Hello! Dahlia the Dietitian here.
Part II of this series will cover three very important nutrients to consider during pregnancy: folic acid, vitamin D, and an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA. These nutrients are imperative for fetal growth and development. A pregnant woman can obtain these nutrients from a healthy diet or from a well-balanced prenatal vitamin.
Let’s get into it.
Folic acid is an essential vitamin that helps our body create new cells and helps form the neural tube. Pregnant women are creating new life, which requires more cells, so naturally they need to consume additional folic acid. Folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, is found in fortified grains, cereals, and supplements. Folate is found naturally in leafy greens, legumes, and citrus fruit. Because folic acid is so essential to the proper development of baby, supplementation is advised. The recommended dose of folic acid is 600mcg/day for pregnant women. It is advised to start supplementing with folic acid about six month to one year before conceiving in order to build up stores in the body.
Vitamin D is essential for a multitude of bodily functions including bone formation, bone health, brain development, and immunity. Sunlight exposure and fortified foods with vitamin D are not enough to meet requirements for pregnant women. Therefore, it’s important to supplement.
Research has shown that the concentration of vitamin D in a mother’s blood crosses the placenta and the baby receives the same concentration. Thus, it’s important for a mother to maintain optimal vitamin D levels for baby’s bone, brain, and immunological health. The recommended dose for pregnant women is 600 IU/day of vitamin D3 (the active, most bioavailable form).
It’s important to get your vitamin D levels checked before conceiving to ensure there is not a deficiency. If you are deficient your doctor may recommend a higher dose.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that helps with fetal brain development. It is important to consume DHA, whether from food or supplement, to nourish your baby’s fast-growing brain. Food sources of DHA include fatty fish such as salmon or sardines. Vegan sources come from algae-based DHA supplements. You can meet your requirements with food with 2-3 servings of fatty fish per week. If you would rather supplement, supplementation recommendations for pregnant women are 300mg/day. Weather fish oil or from a plant, ensure your DHA supplement comes from a quality source.
Until next time!