acuity of offspring, and it is recommended to take a high-quality essential fatty acid supplement (one that is guaranteed free of heavy metal toxicity) each day.
In addition, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all women of childbearing age consume 0.4 mg (400 micrograms) of folic acid every day in the months prior to conception, in order to lower the risk of two common birth defects of the brain and spine (spina bifida and anencephaly). Consuming sufficient amounts of folic acid has been proven to reduce the occurrence of these neural tube defects by 50-70%.