Growing a little one from an embryo of just a few cells to a functioning human being is a beautiful and fascinating process. Prenatal nutrition is important during pregnancy, as nutritionally, it is a very demanding process. Each and every pregnancy is different and requires a unique approach to prenatal nutrition care.
The importance of prenatal nutrition
Healthy eating is a key aspect of prenatal nutrition care as nutrient requirements increase to support the growth and development of a healthy baby. Meeting these nutritional needs is also essential for supporting the health of the mother — throughout the pregnancy and in the months and even years that follow.
The availability of these nutrients will depend on the foods the mother is eating — which can be a challenge for expectant mothers, especially during the early stages of pregnancy. Nausea, morning sickness, and food aversions can limit the foods an expectant mother can stomach. Add to this a list of high-risk foods that should be avoided during pregnancy, and you can see that for some women, it may be difficult to meet the nutritional demands of pregnancy through diet alone.
Prenatal or pregnancy supplements
Prenatal supplements address the nutritional gaps that the diet may not always cover. There are many prenatal or pregnancy supplements on the market, each claiming to be the best one for you and your baby. But, how do you know which one to choose?
Unfortunately, I cannot give you a simple answer. Each mother’s prenatal nutrition needs are unique and can even change with each pregnancy. As you can see in the chart below, formulations of various pregnancy supplements differ in both the nutrients that they contain and the dosage of those nutrients.
This wide variation is actually a good thing. While the essential prenatal nutrients — folate, iodine, and iron — are included in most pregnancy multivitamins, there is much variation in additional nutrients such as vitamin D, selenium, zinc and B vitamins. This allows for more flexible prescribing. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a supplement:
The form of the nutrients included.
Not all forms of nutrients are equal in terms of absorption and effects on the digestive system. For example, the dosage of iron in retail supplement #1 is significantly higher in comparison with other prenatal supplements. However, it is in a form that is poorly absorbed in the gut and is more likely to cause constipation. For a woman with a tendency to constipation, retail supplement #1 may not be the most appropriate choice for her.
Specific nutrients lacking in the diet.
Pregnancy can bring about enormous changes in appetite, perceptions of taste and smell as well as food aversions and nausea. These factors can limit the foods a pregnant woman can tolerate, and potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies. Choosing a supplement that covers these nutrient deficits in the diet may help to support a healthy pregnancy for both mum and her bub.
Tolerance of a supplement.
This is probably one of the more important factors to consider. Women will tolerate some supplements better than others, and her preference may change throughout the different stages of pregnancy. At the end of the day, a supplement that is perfect on paper but, not taken or able to be kept down due to low tolerance, is unlikely to provide any nutritional benefit.
Integrative approach to prenatal care
Prenatal care often involves a number of practitioners. First and foremost, you will generally have an obstetrician and/or your GP, and often a midwife as well. Some women require physical support such as prenatal massage therapy, physiotherapy or prenatal chiropractic care to help with the structural changes that come with growing a little human. Some women find they need more emotional support in the form of counselling — bringing new life into this world involves significant change and responsibility, whether it is your first child or your fourth. And then there are women that need some extra prenatal nutrition support and guidance. Not only to nourish her growing bub but, also to nourish herself.
It is important that a mother nourishes herself with whichever forms of healthcare or support that she needs throughout pregnancy and beyond so that she can continue to care for and nourish her offspring.
Preconception, prenatal and postnatal nutrition at Total Health Brookvale
As a naturopath, I work with clients that are preparing for pregnancy, currently pregnant or new mothers. We look at the mothers diet is quite a bit of detail and then based on the dietary assessment, I can then create an individualised nutrition plan and recommend the most appropriate supplement that will help fill the nutritional gaps identified.
Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist