There are a million reasons why I respect my wife, Stacy, more than any person on the face of the earth. The five biggest reasons are our five children who, along with Stacy, make me the luckiest father and husband in the world.
There is no greater joy than having a family. As for those nine months leading up to the birth of each child – well, you’ll have to ask Stacy.
As a doctor, one of the most common questions I’m asked by a pregnant woman is, “Am I doing the right thing?” That motherly instinct kicks in as moms want to make sure they’re doing everything possible to protect their children.
For a nutritional perspective, there are certain things expecting moms should know that can help keep mother and child healthy.
Cravings are natural because a woman’s appetite typically increases quite a bit during pregnancy. The developing baby is consuming vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the mother, especially between weeks 20 and 30. Also, the mother’s body is working to produce milk reserves for feeding the newborn baby.
Proper nutrition – the right foods in the right amounts – is essential to ensuring the highest quality breast milk. Three of the most important nutrients to monitor during pregnancy are folic acid, iron and calcium.
Folic acid is a B vitamin that has been shown to prevent up to 70 percent of birth defects of the brain and spine. It can also prevent certain kinds of heart defects and a cleft palate. Folic acid is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, especially broccoli, spinach, asparagus and citrus fruit.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend that pregnant women consume a minimum of 600 micrograms of folic acid per day, compared to 400 micrograms for non-pregnant women. Folic acid supplements prescribed by a doctor are recommended as part of a supplement protocol before, during and after childbirth.
On average, the blood supply of a pregnant woman increases 30-35 percent, usually between weeks 12 and 20. Iron is a nutrient used by the human body to form hemoglobin, the substance found in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also absorbed by the placenta to develop muscles, various tissues and blood for the baby.
The recommended daily allowance for iron is 15-18 milligrams. This increases to 27 milligrams during pregnancy. Without enough iron, women can develop iron deficiency anemia, which can cause premature deliveries and low birth weight.
Iron is found naturally in beef, spinach, turkey, chicken and certain types of shellfish. We’ll discuss healthy fish consumption during pregnancy in Part 2 of this post.
Calcium is not only important to the development of strong bones and teeth, but it also helps with proper functioning of nerves and muscle fibers, blood clotting, and maintaining a normal heart beat.
The recommended daily allowance for calcium is 1,000 milligrams, but not more than 2,500 milligrams. Low levels of calcium can result in weak bones, which can cause bone conditions like osteoporosis later in life.
Although most people automatically think of dairy, there are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium, including leafy green vegetables, oranges, legumes (peas, seeds and nuts) and salmon.
In Part two of this post, we’ll discuss the importance of protein, water, fiber, prenatal vitamins and moderation.