Babies born to moms who had low levels of vitamin D are more likely to have signs of tooth decay at 16 months than babies whose mothers had adequate levels of the vitamin during pregnancy. This calcium-absorbing vitamin is critical in the second trimester, prime time for babies’ primary teeth to develop and calcify. Because the body produces vitamin D through sun exposure, women with darker skin are at particular risk of not getting enough.
A 26-year-old reader (who didn't include her name) is thinking about aiming for a pregnancy early next year. She has a lot of questions about how to go about this. I know what you're thinking: "have sex, duh—end of story." Not so fast. Unlike the gajillion of us who just plain ol' get pregnant, knocked up or caught by surprise in the family way, this reader is being very thoughtful about it.
Each year, scientists uncover new information about the critical benefits of nutrients in a fetus’s mental and physical development, including a reduced risk of birth defects and disease in newborns. Prenatal vitamins help, but they can’t do the job alone, which is why diet is so important. Following are the five most important nutrients you need daily to build a healthy baby.
Essential Pregnancy Nutrients
The Institute of Medicine at the National Research Council in Washington, D.C., has established Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for pregnant women for some vitamins and minerals; values for some nutrients have been increased by prenatal nutrition experts. Focus on including these nutrients in your diet every day. Check with your doctor or midwife regarding supplements.
Women of childbearing age aren't getting enough of the B vitamin folate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is a concern because the dramatic decline in neural tube birth defects in the late 1990s resulted directly from a U.S. mandate to fortify cereals and flours with folic acid, the synthetic version of folate. Why levels are dropping is unknown. Possible culprits include the recent low-carb craze, during which women avoided grains and cereals, and the growing popularity of whole grains, whose trace amounts of folate exempt them from the mandate.
Perhaps. While "morning sickness" is most common in the first trimester, it can happen anytime during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins may intensify your symptoms; if you suspect this is the case, try taking yours before going to bed to allow you to sleep through the discomfort. Using antacids also can be helpful, as can "grazing" on several small, healthy meals throughout the day. Additional vitamin B6 seems to curb nausea for some women; talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.
Already known to cut the risk of neural-tube defects by half, prenatal vitamins also lower the risk for heart defects by 39 percent, limb deformities by 47 percent, cleft palate by 58 percent, and hydrocephalus (the accumulation of fluid on the brain) by 63 percent, according to an analysis of 41 studies by Gideon Koren, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto.
Prenatal vitamins contain more iron and folic acid than standard multivitamins, and Koren recommends taking them as soon as you start to plan a family.
Lean women who took a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin at least weekly before becoming pregnant and in the first three months of pregnancy reduced their preeclampsia risk by a dramatic 71 percent, according to University of Pittsburgh researchers. No such association was found in women who were overweight before pregnancy. Scientists don't know why heavier women who took the same vitamins remained disposed to the condition. Symptoms of preeclampsia, which affects up to 8 percent of pregnancies, include swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and vision changes.