How exciting – you’re pregnant! Pregnancy is an exciting and special time in a woman’s life as she watches the way her body changes and grows to accommodate her unborn baby. There’s never been a better time to look after yourself so you can really sit back and enjoy your pregnancy while making plans to welcome your new baby.
Nutritional support for Healthy Pregnancy
During pregnancy your dietary requirements increase to help support not only your health, but that of your developing baby. Eating a wide variety of whole foods including protein, good fats and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, in conjunction with a specialised pregnancy multivitamin, is a good place to start for a broad-spectrum of important nutrients. In theory, a healthy nutritious diet should provide you with all the nutrients you need while pregnant, but there are some vitamins and minerals that are especially important:
- Folic acid & vitamin B12
Folic acid, if taken daily for one month before conception and during pregnancy, may reduce the risk of women having a child with birth defects of the brain and/or spinal cord, such as the neural tube defects known as spina bifida and anencephaly. Folic acid and vitamin B12 are important for DNA replication, cell division and growth, and are necessary to produce red blood cells and to maintain normal blood in healthy individuals.
Dietary iodine deficiency is re-emerging as a major problem in Australia and New Zealand and recent research has identified Australian pregnant women to be at risk of iodine deficiency. Iodine requirements are increased during pregnancy and adequate maternal iodine levels are important for healthy brain and nervous system development. To meet the increased demands of pregnancy, it is recommended that iodine supplementation be taken prior to trying to conceive and throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Healthy nervous system development is particularly sensitive to choline and low levels of choline are a risk factor for neural tube birth defects.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Fish oil provides a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Increasing omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy may be beneficial to both mother and child, and sufficient levels during pregnancy are required for normal development of the baby. DHA is important during pregnancy for healthy brain, eye and vision development of the developing baby.
Iron requirements are increased during pregnancy and iron deficiency in pregnancy is common in Australia. Iron is necessary for the formation of haemoglobin which transports oxygen in red blood cells to the tissues.
Keeping physically fit and active during your pregnancy offers many health benefits such as improving your physical and mental wellbeing while helping you maintain a healthy weight range. Healthy pregnant women are encouraged to participate in some form of aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises to a point where they can still carry on a conversation without being breathless. Make sure you warm up, cool down and only exercise within your comfort zone. Depending on your level of fitness, physical activities to enjoy include walking, swimming, jogging, aqua aerobics, cycling or yoga.
Preparing for birth with Raspberry Leaf
Taken during the third trimester of pregnancy, Raspberry leaf is traditionally used to prepare the uterus for childbirth and has been found to tone the uterus, facilitate labour and accelerate delivery.
Mr Vitamins Recommends
- Braun, L. & Cohen, M. (2007) An Evidence Based Guide to Herbs & Natural. Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier.
- Eastman, Prof C, 2005, Iodine Supplementation, The benefits for pregnant and lactating women in Australia and New Zealand, Thyroid News, The Australian Thyroid Foundation Ltd [Newsletter Article], vol. 21.
- Parsons et al. Raspberry leaf and its effect on labour: safety and efficacy. Aust Coll Midwives Inc J. 1999 Sep;12(3):20-5. Retrieved 27th May from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10754818
- Preconception and pregnancy health. Retrieved 05/10/2018 from http://www.womhealth.org.au/pregnancy-and-parenting/preconception-and-pregnancy-health-fact-sheet
- Pregnancy and exercise viewed on 05/10/2018 at http://www.physicalactivityaustralia.org.au/pregnancy-and-exercise/
- Ray JG, Wyatt PR, Thompson MD, Vermeulen MJ, Meier C, Wong PY, ……Cole DE, 2007, Vitamin B12 and the risk of neural tube defects in a folic-acid-fortified population, Epidemiology, vol18, pp. 362–366.
- Simpson et al. (2001) Raspberry Leaf in pregnancy: its safety and efficacy in labour Journal midwifery Women’s health 46.2 (2001):51-9
- Parsons et al. Raspberry Leaf and its effect on labour: safety and efficacy Australian college of Midwives Incorporated Journal 1999 Sept.12 (3):20-5.
- Trickey, R. (2011) Women, Hormones & the Menstrual Cycle. National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-publication.