The old adage "You are what you eat" takes on new meaning when you're expecting, because you're also the source of nutrition for your growing and developing baby. Nutritional choices for expectant mothers, and those who anticipate they may become pregnant in the near future, are vitally important as early nutritional choices establish a base of the proper dietary elements to insure the proper growth and development of a fetus. Planning for a new addition to the family involves more than just choosing new baby furniture and investigating daycare options. Your baby will be growing from a single cell, and by making certain your body is fully equipped from the start to fuel its growth, you can make sure you've done everything possible to get your baby off to the best start possible.
The March of Dimes notes that besides helping maintain and repair the body's cells and tissues, vitamins and minerals are vital in helping the body use the energy provided by foods for both expectant mother and her developing baby. It adds that an expectant mother can get most of the vitamins and minerals needed from eating a healthy and balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and pastas, milk products, and sources of low-fat protein such as beans, poultry, tofu, lean red meat, and some fish. Certain varieties of fish are off-limits to pregnant women, so consult with your physician or nutritionist. For women who may be lactose-intolerant and have trouble digesting milk, there are lactose-reduced milk products and orange juices fortified with calcium that can help provide the required intake of calcium.
The American Pregnancy Association refers to an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommendation that pregnant women should increase their usual servings of a variety of foods from the five basic food groups. Those increases include:
The ACOG adds that pregnant women should only take vitamin supplements on the recommendation of their health care provider. It adds that supplements do not replace a healthy diet, but ensure that a woman is receiving enough daily nutrients.
However, there are a few dietary elements that an expectant mother may not be able to adequately obtain through a healthy diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, for those women who are pregnant or hoping to conceive, a doctor will most likely prescribe prenatal vitamins to help fill in any gaps. Prenatal vitamins are different than daily multi-vitamins in that they contain more folic acid, iron, and calcium—all elements that an expectant mother requires. Prenatal vitamins help insure that you're getting enough of these essential nutrients during pregnancy. The Mayo Clinic notes that each nutrient plays a very important role prior to and during pregnancy:
The Mayo Clinic adds that prenatal vitamins don't include omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote a baby's brain development. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish. If you are unable to eat fish or choose not to, you should ask your health care provider if omega-3 fatty acid supplements are recommended in addition to prenatal vitamins.
The National Institutes of Health states that each year 4 million babies are born in the United States and adds that, by some estimates, 1 million expectant mothers in America will experience some sort of pregnancy-related complication. By eating a healthy diet and ensuring the proper intake of vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, iron, and calcium (through diet or prenatal vitamins), those anticipating pregnancy as well as those already pregnant can increase their chances for a healthy pregnancy.
As with any health-related issues, consult with your family physician or health care provider for advice relating to your specific set of circumstances.
Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.
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