As women, we have come to think of a pregnancy as 9 months in length. The truth is, the success of our pregnancy begins months before we even start considering a new baby.
When a woman becomes pregnant, her body begins working extra hard to compensate for the new life it is building. Because of this added work for a woman’s body, it’s easy for her to become depleted in important nutrients. For this reason, it’s important a woman is at her best health, prior to getting pregnant so the raw material is there when she needs it.
So, what are the most important nutrients a woman should focus on before getting pregnant?
- Folate. Folate is a part of the B-Vitamins. B9 is needed for healthy growth and development. Folate can help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida, neural tube defects and more. In the very early stages of fetal development, there is a great deal of growth and energy as cells divide quickly to form a human being. Folate supports this new growth, especially the spinal cord development. You can get plenty of folate in your diet if you are consuming cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. There is also folate in legumes, avocado, grapefruit, eggs and nuts. If you don’t have a healthy diet, folate can be obtained through supplementation. Here’s a tip, Nutritional Yeast is a great way to get most of your B-Vitamins.
- Iron. If you don’t get enough iron, you can become anemic. Anemia can create complications for you during deliver. Keeping our red blood supply healthy, will ensure our organs are getting adequate oxygen. Some healthy food choices for iron includes, red meat, fish and poultry. You can also get iron from spinach, broccoli and brown rice. To really absorb the iron well, pair it with foods that are rich in Vitamin C.
- Calcium. A developing fetus uses calcium from the mother’s bones for development. It goes without saying, this is an important nutrient to have. Milk, cheese and yogurt are the top contenders for calcium but dried fruits and leafy greens are a good option as well. Most women do not get enough calcium from their diet, so be mindful of this and if needed, you can supplement.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in our mood, immunity, brain function and blood pressure. Each of these must be in tip top shape prior to pregnancy. D3 is your recommended form for supplementation but getting outside in the sun is one of the best ways to increase your vitamin D stores.
- Iodine. Your baby is developing its thyroid during the first trimester so iodine is critical for that formation. Of course, the baby draws on the mother’s thyroid hormones for it’s own growth so deficiency can be critical. Iodine deficiencies can also create brain abnormalities in the fetus. Where can you get iodine from food sources? Seaweed! This might be best to supplement since our access to seaweed is limited! You can also get iodine from some fish and seafood, as well as eggs.
Of course, this is just a short list of the top nutrients for pre pregnancy. The most important point is that a fetus relies heavily on the nutrient stores of the mother. If you are planning a pregnancy in the next little while, consider upping your nutrient game and get a head start on your baby’s health. As always, it never hurts to visit with your doctor. They can screen you for other important nutrients you may be lacking.