As mothers tend to sacrifice during their lives to meet their children's needs, a mother's body will give up its own essential nutrients to provide health and growth for her developing baby. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) is often so nutritionally deficient that even this sacrifice does not guarantee adequate nutrition for the unborn baby. Fortunately, there are a number of tips that, if followed during pregnancy, can help both baby and mother stay healthy and vital!
Here is Dr. T's top 10 list for ensuring a healthy pregnancy. It includes recommendations on nutrition, vitamins, minerals and other common sense tips that can lead to a happier, healthier and more vital pregnancy. Powdered vitamin formulas are available that can markedly decrease the number of supplement tablets needed—our favorite is the Energy Revitalization System (Berry or Citrus) by Enzymatic Therapy (in most health food stores or online) as it is excellent for pregnancy. It supplies 50 key nutrients in 1 drink and 1 capsule, including optimal levels of key nutrients such as # 1-4 below:
Inadequate zinc is the most common and problematic deficiency during pregnancy. Zinc is critical for two reasons: 1) proper growth and 2) developing a healthy immune system for the baby. Studies suggest that inadequate zinc may even cause immune deficiency in the next generation (i.e., your grandchild) as well. Be sure to get at least 15 milligrams per day of zinc in your diet, which can be found in high protein foods such as meat and beans.
2. Folic Acid
Getting enough folic acid is critical both before and during pregnancy to help assure proper growth and to prevent birth defects. It is present in deep green, leafy vegetables. Women should get at least 400 to 800 micrograms per day.
Magnesium deficiency is routine in the American diet and can increase the possibility of high blood pressure and seizures during pregnancy, a condition known as eclampsia. To prevent this deficiency, take 200 milligrams of magnesium in the glycinate form daily. Whole grains, green leafy and other vegetables and nuts are good sources of magnesium. Taking the proper amount of magnesium a day also helps to decrease the leg cramps and constipation often experienced during pregnancy. In addition, magnesium is critical for more than 300 other body functions and will generally help you to feel a lot healthier.
4. B Vitamins
These are critical for energy, mental clarity and to prevent depression. B vitamins have also been found to improve pregnancy related complications such as gestational diabetes. Taking 200 milligrams a day of vitamin B6 can improve the health of those women suffering from this form of diabetes. But please note that only women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy should take this high level of B vitamins, and should drop the level of consumption to 100 milligrams per day during the last month. For all other soon-to-be moms, take approximately 25 to 50 milligrams a day of B vitamins and plenty of vitamin B12 for normal nerve function.
In addition to the vitamin powder, which has many other key nutrients besides the above, pregnant women need to add:
5. Fish Oils
The human brain is made predominantly of DHA, an essential fatty acid found in fish oils. Perhaps this is why there is an old wives' tale about fish being brain food. Regardless, DHA deficiency is very common and it is critical that pregnant women get adequate fish oils so that their baby can develop healthy and optimal brain tissue. DHA may also decrease the risk of postpartum depression. Unfortunately, though, the FDA has raised concerns about high mercury levels in the same deep sea fish (salmon and tuna) that have the highest levels of these oils. An excellent alternative for those who'd rather not risk it is to take one half to one tablespoon of Eskimo 3 fish oil or 1 Arctic Omega softgel 3 times a day. These special forms of fish oil actually taste good (most do not), and have been tested to make sure that they do not have mercury or other problematic compounds.
Ideally, pregnant women should ingest 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day plus 400-600 units of vitamin D. It is best to take calcium at night (it helps with sleep) in the liquid, powdered or chewable form. Many calcium tablets are simply chalk and do not dissolve in the stomach, and therefore are not absorbed properly. Each cup of milk or yogurt contains 400 milligrams of calcium.
Approximately 18 to 36 milligrams of iron per day can be helpful. Interestingly, iron deficiency can sometimes cause infertility. And pregnant women who don't get enough iron are at risk for anemia, fatigue, poor memory and decreased immune function.
Be sure to drink plenty of water. When pregnant, blood volume can increase about 30% and it is easy to become dehydrated. If your mouth or lips are dry, drink more! Adequate salt is also helpful in preventing dehydration (less so if you have problems with fluid retention).
9. CHECK YOUR THYROID!
Millions of women have undiagnosed hypothyroidism, which accounts for over 6% of miscarriages, and is associated with learning disabilities when the child is born. Treating a low thyroid is both safe and easy during pregnancy. The earlier it is treated the better. As soon as you know you're pregnant (or trying to get pregnant), take a TSH blood test to check your thyroid. Most doctors do not yet know that the TSH has to be less than 3 or you need treatment, so see the result for yourself (many still use the dangerous and outdated criteria of a TSH over 5 being abnormal). If you were on thyroid before getting pregnant, it is normal to need to increase the dose 30% during pregnancy (the TSH should be kept between .5 and 2.0). If your doctor is not familiar with the new guidelines, let them know they can e-mail me at my website and we'll send a copy to them. For more information see Hypothyroidism.
Also be sure your doctor checks an anti-TPO antibody for thyroid inflammation. If elevated, even if other thyroid labs are OK, your risk of miscarriage is over 13%—but goes all the way down to the normal 2% if your doctor will give thyroid hormone. Because the treatment is cheap, no one is making sure your doctor sees this research—but you can! If you're pregnant, read this and save your baby's life!
10. Things to Avoid
A few cautions for pregnant women: avoid taking more than 8,000 units of vitamin A per day. And don't partake in anything that can raise your body temperature too high (e.g., hot tubs, saunas or steam rooms). These have been implicated as possibly increasing the risk for birth defects. A hot bath up to 102 degrees is fine. Most pregnant women are also, of course, aware that smoking, drugs and alcohol should all be avoided during pregnancy. Exercise, on the other hand, has been shown to be very beneficial and results in babies and moms that are quite healthy.
Wishing you a great pregnancy!
Love & Blessings,
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD