Pregnancy is a time of high nutritional needs for both the mother and the unborn child. During pregnancy, not only must you support your own body through many huge changes, but you also need to provide the basic building blocks of nutrition so your baby can grow and flourish. While doctors encourage getting as many vitamins and nutrients as possible from a healthy diet, most will also recommend taking a prenatal vitamin formula to supplement the diet. Taking pregnancy vitamins with a full range of essential vitamins and minerals will ensure that you and your baby are getting the nutrition you need during this crucial developmental period.
Pregnancy Vitamins and Minerals: Building Blocks for a Healthy Baby
While not all people have the same nutritional needs, there are a few commonalities that apply to most. This is also true for pregnant women. While all humans suffer health consequences from a lack of vitamins, the effects of vitamin and mineral deficiencies are more severe in developing babies. For this reason, most doctors recommend that pregnant women take prenatal or pregnancy vitamins to ensure the healthiest pregnancy possible. Although a wide variety of vitamins and minerals are necessary in adequate amounts for a healthy pregnancy and baby, four specific nutrients are particularly important.
Folic Acid and Development
Folic acid is one of the most important nutrients for a growing baby. In fact, doctors recommend that all women of childbearing age take this vitamin because of how crucial it is in early pregnancy. In the first three or four weeks of pregnancy, your baby’s neural tube will form into the spinal cord and brain. A deficiency of folic acid can cause defects in this process. Getting enough folic acid is also important throughout the rest of pregnancy, as it necessary for making the red blood cells that carry oxygen to developing organs and tissues.
Calcium: Building Strong Bones and Teeth
Because your baby’s bones and teeth are just developing, they require a great deal of calcium. Calcium is one of only a few nutrients that your body will take from your own stores in order to help your growing baby. This means that women who are not taking in enough calcium for both themselves and their unborn baby must take a supplement, or risk losing calcium from their bones and suffering serious lifelong bone density issues. Many women in past generations lost teeth or suffered from osteoporosis because of pregnancy-related bone loss. The good news is that a healthy diet and pregnancy vitamins should give you and your baby both all the calcium you need.
Prevent Anemia with Iron
When you’re pregnant, your body must make a great deal more blood. Because it is hard to get all of the iron you need to support this increased blood volume from diet alone, anemia is very common in pregnant women. In fact, half of all pregnant women are anemic. Mild anemia will make you feel tired and pale, but severe anemia can compromise your health as well as your baby’s. Anemia is easily treated in most women with high-quality pregnancy vitamins.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Essential Elements of Prenatal Nutrition
A growing body of evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, often available in the form of fish oil supplements, are an essential part of nutrition, especially in pregnancy. Two particular omega-3s called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are especially crucial. EPA helps your baby build a healthy heart and immune system, and it may even help protect against autoimmune disease. DHA, on the other hand, helps the eyes, brain and central nervous system to work optimally. Because fish is not a huge part of the Western diet, many pregnant women in the U.S. and Europe are deficient in these important nutrients. For this reason, most doctors recommend taking pregnancy vitamins that contain DHA and EPA.
Are All Pregnancy Vitamins Created Equal?
Most prenatal vitamins contain the basic elements needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy when taken in conjunction with a healthy diet. However, there is often a wide range of difference in both quantities of certain nutrients and quality of ingredients among the various pregnancy vitamins on the market today. In addition, many formulas do not contain omega-3 fatty acids because the research on these oils is relatively new and the technology to incorporate fatty acids into a capsule or tablet is cost-prohibitive. As a result, pregnant women must often take an omega-3 supplement in addition to their regular prenatal or pregnancy vitamins. Finding a prenatal vitamin formula that incorporates the omega-3 fatty acids needed for brain and nervous system health is ideal. As with all supplements, you should talk to your doctor about which type of pregnancy vitamin formula is the best choice for you and your baby.
Are you ready to have the healthiest possible pregnancy? Getting the best possible nutrition, including eating a healthy diet and taking prenatal vitamins, is an important way you can support your baby’s growth and help him or her develop the foundation for a lifetime of good health.