Pregnancy is a miraculous journey filled with joy and anticipation, but it can also be a time of uncertainty and worry, especially if it’s unexpected. As a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, you are likely experiencing a lot of different emotions, and you wonder if you have what it takes to bring a healthy baby into the world. It feels like such a big responsibility to have not only yourself to take care of but this growing life inside you. It can feel overwhelming, but just knowing that a woman’s body has everything it needs to provide for a growing baby provides a sense of relief. You can do this!
Why? Because your body was made to do this, and it’s going to be okay. The tips in this blog–if you’re able to follow them–are here to help you feel like you’re providing the best possible environment in which your baby can develop and grow. You won’t get it perfect, and that’s okay.
Just as solid foundational elements are essential for a house to withstand the test of time and provide a safe and comfortable space, proper nutrition during pregnancy sets the groundwork for a healthy and thriving baby. Your body is your baby’s only environment for the first nine months, and what you put in it has an impact on your baby’s growth and development.
While this may seem overwhelming to provide an optimal environment for your baby to grow, it’s not as hard as it might seem–your body is designed to provide the nutrients your growing baby needs. At the end of the article, you can find where to get supplements.
Micronutrients: the foundation of healthy development
Consuming the right balance of micronutrients and macronutrients in your daily diet is essential to support both you and your baby’s well-being. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that play a crucial role in the development of your baby’s organs, tissues, and overall growth. These essential nutrients are required in small quantities, but their impact is immense. (We’ll cover macronutrients in next month’s blog.)
- Folic Acid: Folic acid, a B vitamin, is one of the most vital nutrients during early pregnancy. It aids in the formation of the neural tube, which later develops into the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Inadequate folic acid intake during the first trimester may lead to neural tube defects.
To ensure sufficient intake, it is recommended to consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, either through food sources like leafy greens, fortified cereals, or supplements if advised by your healthcare provider. (according to “Eat Healthy During Pregnancy: Quick Tips.” on the site health.gov)
- Iron: Iron is crucial for the production of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body and to your baby. During pregnancy, your blood volume increases, and so does the demand for iron. Insufficient iron intake can lead to anemia, resulting in fatigue and reduced oxygen supply to your baby.
The health.gov article suggests eating iron-rich foods like lean meats, beans, fortified cereals, and spinach to maintain adequate levels.
- Calcium: Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth for both you and your baby. If your diet lacks sufficient calcium, your body will draw from your bones to meet the baby’s needs, potentially leading to bone density loss.
Health.gov suggests aiming for 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily by including dairy products, leafy greens, and calcium-fortified foods.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D works hand-in-hand with calcium to support bone health and immune function. It also plays a role in your baby’s skeletal development.
Soak up some safe sunlight or consume foods like fortified milk and fatty fish to meet your vitamin D needs.
- DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid essential for brain development during pregnancy and early childhood. Our bodies naturally produce DHA in small amounts, but to ensure we have enough of it, we must obtain it from our diet. Good dietary sources of DHA include cold-water fish, grass-fed meat, dairy products, and omega-3 enriched or pasture-raised eggs. Alternatively, DHA is also available as a supplement, like fish oil.
While many of these nutrients can be obtained through food, a prenatal supplement can fill gaps in your diet. Any drug store, grocery store, or big box store has a vitamin aisle where you can find a section labeled “Prenatal vitamins” (meaning before birth). If you buy these and take them consistently each day, you will have the assurance that you are providing all the vitamins and minerals your growing baby needs to grow within you and to thrive post-partum (after birth). You’ll find that the cost is minimal and the peace of mind is priceless!
If you can’t get out, most stores deliver for free. You can order or buy prenatal multivitamins at CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Kroger. If you have difficulty swallowing vitamins and would prefer a chewable option, you can find gummy vitamins at CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Kroger. You can also find lots of options on Amazon.
Micronutrients are the foundation of a healthy pregnancy and will give your baby the best possible start in life. While you will get most of what you and your growing baby need through a balanced diet, vitamin supplements provide the insurance you might need to feel like you’re doing what you can to grow a healthy baby. If you need further guidance or advice, Hope Rising is here for you.
“Eat Healthy During Pregnancy: Quick Tips.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health.gov, https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/pregnancy/nutrition-and-physical-activity/eat-healthy-during-pregnancy-quick-tips. Accessed 26 July 2023