The joy of bringing a new child into the world is wonderful.  You want to do all you can to ensure having a happy, healthy baby.  Many physical and biochemical changes take place throughout your pregnancy, changing your need for many nutrients.

The phrase "eating for two" is really true!  All the nutrients you eat go to baby first then to you, so it is very important for you to eat lots of nutrient dense foods for both baby and you.  Follow these key principals:

  1. Fresh nutrient-dense whole foods of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, meats and seafood.
  2. Buy organic meat and dairy when possible to avoid exposure to extra hormones and antibiotics from conventionally raised animals.
  3. Focus on high quality healthy fats, carbohydrates and especially protein throughout your pregnancy. 
  4. Other nutrients that are critical during pregnancy are calcium/magnesium, vitamin D, folate (folic acid), omega-3 (mainly DHA) and omega-6 essential fatty acids, iron, vitamin C and fiber.

Food and environmental toxins have a strong, even exaggerated effect on your fast growing baby.  Avoid as many toxins as possible.  These include caffeine, smoking (including staying clear of those who are smoking), use of plastics in cooking and drinking, alcohol, aspirin, sugar, and conventional dairy products.  If you do eat dairy products, buy organic to avoid exposure to growth hormones and antibiotics that are given to conventionally raised farm animals.

Exercise is especially important during pregnancy.  It improves blood circulation, absorption of nutrients and clearing of waste products and toxins.  Start a gentle pregnancy exercise program appropriate for the health of you and your baby.  Modify your exercises each trimester to support your changing body.  Spend time outside if the air is clean, and put several air-purifying plants in your house to help clean the air and add oxygen to your indoor environment.  Also remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of plain, clean water, about 8 glasses each day, or your body weight in pounds divided by 2 for the number of ounces per day to drink (or your body weight in kilograms divided by 30 for the number of liters to drink daily). 

Relax, relax, relax!  Keep your stress level down through deep breathing exercises, stretching and quiet time.  Maintain a positive attitude, keep a thankfulness or gratefulness daily journal, and do things that are enjoyable.

Taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin throughout pregnancy is important to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.  Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about recommended brands (one that uses quality, highly absorbable ingredients).  The supplement should contain at least the following amounts per day of these key nutrients:        

  • Calcium: 1000 mg 
  • Magnesium:  500 mg (maintain a 2:1 calcium:magnesium ratio)
  • Vitamin D3:  600 IU
  • Vitamin C:  250 mg
  • Iron: 27 mg
  • Folic acid:  800 mcg

In addition to the prenatal multivitamin, extra vitamin D3 and C are important for the health of both you and your baby.  A minimum of 2000 IU (50 mcg) of D3 daily and 3000 mg of vitamin C daily is important. If you are not able to obtain safe, quality fish or greens, take a high quality, heavy metal-free fish oil, krill oil, or flax seed supplement to get enough omega-3 fatty acids.  Also consider an additional calcium/magnesium supplement if your prenatal vitamin is not enough.

Since your baby is greatly affected by toxins that YOU are exposed to, and you just can’t get all that you need from food, it’s really important to add all these important building blocks for your baby’s healthy development.

First Trimester – What’s Happening, What You Need

Key baby growth: 

Neural tube formation in baby which becomes the spinal cord, all the internal organs, facial structure, teeth and nails are formed.

Changes in mom:

Breasts are larger and tender with darker areolas, more frequent urination, some nausea and vomiting possible.  To combat nausea, try eating a little bit of complex carbohydrates like a biscuit or toast before getting up in the morning.  Eat healthy snacks between meals and also keep some biscuits or crackers by your bedside.

Caloric needs:  Not much higher than normal, just eat a very healthy diet as described above.

Food and drink focus: 

  • Eat high iron and folic acid foods like red meats, broccoli, asparagus, lentils, pinto beans, chickpeas, spinach, black beans, and green beans
  • High vitamin C foods like bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, papaya, cantaloupe, strawberries, and oranges together for better iron absorption.
  • Ginger tea for nausea.

Nutrient focus:

  • Folic acid (800mcg) from vitamin, as well as food sources for proper neural tube formation. Include Choline (450mg daily) which works with folic acid
  • Calcium/magnesium/vitamin D (1000mg Ca/500mg Mg/600-1000 IU of D3 daily) from vitamin or additional supplement
  • Iron/vitamin C from vitamin and food sources

Second Trimester - What’s Happening, What You Need

Key baby growth: 

Further growth and development all body systems and bones, brown fat forms around spine, significant lung development, baby starts moving and stretching, baby begins to store mom's antibodies.

Changes in mom: 

Your breasts continue to enlarge, your belly starts showing, intestines are being compressed by the uterus, your heart rate increases, and some constipation and heartburn may occur.

Caloric needs:  Increase you daily calorie intake by approximately 350 calories.

Food and drink focus:

  • Eat plenty of quality protein for building cells, like red meat and salmon
  • Eat lots of fruit and vegetables high in fiber to keep things moving in your compressed intestines.

Nutrient focus:

  • Increase daily calcium/magnesium intake to a total of 1200mg/600mg a day
  • Take at least 1000mg of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) as fish or supplements for cell growth, brain and nervous system growth.

Third Trimester - What’s Happening, What You Need

Key baby growth: 

There is a growth spurt for the brain and nervous system, senses, such as hearing, become developed, fat is added under the skin, antibodies from mom continue to be stored, lungs, heart and blood system become fully developed.  DHA is particularly important for fetal development of the brain and retina during the third trimester and up to 18 months of life.

Changes in mom: 

Skin stretches over the abdomen and may produce stretch marks, breasts continue to enlarge, bladder, intestines and stomach are all being compressed, fatigue, back pain, heartburn, some breathlessness and some slight contractions may occur.

Caloric needs:  Increase you daily calorie intake by approximately 450 calories.

Food and drink focus:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals
  • Eat plenty of meat and fish protein
  • Eat plenty of essential fatty acids found in salmon, ground flax seeds and walnuts.  Supplementation is needed for brain and eye health.

Nutrient focus:

  • Along with the prenatal vitamin, increase calcium/magnesium to 1600mg/800mg a day
  • take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement with at least 300mg of DHA and 200mg  EPA.

 

References:

  • Mateljan, George (2006).  The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating. Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation.
  • McGuire, M. & Beerman, K. A. (2011).  Nutritional Sciences.  Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
  • Pizzorno, Joseph and Michael Murray (2005). Textbook of Natural Medicine, 3rd ed. St. Louis: Churchill Livingston.