Waiting expectantly for the birth of a child is a magical time for moms-to-be. But the days, weeks and months of pregnancy can be difficult when fatigue gets the better of you, especially if you have a demanding job or other children to care for. “How you eat has a profound impact on your energy level at all stages of pregnancy,” says Houston-area nutrition consultant and American Dietetic Assocation spokeswoman Anne Dubner, R.D.
By following some simple eating strategies and our five-day meal plan, you can energize yourself throughout your pregnancy and give your baby the best nutritional start possible, especially during the critical first trimester. “Although your baby is light as a feather during the first trimester, she needs fabulous nutrition then,” says Dubner.
It’s important to get enough of all the essential vitamins and minerals during pregnancy, but certain ones — those that tend to be lacking in most women’s diets and are so critical to pregnancy’s outcome — stand out, says Mary Frances Picciano, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University in State College. These nutrients include folic acid, vitamin B6, protein, zinc, vitamin D, calcium and iron.
Baby Building Blocks
Getting enough folic acid very early in pregnancy has been heralded as one of the most important factors in preventing spina bifida and other spinal- column birth defects. Continuing a hearty intake of folic acid through your entire pregnancy is also key to preventing low birth weight and problems near the time of delivery. (See at left, below). Critical to cell formation in your baby, B6 shuttles protein to developing cells from the bloodstream.
Protein is a critical building block of baby’s tissues, and zinc helps organize developing tissues properly and helps your baby gain a healthy amount of weight before birth.
You and baby share the same need for calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for strong bones. While calcium is the most important nutrient in predicting bone strength, you can’t absorb it optimally without vitamin D, and neither can your baby.
Iron is exceptionally important. For starters, gestating babies need iron to grow normally, and your iron intake has a direct impact on your baby’s red blood cells. It’s also a building block of muscle cells. According to the International Life Sciences Institute, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., babies born to anemic mothers don’t gain as much weight as babies of iron-replete women, and iron deficiency anemia also increases the chance of premature delivery.