Planning a Pregnancy? These Nutrients Are Key!
If you are aiming to get pregnant any time soon, you might already have a list of baby essentials you want to add to cart or even check out. Thinking ahead is commendable, but have you also thought about what your body may need to prepare for a pregnancy?
Make sure your body is ready for it! Learn more about the key nutrients that are greatly helpful for women, even before they get pregnant. Plus, take note of the daily recommended energy and nutrient intakes (RENI) specified by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST):
This type of B vitamin assists in creating cells. During a pregnancy, folic acid is essential in the development of the neural tube, which then forms the baby’s brain and spine. Folic acid can also aid in reducing the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida or anencephaly.
Babies with spina bifida have a gap in their spine because this particular body part and the spinal cord failed to develop properly while they were still in the womb. Babies with neural tube defects have a higher risk for paralysis, incontinence or even intellectual disabilities.
Neural tube defects tend to occur during the first month of a pregnancy, so your body really needs a lot of folic acid to prevent these. The thing is, many women are unaware that they are pregnant during the first month, further highlighting the need for maintaining ideal folic acid levels even before you get pregnant.
Ideal daily requirement: 400 micrograms DFE (as dietary folate equivalent) from food sources like beans, broccoli, whole grains, and fresh fruits. You can also ask your doctor or OB-GYN about the benefits of folic acid supplements.
This mineral is responsible for forming red blood cells that supply oxygen throughout the body. Pregnant women need more iron to increase the body’s red blood cell count, help the baby grow healthy, and reduce the risk for maternal morbidity and iron deficiency anemia.
Iron deficiency anemia occurs when your body does not have enough red blood cells to supply oxygen to the body. Pregnant women with iron deficiency anemia may bear children who have impaired cognitive, motor, and behavioral performance.
Low-iron diets and monthly periods can reduce a woman’s iron levels, so if you plan on getting pregnant, you may want to undergo a blood test first to check your iron levels. Once the results are released, you can consult your doctor or OB-GYN about these and discuss possible strategies to maintain balanced iron levels for you and baby.
Ideal daily requirement: 28 milligrams (mg) from food sources like tofu, beef, chicken, tuna, and broccoli. Iron supplements may be helpful too – ask your doctor about it.
This mineral is needed to form baby’s teeth and bones. Making sure that there is enough calcium in the body is important, as a lack of this mineral can prompt the baby to use calcium from his or her mother’s bones for growth and development. If not addressed, low calcium levels can lead to pregnancy-related osteoporosis, although this is a rare occurrence.
Furthermore, low calcium levels can also raise a pregnant woman’s risk for hypertension or preeclampsia. Meanwhile, babies with low calcium levels are more prone for low birth weight, preterm birth, or impaired bone mineralization.
Ideal daily requirement: 750 mg, from dairy products like milk, cheese, or yogurt, and vegetables like broccoli or spinach. You can also ask your doctor or OB-GYN if calcium supplements would be useful.
Early and careful planning, together with adequate amounts of these nutrients, can help you achieve a safe and healthy pregnancy. If you have additional concerns about these nutrients or questions about other vitamins or minerals for expecting women, consult your doctor or OB-GYN for more info.