One of the first steps many women take when they have made the decision to try to conceive, is to take a prenatal vitamin. FANTASTIC! This is a wonderful beginning step to preparing yourself, and setting the foundation for pregnancy. That being said, most over the counter prenatal vitamin supplements are made up of fillers and synthetic, chemical based, laboratory created vitamins. They are often hard to digest and absorb, leading women to wonder why they are deficient in crucial nutrients when they are taking their vitamins regularly. The best sources of vitamins are from their natural sources. Even when a woman is taking a high quality, natural, food sources vitamin supplement, there is often a portion of the supplement that is not absorbed properly. This is why diet and eating highly nutrient dense foods are so important in preparation and during pregnancy.
**A Little Note on Birth Control:
The majority of women out there have been on some form of birth control, whether it was the pill, IUD, Depro, etc... We often forget, or where not informed that these common forms of birth control can cause vitamin deficiencies in our bodies that can lead to difficulties conceiving, or complications during pregnancy.
The contraception pill not only lowers levels of zinc (will talk about its importance later) by raising copper levels (as does the IUD), but it also induces deficiencies of vitamin B, B6, B12, folic acid, and vitamin C. The pill prevents conception by altering the body's hormone system. Even after it has been stopped, the body can take upwards of 3-6 months to begin producing certain hormones again. This is important to keep in mind if you are planning to begin trying to conceive in the near future.
Healthy Diet By Trimester
If we look at the changes that occur during each trimester in both the fetus and the mother, it is easier to see exactly what the nutritional requirements of both are.
Preconception - First Trimester
The nutritional requirements are the same for those who are trying to conceive and those who have recently conceived, as the goal is the same, to nourish a healthy mother and support a healthy fetus.
**Note on Morning Sickness
Morning Sickness is often caused by the rising levels of hormones, such as HCG. It can also be a sign of vitamin deficiencies. Most commonly; B6, Magnesium, Potassium, and/or Zinc. All vitamins that are depleted when you are on birth control.
Approaching the middle of pregnancy, physical changes are more noticeable, nausea and fatigue are passing and appetite is increasing. The old adage of eating for two isn't quite as good as it sounds. The second person starts out the size of a pea, and really doesn't consume all that many calories, and even at their biggest, the mother only needs to consume an additional 300 calories per day. While it is important to maintain a healthy diet full of quality, nutritious foods, too much weight gain will make for future difficulties, such as difficult labor and delivery, diabetes, high blood pressure, and general strain on both the mother and baby.
During the final 3 months of pregnancy, a baby grows faster, doubling in size. Nerve cells increase, the lungs and immune system mature, the digestive tract developed, bones strengthen, and the body begins to store fat, calcium, and iron in preparation for birth. The mother needs an additional 200-300 calories per day, with an emphasis on protein.
All good nutrition and correct diet during pregnancy needs to be followed up with the correct diet for the preparation of labor. It is important for the mother to eat plenty of complex carbohydrates for energy stores during the last 2 weeks. This means plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and legumes to ensure that glycogen reserves stored in the muscle and liver are filled to capacity. Labor can be compared in energy requirements to running a marathon. Deficiencies in energy stores can lead to long, difficult labors requiring medical interventions such as medication, and caesarean deliveries.
A healthy and well-balanced diet is just as important after delivery. The effects of blood loss, risks of infections, fatigue, and start of lactation take its nutritional toll on new mothers.
Foods to Avoid
Generally this means avoiding processed and refined foods and many pre-made foods such as cakes, sodas, processed and cured meats. Pregnant women should avoid foods that also contain a risk of salmonella or listeria contamination such as; undercooked meat, uncooked eggs, pate, soft cheeses, cheeses with blue veins, and unpasteurized dairy.