Nutrition for Soon-To-Be-Moms
Dieting for Two - The Complete Guide on Nutrition for Soon-To-Be-Moms
As one of Mother Nature’s most trusted creators, women will face numerous obstacles during their nine months of pregnancy. During this time the importance of your diet is astounding. Our diet influences our energy levels, productivity, sleep cycles, concentration, and mood, physical, and mental health, as well as our body's natural processes. Not to exclude the vital role your diet will assume as it aids in the proper development of your unborn child, preparing them for their first breath, cry, smile, well…first everything. But how can you be sure your diet is meeting the nutritional needs of your trimester? Below we have outlined many of the essential nutrients for fetal development; no matter how far along you may be.
The First Trimester: Week 4 to Week 13
During the first two to three weeks of pregnancy, some women do not even know that they are pregnant. Many will not experience any morning sickness or a missed period until week four of their journey. For this reason, the start of your first trimester is commonly referred to as the beginning of week four. During this time, the most essential nutrients for your baby’s development include folic acid, iron, and vitamin B6.
Maintaining the right amount of folic acid in your diet will aid in protecting your unborn child from any number of neural tube disorders or birth defects in an otherwise healthy pregnancy. The amount of iron in your diet will determine the amount and the effectiveness of your red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen throughout your body and also stabilize your internal body temperature, help digest food, and give you energy. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can leave you feeling cold, tired, and breathless, which is not a great start for the next nine months. Pregnant mothers who suffer from morning sickness (which can actually strike at any time of the day) may turn away meals due to nausea and may be unable to keep down the food they have ingested. Extensive bouts of morning sickness will begin to deprive both you and your unborn child of essential nutrients. Research suggests that sufficient levels of vitamin B6 can ease the onset of symptoms associated with morning sickness and could possibly eliminate it altogether, allowing you to not only eat but also enjoy your meal. In an effort to replenish these nutrients, consider adding folate-rich foods such as lentils, chickpeas, or black beans to your diet. Some varieties of legumes are also very high in fiber, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Incorporating more whole grains or oats into your diet during the first trimester will offer a rich supply of vitamin B6 and help maintain the increased calorie intake needed during pregnancy without stuffing yourself.
The Second Trimester: Week 14 to Week 27
Week 14 marks a new stage in your baby’s development. Now, your bundle of joy is beginning to form bones and crucial neurological networks that will make up their brain. Just like adults require calcium and vitamin D to support strong, healthy bones, fetal development largely relies on proper calcium and vitamin D intake in order to create them. Aside from their skeletal structure, omega 3 is essential towards the proper development of your baby’s brain and eyes, and beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A) will be needed to support healthy blood production and skin for both you and your baby.
Dairy products such as milk or yogurt are the best sources of calcium. They also provide excellent amounts of phosphorus, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. More specifically, Greek yogurt is most beneficial for pregnant women during their second trimester because it contains more calcium than most other dairy products and probiotic bacteria that will aid digestive health. While some doctors recommend staying away from shelled seafood during your pregnancy due to the increased risk of developing a life-long allergy, eating fish products such as salmon will increase the amount of omega-3 in your diet substantially; promoting a healthy brain and set of eyes for your baby. Salmon is also a great natural source of vitamin D which will be beneficial for your immune system. Doctors will recommend limiting your seafood intake however, due to the unsafe amounts of mercury and other contaminants that can be found in fatty fish. Sweet potatoes are found to be incredibly rich in beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A when ingested. While each nutrient mentioned is important, beta-carotene is of the utmost importance for healthy fetal development as this nutrient will grow and differentiate the majority of cells and tissues that will create your child. In addition, sweet potatoes contain large amounts of fiber which may curb excessive eating, reduce blood sugar levels, and improve your overall digestive health and mobility.
The Third Trimester: Week 28 to Week 40
As you enter the final stretch of your pregnancy, the importance of keeping up with your nutrition will surface as your baby begins to grow in size and weight to prepare for the outside world. As your baby begins to pack on the pounds your fuel requirements will increase also. During this time, it is advised for women to eat plenty of carbohydrates and foods that are rich in vitamin K. Vitamin K is the vitamin responsible for your body's ability to form blood clots, which is important after childbirth. Your iron intake remains a crucial part of your diet as well because developing anemia during your pregnancy can lead to a higher risk of premature labor if left untreated.
Dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, or broccoli will contain vitamin K for your diet as well as, fiber, vitamin C, calcium, iron, folate, and potassium. In addition, these greens are plentiful with antioxidants for skin health and immune system support. The elevated levels of fiber that is found in such foods will help to ease constipation, gas, and bloating that is often experienced by pregnant mothers during this trimester.
After focusing so much of our attention on the foods we should eat during these nine months, do not forget the importance of simple water as well. This element is just as important in preventing dehydration and digestive complications during pregnancy as it is prior.