Blog reviewed by: Casey Seiden MS, RD, CDN, DCES
During pregnancy, it’s extremely important to meet both yours and your baby’s nutrition needs. This can seem overwhelming, so it can be helpful to partner with a registered dietitian to set yourself up for a healthy pregnancy. A registered dietitian can provide recommendations and resources to help you meet your dietary needs and provide energy and support for your baby’s growth. Here are just a few nutrients that are important in pregnancy and how you can begin incorporating them into your daily diet.
Folic Acid and Folate
Folate and folic acid are natural and synthetic forms (respectively) of the same nutrient. This nutrient is essential for pregnant women because it can help prevent certain birth defects that affect the brain and spinal cord. It has also been shown to reduce the chances of premature birth. To get the most benefit, you should aim for 400-1,000mcg per day as early as 3 months before pregnancy. Folate is found easily in leafy greens, chicken, lentils, and fortified foods; however, a supplement is usually a sound idea. For a supplement, look for one that contains methylfolate for best absorption.
Calcium has many different benefits for your bones, as well as the circulatory, muscular, and nervous systems. In short, calcium can provide essential nutrients for your baby’s growth as well as supporting your musculoskeletal health. Aim for around 1,000mg per day (depending on your age) and make sure to consume dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified cereals and juices.
Vitamin D goes hand-in-hand with calcium because it also supports the growth of bones and teeth. They also aid in the absorption of each other. It’s also essential for supporting mental health. Vitamin D is not found in high amounts in food; we produce most of our own vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Depending on how skin color, where you live, and other factors, having adequate levels of vitamin D can be difficult. It is recommended to supplement in pregnancy with at least 1000 IU of vitamin D-3, and even as high as 4000 IU.
Protein will support your baby’s growth throughout pregnancy, so it’s essential to find protein sources that fit your dietary needs. Protein can come from many different sources, but you can get the most benefit from lean meats like poultry, beef, fish, and eggs. Additionally, make sure to incorporate non-meat sources like dairy, beans, peas, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and soy. The amount of protein you need can vary based on factors like your weight, so your dietitian can recommend the right amount of protein you’ll need (measured in grams).
Iron is very important to your body’s circulatory system. It’s used to make hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to yours and your baby’s tissues. Because of this, pregnant women generally need to consume twice the amount of iron they normally do. If you don’t consume enough iron, you can develop iron deficiency anemia (which can cause symptoms like fatigue or even complications like premature birth). It’s also tied to the development of postpartum depression. You should aim for about 27mg per day from sources like red meat, poultry, and fish. You can also opt for leafy greens, beans, and fortified cereals. You may also get iron from prenatal vitamins, if you take them. Iron absorption is increased by Vitamin C, so make sure to incorporate fruits into your diet alongside iron sources.
Schedule an Appointment
Achieving the right balance in your diet can be difficult. At Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates, we offer the dietary support you need throughout pregnancy. To meet with our award-winning team and learn more about pregnancy dietary needs, we invite you to contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.