Nutrients and Pregnancy

The effect of nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy can lead to a number of problems for the infant. Here are some nutrients that are essential if you are pregnant.

Low vitamin D and iron intakes may lead to low infant birth weight. Low folate intake can lead to miscarriage and neural tube defects. Low vitamin A and zinc intakes may lead to congenital malformations. Finally, low iron intakes may lead to stillbirths and premature births.

The reason for the increased need of nutrients in the diet of the pregnant woman is to facilitate the increase of blood volume of mother and fetus and the rapid cell growth of the fetus. It is recommended to women that plan to become pregnant increase nutrient intakes before becoming pregnant. All nutrients during pregnancy are important, but these are especially important because of the rapid development of the fetus.

Folate and vitamin B12 recommendations double during pregnancy due predominantly to increased blood volume, the increased urinary excretion of the vitamin and the rapid growth of the fetus. The increased recommendation of folate can be met by eating good sources such as, fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are also low in calories and rich in other vitamins and minerals. In other words, fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense.

The increased recommendation of vitamin B12 is because this vitamin assists folate in the manufacturing of red blood cells. A good diet that provides the increased needs is a better choice than supplementation of the vitamin because this can eliminate the danger of obtaining an excess amount causing toxicity. The stores of vitamin B12 of the mother before becoming pregnant can generally meet the need of pregnancy because vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products. However, most strict vegetarians will become deficient due to the minimal or little intake of animal or meat products. Strict vegetarians would need to supplement their diet.

An increased amount of iron is needed during pregnancy to accommodate the increase in blood volume, to provide for fetal needs, to provide for placental needs and then to replace the blood lost during delivery. The iron need increases so much that a supplement is usually recommended. The supplement is given in hopes that enough is absorbed to meet the mother’s needs. The best dietary sources are meat, fish and poultry. Other sources are legumes, whole grains, dark leafy greens, and dried fruits. Vitamin C in fruits and vegetables can also increase absorption from iron containing foods if eaten at the same meal.

Vitamin A during pregnancy remains the same as before pregnancy. Vitamin A is very important in the fetal growth but storage of this vitamin usually exceeds the need. Zinc is required for DNA, RNA and protein synthesis. Studies show that most pregnant women do not consume enough zinc, although a very small amount of zinc is needed for these important functions. Zinc is found in foods of high protein content such as meat, liver, milk and eggs. Whole grains are also good sources when eaten in large quantities but these sources may cause some of the zinc to be unavailable for absorption.

Vitamin D plays a very important role in calcium absorption and its utilization. Low intakes of vitamin D will result in abnormal development of fetal bones. Sunlight or vitamin D fortified milk can provide the amounts needed without supplementing the diet. In the vegetarian diet, the amounts may be obtained from sunlight because the ultraviolet light provided in sunlight facilitates or catalyzes the synthesis of one form of the vitamin.

Energy needs of the pregnant woman increases by around 300 calories. This need should be met by increasing the consumption of nutrient dense foods. Pregnant teenagers, underweight women or highly active women may need a greater increase of calories. It is recommended that one more fruit or vegetable, one additional meat, two additional milk or milk products and two more bread and cereal portions be added to the normal healthy diet.

The total daily-recommended intakes are:

Meat and Meat Alternatives: 3
Milk and Milk Products: 4
Vegetables and Fruits: 4
Breads and Cereals: 4

In summary, it is very important to consume nutrient dense foods, increase the consumption of foods in groups that carry the nutrients needed for pregnancy and consume a variety of foods.

August 17th, 2011 - Posted in Newborns and Pregnancy | | Comments Off

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