Nutrients "Moms to Be" Need to Know

Eating for two is not just about consuming 350-450 calories extra a day. During pregnancy, women require more nutrients for fetal, maternal and placental tissue growth and development. So it is wise to choose foods that give you more nutritional bang for your buck rather than just empty calorie foods like cakes and chips. Here are some key nutrients that will not just benefit baby but mom, too.

You might already know that folate is at the top of every expecting mom's shopping list. But it is no surprise as this B vitamin found in leafy greens, beans, and orange juice is important in preventing many pregnancy complications. Taking folate before and during pregnancy helps to decrease the risk of neural tube defects, miscarriages, and preeclampsia. Moreover, a Swedish study showed women taking folate decreased their risk of having an autistic baby by 40%. However, some women are unable to convert folate to its active form and should take methylated folate (5-MTHF). Women who are prone to depression/anxiety, early onset cardiovascular disease, and miscarriages most likely need 5-MTHF and should be screen for this defect.

Increased iron utilization by the developing fetus and placenta, as well as blood volume expansion significantly, increases the iron requirement during pregnancy. If iron intake is not sufficient, anemia can occur. Pregnant women with anemia are more likely to have babies with low birth weight, premature birth, and maternal mortality. In addition, 30% of pregnant women develop restless legs syndrome, which can be ameliorated by increasing iron levels. Low iron also impairs immune function and can result in poor cognitive development and behavior problems in children. Iron from animal sources is the most bioavailable so it is preferable over vegetarian sources. Therefore, supplementation is generally recommended for vegan and vegetarian expecting mothers.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA )
Got hips? Thank mother nature as women's hips are DHA storage houses for our future offspring. DHA is an omega-3-fatty acid, which is important for brain development during pregnancy and lactation. It has been shown that pregnant women who took daily supplements of DHA had longer gestations, bigger babies and fewer early preterm births, according to a new clinical trial. DHA is also important for mom as well. When her stores are zapped, she can become depressed which is one of the reasons many women suffer from postpartum depression. So maintaining DHA levels before, during and after pregnancy can help ensure that she experiences better moods.

Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism. If we don't have enough iodine we can develop hypothryoidism. This is of particular concern as hypothyroid increases the risk of gestational hypertension and need for cesarean section.

Iodine deficiency during pregnancy has also been associated with increased incidence of miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects. Moreover, severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy may result in cretinism in the baby. Good sources of iodine include animal dairy, fish, and seaweed. It is best to avoid raw cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and kale as they interfere with iodine utilization. So expecting moms might want to kick the green juice habit.