The 10 Most Important Nutrients for a Healthy Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a special time in a woman’s life that requires special attention to nutrition. Ensuring you are getting the right nutrients during pregnancy is essential for your baby’s growth and development. While a healthy diet can cover many essential nutrients, taking a prenatal vitamin can help supplement those that may be lacking. In this blog post, we will go over the 10 most important nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy, their roles, benefits, and healthy food sources. We will also provide recommendations for plant-based prenatal vitamins, as well as discuss possible side effects and the importance of continuing to take your vitamins throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Remembering to take your prenatal vitamin every morning may seem like a lot (especially on top of the morning sickness), but I’m here to explain why they’re so important. Learn exactly what nutrients you need to be getting, the roles and benefits of the nutrients, and my favorite plant-based options.
Prenatal vitamins contain several very important nutrients that are essential for baby’s growth and development. Eating a predominately whole foods diet will cover many of them, but supplementation ensures we have everything we need during pregnancy. In this article we will talk about the essential nutrients you need to ensure you are meeting the recommended daily value so that you can have a healthy pregnancy.
Most Important Nutrients for Mom and Baby’s Health
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega3 fatty acid that is thought to protect against a number of pregnancy complications. Plant sourced DHA helps to support healthy eye and brain development. There is algae based DHA in some prenatal vitamins like brands I have listed below.
- Calcium helps strengthen baby’s bones and aids in heart and nerve development. Some healthy food sources are fortified soy milk, kale, greens, and broccoli
- Folic acid (folate) helps to prevent neural tube defects of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Most prenatal vitamins will meet your daily need of folate but healthy food sources include legumes, asparagus, avocado, oranges, and bananas. If you are able to, it is recommended to start taking a prenatal 3 months before convincing so your body has a reserve of folic acid for when you conceive. Most women don’t find out that they are pregnant right away so taking a prenatal before could help to protect the baby.
- Iron supports the development of the placenta and baby. Iron helps moms body to make hemoglobin for red blood cells so they are able to transport oxygen to the baby. Healthy food sources are legumes, lentils, and peanut butter.
*Breastfeeding mamas- breast milk is low in iron but babies are born with an iron reserve built up during pregnancy. This is to help get them by until they start eating iron-rich foods.
- Iodine is responsible for the production of the mom’s and the baby’s thyroid hormones that regulate the development of babies brain and nervous system
*Breastfeeding mamas Iodine rich breast milk is important to support healthy thyroid hormone storage and neurological development of infants. That’s why it is important to continue taking your prenatal vitamins after having your baby.
- Choline supports brain development and nervous system functions. Your prenatal should cover the daily recommended dose but a healthy source is soy.
- Probiotics help support a healthy gut microbiome by balancing the healthy bacteria. Some research indicates that probiotics can reduce instances of postpartum depression in mamas.Some prenatals have probiotics in them so check out all the different options. It’s not vital for you and the baby’s health but it can be beneficial- so why not?!
*Breastfeeding mamas- Some strains of lactobacillus have the ability to reduce instances of mastitis.
- Vitamin A helps with the development of baby’s vital organs and moms postpartum tissue repair.
* Breastfeeding mamas, vitamin A supports infant growth and development. Healthy food sources are sweet potato, carrot, squash, kale, and spinach.
- Vitamin C helps baby’s bones and teeth develop and is an important aid in the absorption of iron. Healthy food sources are citrus fruits, broccoli, and berries.
- Vitamin D lowers the risk for preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and low-birth weight.
- Breastfeeding mamas, breast milk is low in vitamin D. Nursing moms should supplement for themselves and it is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that babies should be given a supplement in the first few days of life.
How do I decide which prenatal vitamin to take?
There are so many different kinds of prenatal vitamins on the market it is hard to know which one is the best and offers all that you and baby need to have a healthy pregnancy.
As long as you are getting the essential nutrients we discussed above your vitamin is sufficient. If you are looking for additional safety from harmful additives there are many brands that offer organic and plant-based options. I have listed my favorites below.
Best Plant-based Prenatal Vitamins
- Garden of Life Code RAW Prenatals
- Nature Made Prenatal Multi + DHA
- Garden of Life MyKind Organics Prenatal Multis
- MegaFood Baby & Me 2 Prenatal Multi
Some moms experience nausea with certain prenatal vitamins. This is most likely due to sensitivity of the iron or just plain old morning sickness. The iron can also be a troublemaker with constipation, so make sure you are drinking a lot of water and eating plenty of fiber.
Don’t stop taking your vitamins
It’s so important to take a prenatal vitamin throughout your entire pregnancy and continue while breastfeeding for the healthy of you and your baby. As we discussed above, there are so many benefits for both mama and baby, so take the time to find one you like, even if it takes a few tries.
I found out by talking to an associate at Whole Foods that they have a very flexible return policy with vitamins. She informed me that I was able to return the vitamins as long as it was not half empty. I had two brands that I had tried and didn’t work for me so I returned them and spent the money on the ones that did!
With the combination of a nutritious plant-based diet and a prenatal supplementation, you can be sure that you are meeting you and baby’s needs throughout pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding so that you and your baby can experience a healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding experience.