Pregnancy is such a beautiful season; it’s a time of change, growth and a time to prepare for the future. Addressing diet during pregnancy can help insure that your child is receiving all the nutrition he/she needs to develop while leaving you with adequate nutrient stores to have a healthy pregnancy and postpartum period. A nourishing diet should become a priority while taking a prenatal vitamin comes second. A prenatal will not make up for the shortcomings of a poor diet, but rather it should be viewed as a complementary addition to a nutrient dense diet. The following is a small collection of information that will help the average pregnant woman.
Pregnancy Complication Prevention
Adequate nutrient intake has the ability to possibly prevent or reduce the risk of developing several pregnancy complications. Hypertension during pregnancy can be a precursor to future complications like preeclampsia and eclampsia, both can be dangerous conditions for the mother and child. The physiopathology of preeclampsia and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy are not fully understood, but it is thought to be possibly caused by abnormal placenta development. Insuring that you are consuming and absorbing adequate calcium, flavonoid rich foods like berries, citrus, and dark chocolate as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids from low mercury fish (or a quality fish oil supplement), nuts, and seeds may reduce the risk of preeclamsia. (1)
Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of hypertensive disorders. Ask your practitioner to evaluate your vitamin D status and assist in supplementation if needed. To date, there is trial evidence that supports the combination of vitamin D and calcium supplementation to have a protective effect against preeclampsia. (2)
Calcium can be found in spinach, kale, collard greens, and some fish like wild caught sardines and salmon. While Vitamin D can be created from safe sunlight exposure, consuming grass-fed beef liver, wild caught salmon, and pastured egg yolks. In fact, three ounces of cooked wild caught salmon has more than 450 IU of vitamin D.
Importance Of Good Nutrition
To have a healthy pregnancy and infant development requires a wide variety of nutrients that must be consumed on a regular basis.
- Folate and B12 – B vitamins are a family of water-soluble nutrients. They keep our metabolism running optimally, support cell production, act as antioxidants and during pregnancy their importance only increases. Maternal folate deficiency has been associated with increased autism like traits in their descendants.3 While a B12 deficiency during pregnancy has been shown to increase the risk of their child developing a congenital heart defect.4 You can find folate in dark leafy greens, avocados, and beans while B12 is typically found in animal products with the exception of nutritional yeast.
- Choline – Choline is well known to decrease the risk of neural tube defects in fetal development. Most women are encouraged to consume adequate choline through supplementation and diet early in her pregnancy. There is new evidence that choline supplementation even during the third trimester has been shown to potentially increase infant information processing speed.5 Eat pastured eggs, just one yolk contains 115mg of choline, beef liver contains up to 423mg, and one salmon filet has 242 mg.
- Sugar – Be aware of your sugar consumption as it has been associated with increased risk of maternal diabetes, prepregnancy obesity, insulin resistance, and new research show that the intake of excess sugar and high glycemic foods may increase the risk of neural tube defects.6 When you do consume sugar or fruit, make sure it is complimented with fat and protein. For example, a banana should be topped with almond butter or a fruit smoothie should be blended with coconut oil to help balance your blood sugar levels.
- Caffeine – Excess caffeine consumption (up to 400mg a day) before you realize you are pregnant has been shown to increase the risk of a lower birth weight.7 If you consume more than four cups of coffee a day and are trying to become pregnant, you may want to consider reducing your caffeine consumption. Try switching your morning habit with naturally decaffeinated coffee, matcha, or black tea.
Achieving adequate nutrition consumption is no small feat! You need a wide variety of nutrients that I have not even mentioned. Start by consuming a large variety of vegetables, fruit, sprouted or soaked grains, nuts, and seeds, grass-fed animal products including organ meat, wild caught fish, and pastured eggs if tolerated. A prenatal vitamin, a high quality fish oil supplement, and vitamin D supplementation if deficient are frequently necessary to support a healthy pregnancy.
Faith Hans is a Nutritional Therapy Consultant based out of North Texas. Her philosophy is that diet has a tremendous effect on health. She has worked with men and women and has helped them restore hormonal balance, support fertility, lower inflammation levels, increase energy levels, improve sleep, and support gut health through nutrition.
Always consult a doctor before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition. No information in this post should be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information in is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. No information should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition.
- Achamrah N, Ditisheim A. Nutritional approach to preeclampsia prevention. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2018 May;21(3):168-173. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000462. PubMed PMID: 29465424.
- O’Callaghan KM, Kiely M. Systematic Review of Vitamin D and Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 1;10(3). pii: E294. doi: 10.3390/nu10030294. Review. PubMed PMID: 29494538; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5872712.
- Degroote S, Hunting D, Takser L. Periconceptional folate deficiency leads to autism-like traits in Wistar rat offspring. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2018 Mar – Apr;66:132-138. doi: 10.1016/j.ntt.2017.12.008. Epub 2018 Jan 2. PubMed PMID: 29305196.
- Verkleij-Hagoort AC, de Vries JH, Ursem NT, de Jonge R, Hop WC, Steegers-Theunissen RP. Dietary intake of B-vitamins in mothers born a child with a congenital heart defect. Eur J Nutr. 2006 Dec;45(8):478-86. Epub 2006 Nov 21. PubMed PMID: 17124548.
- Caudill MA, Strupp BJ, Muscalu L, Nevins JEH, Canfield RL. Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed: a randomized, double-blind, controlled feeding study. FASEB J. 2018
- Shaw GM, Quach T, Nelson V, Carmichael SL, Schaffer DM, Selvin S, Yang W. Neural tube defects associated with maternal periconceptional dietary intake of simple sugars and glycemic index. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Nov;78(5):972-8. PubMed PMID: 14594784.
7. Peacock, A.; Hutchinson, D.; Wilson, J.; McCormack, C.; Bruno, R.; Olsson, C.A.; Allsop, S.; Elliott, E.; Burns, L.; Mattick, R.P. Adherence to the Caffeine Intake Guideline during Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes: A Prospective Cohort Study. Nutrients 2018, 10, 319.
Featured Image: Keira of Cannabis and Motherhood