NOURISH FOR TWO – VITAL NUTRIENTS DURING PREGNANCY
It goes without saying that our nutrition should always be a priority, no matter which stage of life we find ourselves in. But if there’s ever a time it should be of paramount importance, it would most certainly be during pregnancy. For the developing foetus to grow, both macronutrients and micronutrients are essential. By improving women’s nutritional status and general health both pre and during pregnancy, one can aid a number of benefits namely, optimal foetal development, favourable obstetrical results, improved perinatal survival rates and the likelihood for better overall health in the long run for both mother and child¹.
In order to maintain a healthy pregnancy, women must follow a balanced diet when it comes to their macronutrient intake¹. This means that their diet must contain sufficient amounts of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, protein, legumes, monounsaturated fats, and fibre whilst also limiting fatty cuts of red meat and refined grains¹. Ideally, one should also make an effort to avoid trans and saturated fats, monosaccharides such as fructose, galactose, and glucose as well as processed foods¹.
The first 1000 days are a critical time period referring to a child's life from conception until 2 years of age. During this time, the building blocks for optimal health, growth and neurodevelopment are formed. As you can imagine, there is an increased need for nutrients throughout a women’s pregnancy. Consuming a balanced diet that has both macronutrients and micronutrients in their required amounts is vital. Should it not be possible to meet these requirements via dietary intake, supplements remain an option.
With so much misleading information found easily at your disposal, we thought we’d simplify it for you.
WHICH NUTRIENTS ARE IMPORTANT DURING PREGNANCY?
Adequate iron intake is fundamental for the distribution of oxygen to the foetus to sustain the increased oxygen consumption demand during pregnancy². As with several other minerals, iron requirements increase during pregnancy in an attempt to stockpile iron stores as your baby makes use of these stores during the first 5 to 6 months after birth. During pregnancy, women require 27mg/day of iron. Latest scientific evidence shows that an iron deficiency in trimesters one and two is related to increased maternal morbidity as well as an increased risk for non-favourable pregnancy outcomes such as low birthweight (LBW), premature birth or intrauterine growth restriction³.
Dietary sources of iron include cuts of red meat, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and wholegrains. It is also important to note that if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may be more susceptible to an iron deficiency during pregnancy. It is also worth noting that you should avoid taking an iron supplement with tea or coffee as this can interfere with the absorption of iron.
Statistically, the majority of women of childbearing age are lacking in terms of their dietary folate intake⁴. Hence, the impact of folate supplementation during pregnancy for the prevention of foetal congenital defects has been established globally⁴. Not only is folate needed for the normal development of the unborn baby, but it also has a role to play in the growth of maternal tissue throughout the pregnancy. Perhaps one of its most well-known functions is for the normal development of the infant’s brain and spinal cord as well as preventing neural tube defects like spina bifida for example.
3. VITAMIN B12
Vitamin B12 is important for overall growth, development and several biological functions⁵. During pregnancy, the developing foetus is entirely dependent on the mother’s supply of nutrients and as a result, insufficient vitamin B12 levels may disturb certain processes leading to neural damage or brain atrophy⁵. Thus, it is crucial that pregnant and lactating women take in sufficient amounts of vitamin B12 to prevent neural tube defects. Vitamin B12 is a unique vitamin in that it is generally found in foods from animals; therefore, newborns who only receive breast milk from mothers who do not eat any animal products are at an increased risk for developing a vitamin B12 deficiency in the first few weeks following their birth.
4. VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is essential during pregnancy as it controls the phosphate and calcium levels in your baby’s bones and teeth, ultimately contributing to the formation of normal bones. A Vitamin D deficiency could result in an abnormal calcium metabolism presenting as irregular foetal bone and teeth development. It has also been associated with reduced rates of eczema and preterm births.
