I speak with mummas every day wanting to know more about how to nourish their pregnancy. Truthfully, the same applies for preconception, which shouldn’t come as a surprise as what you do in the 3-6 months prior, sets up your conception and pregnancy journey. It’s a tough call to make but my top 5 pregnancy nutrients are:
An omega-3 fatty acid, essential for foetal brain and eye development. Low intakes are associated with impaired development, inflammation, excess omega-6 intake and impaired mental health in mothers.
Eat: seafood and pasture raised eggs, and take an algae-based DHA supplement if you do not. I often also prescribe a DHA based fish oil supplement for my non-vegan mummas, especially as most oily fish in Australia is farmed, making it hard to get adequate DHA without grains, hormones, antibiotics and supporting unethical farming practices. Sadly.
Did you know that only 20% of women have adequate iron stores during pregnancy? Iron is a key nutrient to focus on prenatally, as by ~20 weeks it’s very common to see ferritin levels half. Iron is essential to minimize risks including hypothyroidism, preeclampsia and preterm birth. As you know, it’s also paramount for your energy levels as you continue to grow a human and beyond.
Eat: grass fed pasture raised red meat. Non-heme (plant based) iron is only absorbed between 2-13 %, so the RDA almost doubles if you are vegetarian or vegan. I personally took a high quality iron supplement from 20 weeks as my ferritin levels dropped quite significantly at this point in my pregnancy. Regular blood testing is key to avoid iron-defiency anaemia and/or dangerously low levels that require an iron transfusion.
An often forgotten nutrient that is critical in pregnancy for reasons similar to folate: prevention of neural tube defects, placental function and foetal brain development. Choline serves as a methylation source and therefore controls our epigenetics (gene expression; the difference between active and inactive genes). RDAs are significantly higher for mothers with an MTHFR polymorphism. More on MTHFR here. New research has found that maternal consumption of approximately twice the recommended amount of choline during the third trimester improves infant information processing speed. Isn’t nature incredible?!
Eat: pasture raised eggs and liver, and supplement if you do not. What’s great is that many high-quality prenatal supplements contain choline, but more is required and must be obtained from the food that you eat. Keep reading for more about organ meats, vitamin A and pregnancy.
One of the biggest myths in the prenatal nutrition space is that vitamin A causes birth defects, but did you know that this only applies to synthetic vitamin A? With so much fear and pregnant women still being told to avoid all organ means during pregnancy, deficiencies are prevalent. Ironically and sadly, this increases birth malformations including craniofacial, integral organs and limbs. Vitamin A is particularly essential for birth as it helps with postpartum tissue repair. Along with its well-known role in assisting vision, it also supports your immune system, and helps with the metabolism of dietary fat.
Eat: pasture raised eggs, liver and full fat dairy if you tolerate it. There’s provitamin A in fruit and vegetables, but your body must covert it to the retinol form (preformed vitamin A) found directly in animal products.
Essential for methylation, gene expression, organ formation and mumma’s mood and mental health, vitamin B12 is crucial. Recent research shows us that western RDAs are inadequate and up to three times more may be required during pregnancy. Sadly, low B12 levels are all too common and I have a huge issue with lab reference ranges, when many people are sitting at levels that are close to causing neurological symptoms! Post birth, in breast fed bubs, this can cause significant (and even irreversible) developmental delays and motor problems.
Eat: grass fed pasture raised meat, and supplement if you do not. No matter what anyone says, you can’t get B12 from plants.
Have you noticed a trend here with the food we should be eating during pregnancy?
Sadly, almost all of the above nutrients are lacking in conventional prenatal guidelines. So often the discussion is about what you can’t eat, rather than what you should be eating for the healthy development of your baby. Not to mention your health during pregnancy, how well you both adjust postpartum, and your little ones’ dietary preferences into infancy.
I know all you may feel like is starch, so please reach out and let myself and the team your journey into motherhood and beyond. Please book a complimentary 15 minute consultation here and I look forward to hearing from you: bit.ly/tnnonline
You can read all about my journey into motherhood here.