• Dr. Kathleen Jones

Pregnancy and Nutrition


Whether it is your first pregnancy, your third pregnancy, or you are trying to get pregnant, nothing is more important for you at this time in your life than you and your baby’s health.  There is an abundance of information out there from books, magazines, articles, and the internet that can be helpful guides to follow for a healthy pregnancy.  But at times you may find that they contradict each other or come to find out that it is just a sales pitch.  So where do you go for the most accurate information on how to eat right, take the correct supplements, and avoid potential toxicities?  Nothing tells you the truth more so than your own individualized testing.  Before you start any supplement program it is important to get tested properly by an experienced nutritionist.  However, there are some main guidelines that every pregnant woman should follow in which mostly are agreed upon by both the medical community and the holistic approaches.  Let’s take a further look into the nutrients which we are speaking of.

High Potency Multiple with Iron

When purchasing a Multiple Vitamin look at the other ingredients at the bottom of the label. Are there artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin or sucralose? Are there artificial colors or dyes such as FD&C blue #1 or yellow #6? How about artificial preservatives? If it contains any of these ingredients, put it back on the shelf.  Acceptable sweeteners are sucrose, fructose, stevia or xylitol. Monitor yourself for a few days when you start to take a new MVM. If you have stomach upset, it could be the sweetener being used.

Remember that a supplement is not a substitution for eating healthy foods nor is it a replacement for foods.  It is, in fact, to enhance the quality of your food and correct nutritional deficiencies caused by years of suboptimal eating and environmental exposures. Take your Multiple Vitamin with meals to avoid upset stomach.

Iron is recommended to be included in the Multiple Vitamin for the prevention of anemia and can be significant for mothers who are deficient.  Anemia during pregnancy is especially a concern because it is associated with low birth weight, premature birth and maternal mortality. (1)  Pregnant women are at higher risk for developing anemia during pregnancy because the body produces and excess amount of blood to help provide nutrients to the baby.  Types of anemia during pregnancy include:

  • Iron deficiency (accounts for 15% to 25%)

  • Folate deficiency

  • B12 deficiency

Before you purchase your multiple with Iron you want to check your Iron and Ferritin levels first.  You can do this with a simple blood test.  Ferritin, your back up supply for Serum Iron, can have a tendency to be too high in individuals.  These women may not need Iron.

Omega 3’s

The part of the brain that Omega-3 affects is the learning ability, anxiety/depression, and auditory and visual perception. The Omega-3 fats are necessary for the complete development of the human brain during pregnancy and the first two years of life. (2)   John Finnegan, an experienced nutrition consultant and author of The Facts About Fats, explains that DHA, Omega 3’s derivative, is so essential to a child’s development that if a mother and infant are deficient in it, the child’s nervous system and immune system may never fully develop, and it can cause a lifetime of unexplained emotional, learning, and immune system disorders. (2)  Foods that are rich in Omega 3’s are healthy fatty foods such as avocado, nuts, seeds, nut butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and fish. You can supplement with an Omega 3 at 1000-2000 mg/day.

One of the number one things to avoid on every list for pregnant women is fish with high levels of mercury.  The American Pregnancy Association advises that mercury be avoided due to it being linked to developmental delays and brain damage. (1)  Even the conservative FDA has warned that women should avoid most fish during pregnancy. (3)  A sample of these types of fish include: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Canned, chunk light tuna generally has a lower amount of mercury than other tuna, but can be eaten in moderation (no more than 6 ounces per week).  Salmon, Tilapia, and Cod are also types of fish that are lower in mercury levels.  Avoid fish that is farm raised and opt for fresh water fish.  It may be a bit more expensive but it is worth it to avoid fish exposed to industrial pollutants.  Make sure that the fish is cooked thoroughly and avoid eating it raw.

Antioxidants

Your immune system is naturally suppressed when you are pregnant because your baby is foreign to your body.  This makes the mother more susceptible to colds, the flu, and other bacterial or viral diseases.  Vitamin C is vital to the immune system and is a powerful weapon when it comes to tissue repair, bone growth and cell protection.  It will stimulate collagen production which is a protein important for connective tissues.

  • Lack of vitamin C has been linked to premature deliveries and preeclampsia. (4)

  • Vitamin C can help protect against toxic effects of Mercury and further DNA damage (5)

  • Eat fresh citrus fruits and vegetables that contain Vitamin C such as oranges, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet red peppers and broccoli.

  • One can safely consume 2000 mg/day of Vitamin C as a supplement.

Zinc is a trace mineral that is important for fetal growth.  The requirement of zinc during the third trimester is approximately twice as high as that in nonpregnant women. (6)  Zinc deficiency has been associated with preeclampsia since the 1980’s. However, studies have shown that the fetus has notably higher zinc concentrations compared to the mother, indicating that the fetus, itself, can maintain adequate zinc homeostasis. (6)

Selenium is important for early stages of embryonic development and protection of membranes and DNA. (6)  Also, selenium concentrations may be a potential factor in women at risk of preeclampsia.

B-Complex

It is wise for pregnant women to take a B-Complex vitamin.  This complex consists of the 8 B-Vitamins.  Each of these vitamins are vital for many structures and functions of both the mother and the fetus.  These include:

  • Muscle, nerve, and brain development of the fetus

  • DNA synthesis

  • Circulation

  • Hormones

  • Cholesterol

  • Morning sickness (7)


Vitamin D

According to the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists, women who are most at risk for Vitamin D deficiency includes vegetarians, women with limited sun exposure and ethnic minorities, especially those with darker skin. Research concludes that Vitamin D supplementation at 4,000 IU per day for pregnant women was safe and most effective in achieving sufficiency in all women and their fetus regardless of race. (8) It is unlikely that your multiple vitamin has enough D3 in it. The Vitamin D should be D3 or cholecalciferol. It should not be the synthetic form D2 or ergocalciferol. You can easily check your Vitamin  D levels through a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test.

Get Tested First!

Before you start any supplement program it is important to get tested properly.  By getting a comprehensive blood panel and tissue mineral analysis performed by an experienced nutritionist, an individualized program can be compiled for you to prepare you and your baby for the healthiest pregnancy possible.  Don’t guess at what you may or may not need.  You can take the guesswork out by getting tested objectively.  Pregnancy should be a joyful time in your life and you want to feel the best possible.  Don’t let time pass you by; just ask us today on how to get started!

References:

  1. Americanpregnancy.org

  2. The Facts About Fats, by John Finnegan, published by Celestial Arts, 1993.

  3. How to Avoid Having a Premature Delivery.  http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/11/22/premature-delivery-part-two.aspx, (Accessed July 3, 2015)

  4. Stresing, Diane.  Everything you need to know about vitamins. http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/vitamins-meds.aspx.  (Accessed July 3, 2015)

  5. Vitamin C Detoxifies Oxidized Fat, 2001, Jan Frederik Stevens, Ph.D

  6. WHO/FAO/IAEA, Trace Elements in Human Nutrition and Health, World Health Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland, 1996.

  7. University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

  8. Hollis, Bruce Ph.D., Johnson, Donna M.D. et.al. Vitamin D Supplementation during Pregnancy: Double Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial of Safety and Effectiveness.  J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Oct; 26(10): 2341–2357.

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