Food sources of Vitamin D include egg yolks oily fish, milk, juices, yoghurt, fortified cereals, soy, mushrooms, margarine as well as cod liver oil⁶. If a pregnant woman is deficient in Vitamin D, it could result in musculoskeletal abnormalities for instance rickets in children, osteomalacia in adults, metabolic conditions such as secondary hyperparathyroidism, obstetric difficulties like pre-eclampsia (PET), gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and gestational hypertension (GHT), higher chances of undergoing a caesarean section, premature birth, and diminished bone mineral density (BMD)⁶. Our bodies are incredible as they are able to synthesize Vitamin D via direct exposure to sunlight leaving many people to believe that vitamin D is not an essential part of our diet. It has recently been discovered that a substantial proportion of the population is vitamin D deficient. If you live in an area with limited access to sunlight, it might be worthwhile to have your vitamin D levels checked. If necessary, your healthcare professional may recommend a vitamin D supplement.
Zinc plays a critical role in several biological pathways that contribute to human growth and development, ultimately assisting in the maintenance of normal bones. It is important to note that a during pregnancy, a zinc deficiency is associated with low birth weight and small for gestational age (SGA)⁷. Zinc is quite possibly one of the most underrated minerals during pregnancy as it also contributes to the functioning of the immune system in which case a deficiency may result in systemic or intra-uterine infections. It is no wonder then that during pregnancy, zinc requirements are estimated to double during the third trimester and virtually triple during lactation.
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INTRODUCING FUTURELIFE® MOTHERS FOOD™
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Not keen on a shake? How about a bar instead? For an on-the-go bar that supports the development for your baby try MOTHERS FOOD™ BARS. FUTURELIFE® MOTHERS FOOD™ BAR is scientifically formulated for pregnant and lactating women containing Development5™ and made from wholegrain oats with berries or salted caramel and a dark choc base. It is high in protein, a source of fibre and contains collagen.
WHAT IS DEVELOPMENT 5™?
FUTURELIFE® MOTHERS FOOD™ supports the development of your baby by providing 100% Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) for adults for the following nutrients: Folate, Vitamin D & Zinc, Iron and Vitamin B12.
Giving our children the best possible start in life starts with good nutrition. As a new mum, there will always be a laundry list of things beyond our control but how we choose to prioritize our nutrition during pregnancy will always remain our responsibility. Enjoy the journey and be sure to make your health a priority. After all, the best way to keep your baby healthy is to keep yourself healthy.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW FUTURELIFE® MOTHERS FOOD™, a revolutionary new range designed to cater to the unique needs of mothers during the critical first 1000 days of a child's life.
1. Marshall NE, Abrams B, Barbour LA, Catalano P, Christian P, Friedman JE, Hay WW Jr, Hernandez TL, Krebs NF, Oken E, Purnell JQ, Roberts JM, Soltani H, Wallace J, Thornburg KL. The importance of nutrition in pregnancy and lactation: lifelong consequences. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2022 May;226(5):607-632.
2. Fisher A, Nemeth E. Iron homeostasis during pregnancy. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017; 106:
3. Dewey KG, Oaks BM. U-shaped curve for risk associated with maternal hemoglobin, iron status, or iron supplementation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Dec;106(Suppl 6):1694S-1702S.
4. Kaldygulova L, Ukybassova T, Aimagambetova G, Gaiday A, Tussupkaliyev A. Biological Role of Folic Acid in Pregnancy and Possible Therapeutic Application for the Prevention of Preeclampsia. Biomedicines. 2023; 11(2):272.
5. Sourander A, Silwal S, Surcel H-M, Hinkka-Yli-Salomäki S, Upadhyaya S, McKeague IW, Cheslack-Postava K, Brown AS. Maternal Serum Vitamin B12 during Pregnancy and Offspring Autism Spectrum Disorder. Nutrients. 2023; 15(8):2009.
6. Bokharee N, Khan YH, Wasim T, Mallhi TH, Alotaibi NH, et al. (2020). Daily versus stat vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy; A prospective cohort study. PLOS ONE 15(4).
7. Agedew E, Tsegaye B, Bante A, Zerihun E, Aklilu A, et al. (2022) Zinc deficiency and associated factors among pregnant women’s attending antenatal clinics in public health facilities of Konso Zone, Southern Ethiopia. PLOS ONE 17(7).
BY: Shannen Singh / DATE: September 2023