Prepregnancy & pregnancy nutrition basics

pregnant woman in kitchen

Whether you are pregnant or want to become pregnant, your nutrition and lifestyle can help ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy for both you and baby. As always, talk with your doctor about your specific needs, but here are a few general guidelines:

Start taking pre-natal vitamins. We advise women to begin taking a prenatal vitamin containing at least 400 mcg of folic acid at least one month before getting pregnant. You should continue to take folic acid throughout your pregnancy to supplement where your diet lacks.

Follow a well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from each food group helps maintain a well-balanced diet. Nutrients that become particularly important for the baby’s growth include folate/folic acid, calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Include plenty of leafy greens, beans and nuts, oranges and strawberries, and fortified cereals.

Calcium plays a role in the reproductive system. Adequate intake will increase the chances of becoming pregnant. Calcium is also critical in the baby’s bone development. Consuming enough will protect mom from losing bone density since baby’s development takes priority during pregnancy – more reason to include those green vegetables, particularly kale, broccoli and collard greens. Drink milk, calcium-fortified juice or calcium-fortified nut milks daily for 25-33% of your daily needs in just one cup. Your milk should also be fortified with vitamin D, as it enhances the absorption of calcium. Pro tip: Be sure to shake the carton each time as the calcium can settle at the bottom.

Iron is a critical component of red blood cells. It’s responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Daily needs are 18 mg per day and this amount increases to 27 mg per day during pregnancy. Fortified cereals are an excellent source, along with spinach and lean meats like chicken and turkey. Be sure to pair iron-rich foods with a food source of vitamin C such as strawberries, citrus or greens to enhance iron absorption.

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fat for everyone. It helps to regulate hormones and enhances blood delivery to reproductive organs. It’s in prenatal vitamins, but food sources are also important to include. Wild-caught salmon, anchovies, sardines and herring are good sources, as is flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans and green vegetables.

Ask your doctor about any other pregnancy nutrition or lifestyle questions you might have. If you need an OB/GYN, Roper St. Francis Physician Partners OB/GYN is proud to provide personal, thoughtful care for Lowcountry women. Find one now.