Posted on Apr 5th 2017
During pregnancy, women need nutritious foods to avoid various health risks that poor nutrition poses to both the mother and the developing fetus. Poor nutrition can result in low birth weight which is associated with poor development and growth of children and chronic health problems such as diabetes later in life. To ensure healthy development of the fetus, pregnant women should consume sufficient macronutrients to provide energy to the body and a wide range of micronutrients necessary for maintaining body functions.
The number of micronutrients required varies depending on the changes that occur in the body of a pregnant woman as well as the stages of fetus development. Most micronutrients are linked in terms of functionality and a deficiency in a single micronutrient can interfere with the utilization of another micronutrient. For instance, vitamin K is known to influence how calcium is absorbed in the body while vitamin C enhances the absorption of plant-based iron. Vitamin B12 helps with conversion of folate to methyl-tetrahydrofolate form that is easily absorbed by the body. Here are essential vitamins and minerals that every pregnant woman should consume:
Iron is an important trace mineral that is required by hemoglobin to support transportation of oxygen in blood. Deficiency of this mineral can cause disorders that include low iron stores and anemia. Symptoms of these disorders include jaundice, fatigue and reduced work ability. Iron requirement increases significantly in women during pregnancy to reach 27mg/day. Adequate amounts should be taken during the last trimester because during this time, iron deposition is most rapid in the fetus. Some dietary sources of this mineral include red meat, chicken, legumes, grains, fish and leafy green vegetables.
This form of vitamin helps in maintaining and developing eye health, regulating the growth of cells and protection of the immune system and fertility. Pregnant women need vitamin A to support optimal development of eyes in the fetus. During pregnancy, vitamin A helps in regulating the way cells differentiate to create different eye parts including the cornea, conjunctiva, photoreceptor rod cells and cone cells. This vitamin is also known to play a critical role in regulating vertebrae, spinal cord, ears, heart and limb development in the fetus. Pregnant women can derive vitamin A from plant oils, yellow vegetables like pumpkins, squash and carrots and dark leafy vegetables like spinach. Vitamin A may also be derived from fish, cod liver oil, egg yolk and dairy products.
Folate is necessary in pregnant women because it is engaged in DNA syntheses. Where levels of folate are low, cells are not able to divide, replicate and grow well. During pregnancy, there is increased cell growth and the amount of folate required by the body increases. Folate deficiency during this period increases infant’s risk of developing neural tube defects. Studies show that at least 70% of all neural tube defects can be avoided when pregnant women take sufficient amounts of folate during the first trimester as well as before. Folate deficiency is known to result in hemolytic anemia in pregnant women. This condition is characterized by lack of red blood cells due to premature death of such cells.
Pregnant women should take 600 mcg. of folate because the requirement for this mineral increases with pregnancy. Dietary sources of folate include fortified cereals that contain folic acid, yeast extract, legumes and beans. Several factors pre-dispose pregnant women to delivering infants who have neural tube defects. These factors include diabetes mellitus, multiple pregnancy, hemolytic anemia, family history or a partner with neural tube defects.
This important micronutrient is required to support production of insulin, maintain a normal form of proteins as well as regulate gene expression in terms of replication of genetic traits in DNA. Zinc is stored in muscle tissues and bones. Its deficiency may result in pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, premature rupture of amniotic sac and preterm delivery. Within the fetus, a zinc deficiency may result in abnormalities like defective growth and other congenital problems. Zinc requirement increases during pregnancy with women aged 19 years or more requiring a daily intake of 11mg per day. The best, common plant sources of zinc are legumes, nuts, seeds, and oatmeal. It may also be obtained by animal products such as poultry, fish and meat.
This vitamin is important for DNA synthesis or generation of new DNA. It is also necessary for supporting neurological or brain function and maintenance of normal blood. Deficiency of vitamin B12 in pregnant women can lead to several adverse health problems including skin pallor, fatigue, low energy, palpitations and shortness of breath. It can also lead to neurological complications such as sensory disturbance, memory loss, visual and motor
disturbance and impaired bladder and bowel control. During pregnancy, vitamin B12 requirement increases to support the growing fetus. Pregnant women should take 2.8 mcg. of vitamin B12 each day. This amount increases during breastfeeding. Some main dietary sources of this vitamin are dairy products, yeast extract spreads, red meat, pork, eggs, chicken and fish.
This water-soluble vitamin is not produced naturally in the human body and is obtained from dietary sources. It is an antioxidant that protects the body from disease and aging. It supports collagen production, bones, muscles, cartilage and blood vessels. In pregnant women, vitamin C is necessary for supporting dental health for the mother and the fetus. It plays a critical role in supporting development of healthy gums and enhances non-hem iron absorption. During pregnancy, vitamin C concentration reduces gradually to about 50% due to utilization by the fetus and hemodilution, the process of diluting blood through the gain of more fluid. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause scurvy and may have fatal effects if not treated. Pregnant women should consume 15 mg of vitamin C each day from citrus fruits like oranges, soft drinks and leafy green vegetables like broccoli and sprouts.
8.Vitamin D and K
Vitamin D is needed by the body to aid in absorption of phosphorus and calcium. It also helps with supporting optimal immune functionality and maintaining muscle strength and healthy skin. Deficiency of this vitamin in pregnant women can pose a risk of the fetus developing childhood rickets and osteoporosis later. Pregnant women should take a daily dose from sun exposure for 5 to 10 minutes or diet through fortified margarine, milk, egg yolk, salmon and cod liver oil.
Vitamin K is necessary for regulating blood clots as well as coagulation and anti-coagulation of blood. Deficiency of this vitamin leads to bleeding disorders due to the extended time required for the blood to clot. This can be dangerous during delivery. Vitamin K deficiency is also linked to hip fracture risks. Pregnant women can take 65 mcg. of vitamin K daily from spinach, broccoli, green salads, plant oils and Brussels sprouts.
This trace mineral is known to support over 300 enzymes that work to generate energy and breakdown carbohydrates and sugars. It also regulates the function of other trace minerals including potassium and calcium. An estimated 50% of magnesium in the body is stored in bones while a third occurs in soft tissues and muscles. Deficiency of this mineral increases the risk of pre-term delivery and pre-eclampsia as well as risk to high calcium levels in the blood. Magnesium requirement in pregnant women varies with age. Women aged thirty or more require 360mg daily. Foods that are high in this trace mineral include legumes, green vegetables, shell fish, peas, nuts and beans.
This trace mineral serves as an antioxidant. It plays a critical role in regulating functionality of the thyroid, the gland that produces hormones that aids in metabolic regulation. Deficiency of this mineral during pregnancy can result in low birth weight and increased chances of developing pre-eclampsia. In high amounts, Selenium can become toxic causing gastro-intestinal symptoms, fever and death. During pregnancy, women should take 65 mcg. of this mineral each day from dietary sources such as seafood, eggs, poultry as well as plant foods like alfalfa, radish, garlic, grains and nuts.
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Drops of Balance is a sulfate mineral solution that contains important ingredients that help pregnant women meet their daily requirements of trace minerals. It contains ionic sulfate minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium, potassium and calcium which the body needs to function well. When added to drinking water, Drops of Balance improves the quality of water by removing harmful heavy metals and replacing lost minerals.
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