During pregnancy our bodies’ nutritional requirements will increase for specific vitamins and minerals (like folic acid, calcium, and iron). These help the healthy development of the fetus and should be consumed regularly at the very beginning of pregnancy, or if planning one, before even getting pregnant!
Many women hear about the importance of folic acid (folate) intake before they get pregnant. This is true! According to the American College of Physicians, regular intake of the needed amounts (at least 400 mcg) of folic acid per day before and during pregnancy has been proven to help prevent against up to 70 percent of possible birth defects (specifically of the brain and spine). Folic acid is recommended to be taken before thoughts of pregnancy because by the time many women even realize they are pregnant, the fetal brain and spinal cord have already formed.
After meeting the daily requirement of folic acid, a healthy, balanced, and unprocessed diet should provide a natural source of needed vitamins and minerals to support pregnancy. In no way should prenatal vitamins be used as a substitute for a healthy diet! You can try adding specific dishes or combinations of fruits and vegetables to your regular diet to increase calcium and iron content. Green leafy vegetables are a great start!
The American Pregnancy Association recommends a balanced diet for pregnancy to include:
• Three to four servings of fruits and vegetables
• Nine servings of whole grain
• Three servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese for calcium intake
• Three servings of meat, poultry, or fish for protein and iron intake
The prepared prenatal vitamins consist of a special blend of vitamins and minerals specifically designed for the expecting mother and baby. Many prenatal vitamins can be purchased over the counter at local food or drug stores, while others require a doctor prescription. Make sure to inform your pregnancy health care provider about the prenatal vitamins you choose to take (bring in the bottle to your first visit).
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