Shaun Klomp, pharmacy technician, Spence’s Pharmacy

THE NUTRITIONAL NEEDS of a pregnant woman are critical for the ultimate health and development of her child. Not only is her nutrition important for the child while she is pregnant, but this nutritional foundation will impact her child for many years after birth.

Certain lifestyle and dietary changes are encouraged during pregnancy, such as avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and prescription medications as much as possible. The adverse effects that are noted by the mother at this time are also noted by the developing baby and can have significant negative effects. Pregnant women are also encouraged to refrain from using artificial sweeteners, which have been shown to cause neurological damage in a developing child. Above all, a healthy diet of whole foods that excludes processed or “fast” foods is a sound plan for the pregnant mother. There are many dietary and lifestyle changes that accompany pregnancy, but the changes just mentioned are critical for the healthy development of the child.

Most physicians recommend a prenatal vitamin for expectant mothers, one that contains a mix of essential vitamins and minerals such as: calcium, folic acid, zinc, and Vitamin D. Iron levels are particularly critical during pregnancy. Low iron levels can affect the amount of oxygen available to the developing baby. If additional iron is necessary for the mother, some iron supplements provide iron as an amino acid. Chelate and gluconate are excellent choices. These supplements contain iron combined with amino acids, which serve to help improve the absorption of the iron and minimize gastric irritation.

If gastric irritation is a problem during this time, taking a vitamin supplement in the middle of a meal will help reduce the nausea that is sometimes experienced. Folic acid supplementation is a must during pregnancy. Folic acid assists in the development of the child’s spine, brain, and neurological function, and helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Look for a prenatal vitamin with at least 800 to 1,000 mcg of folic acid, or better yet, take the activated form of folic acid 5-MTHF 1,000 mcg.

Vitamin D is also important for proper bone development and a healthy immune system in both mother and baby. Vitamin D levels are easily monitored with a blood test. Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for formulation of a healthy nervous system and brain. DHA has been noted as essential for its ability to assist in healthy cognitive development. DHA can be found in quality omega-3 fish oil products.

Finally, in situations where morning sickness is problematic in the first trimester of pregnancy, vitamin B-6, or better yet, pyridoxal-5- phosphate, taken each morning can help manage morning sickness. Ginger has also been found to help with the nausea of morning sickness and is an option that is safe for both mother and baby.

Pregnancy is a wonderful and special time. If you have any questions about supplements or medications to take during pregnancy, please contact your local pharmacy for further guidance.