Pregnancy is a pivotal point for the body in any woman’s life. At no other time does it go through such in-depth physiological changes than when creating a new life form. Every cell formed of the unborn child depends on the mother’s body for nourishment. So, of course, the nutritional needs of the mother are altered during all stages of gestation. The sad truth is most women have a hard enough time meeting nutritional standards for themselves, let alone for two! According to some studies, “74% of [American] women are falling short on nutrients from their diets.”1 The prevalence of the Standard American Diet (referred to as S.A.D. for a reason), high in processed foods, and devoid of nutrients, has done more than increase heart problems and diabetes, it has also passed along nutrient deficiencies to children.
Many people are aware that during gestation the mother’s health is irrevocably linked to development of her unborn child, but they don’t know that with the emerging study of epigenetics, more and more evidence shows that health decisions can actually alter her baby’s DNA and impact future generations. “For example, babies who are malnourished during fetal life but then experience accelerated growth in infancy or childhood may be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes later in life, partly due to differences in epigenetic patterns.”2
Some studies from malnourished German women circa WWII traced developmental disorders to their grandchildren3. There are reasons that indigenous cultures began to prep their women nutritionally for conception! In Fiji, islanders hiked down to the sea to acquire a species of lobster crab that “tribal custom demonstrated [to be] particular efficient for producing a highly perfect infant.”4 Another example is of the Massai and how they “allowed couples to marry only after spending several months consuming milk from the wet season when the grass was especially lush and the milk much denser in nutrients.”5
Now in our modern age, instead of raw milk and lobster crabs, we have packaged prenatal vitamins, which women are recommended to begin taking if they are planning on getting pregnant, not only during the pregnancy itself. The micronutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy are utilized immediately at conception but, like all nutrients, a few weeks lead time should be factored in to enjoy their benefits, and many women do not know they are pregnant for a few weeks after conception.
The most important nutrients to be aware of in prenatal vitamins are folate and iron. Folate is used for cell division and, therefore, assists in the development of tissues and of the central nervous system of the fetus. An RDA of 600 mcg per day has been set for pregnancy, and women who may become pregnant are advised a minimum of 400 mcg per day6 just in case. Natural sources high in folate include romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, calf’s liver, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and lentils.
Iron deficiencies are common, and 12% of women enter pregnancy with impaired iron status.7 The RDA for iron, essential for conception and early pregnancy to aid the fetus and placenta development, increases from….