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Hale and Hearty

Healthy nutrition for mom and baby

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Hale and Hearty

A beautiful bouncing baby is every mother’s dream. With a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, you’re on your way to fulfilling that dream.

A beautiful bouncing baby is every mother’s dream. With a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, you’re on your way to fulfilling that dream.

Good nutrition during pregnancy plays a key role in preventing complications and placing the mother at lower risk for type 2 diabetes. It also affects the long-term health and development of her baby. The following nutrients are important contributors to the optimal health of mother and baby.

Calcium deficiency has been linked with a higher incidence of preeclampsia, (high blood pressure and high protein in the urine). Higher levels of calcium during pregnancy (1,200 mg) are needed not only to build the infant’s bones but also to protect the mother’s.

Magnesium deficiencies have been linked with preeclampsia, preterm labour, premature rupture of waters, and nighttime leg cramps. Adequate magnesium intake helps with blood sugar regulation. Children born to mothers who consumed high-magnesium diets showed better bone mass when tested at eight years of age. North American diets have been shown to provide well under the recommended daily intake of 300 to 350 mg daily.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for the formation of bones and teeth. Children born to mothers who were deficient in vitamin D while pregnant showed lower bone mass and growth later in life.

Iron needs double in pregnancy to 30 mg/day. It is needed for proper placental development, increased production of red blood cells, and to supply iron stores for the baby. Deficiencies have been linked with preterm labour, low birth-weight infants, developmental delays in infants, and postpartum depression in the mother. Iron stores of 40 to 70 ug/L (micrograms per litre) are needed to maintain adequate iron throughout a pregnancy.

My clinical experience is that many women start their pregnancies at 25 ug/L or less, so supplementing with 20 mg of iron a day to prevent deficiencies in pregnancy makes sense.

Folic acid/B6/B12 help to reduce elevated homocysteine, most commonly associated with heart disease, but also associated with pregnancy complications. A normal level of homocysteine indicates that a critical chemical process called methylation is occurring, which allows cells to divide and grow properly.

High homocysteine levels have been linked with spina bifida, Down syndrome, birth defects (such as club foot), gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, recurrent miscarriage, preterm labour, and placental abruption (placenta separating from the uterus). To reduce homocysteine levels, folic acid, B6, and B12 are all needed.

It is a mistake to supplement with folic acid alone to lower homocysteine.

Vitamin C deficiencies have been linked with recurrent miscarriage, preterm labour, water breaking prematurely, and preeclampsia. In one double-blind, randomized trial of 126 pregnant women, 7.7 percent experienced premature rupture of water when taking 100 mg of vitamin C daily, versus 24.5 percent in the control group.

Essential fatty acids are needed for infant brain development. The importance of omega-3 fats for prevention of preeclampsia and preterm labour was first observed in an Inuit population eating a traditional fish-based diet, as they had no incidence of these two pregnancy complications.

These simple nutritional precautions can make a big difference to the health of mom and baby. For more information on how to have a healthy pregnancy, please see “Preparing for childbirth” in the January 2007 issue of alive magazine.

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