Planning to be a parent can be absolutely thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Especially for a first time mother, and specifically when it comes to nutrition, there are tons of questions. Am I getting enough protein? Fat? Energy? Vitamins? Minerals? Water? Antioxidants? What does my baby need? What does my baby not need?
Living in the United States is not a Guarantee
While you may think, “I’ll just eat a balanced diet. I live in a first-world country. Everything will be fine,” consider that a recent UNICEF report revealed that 15 percent of the world’s infants are low birth weight: and only 1 of 5 low birth weight infants survive their first month. With a very high rate of infant mortality, India reports ⅓ of these cases are due to inadequate nutrition. Sadly, the United States falls short of its potential, ranking 55th of 225 countries in 2017 with almost double the infant mortality rate of other developed countries like Finland, Japan, or France. Diet can reduce this disparity. The most important investment you can make in your child’s health before that critical first month is your intake of high quality nutrition from clean food sources. Today, we will dive deep, beyond protein and calories, to investigate the micronutrients that are essential to nourish a healthy pregnancy for both you and your child.
Prenatal Nutrition Starts Now
Timing is KEY! Before you become pregnant is the best time to optimize your nutritional intake. Many mothers-to-be are not aware of being pregnant for the several weeks- by which time a critical window of nutrition has shut. As you may have heard, your baby starts to grow a brain and spinal cord in the first days, even before you may notice a missed period. Moreover, your main organ for feeding and changing your infant in the womb, the placenta, forms in the first few weeks, providing nutrients and hormones throughout pregnancy. Developing a high quality placenta likely requires vitamin D, folate, iron, and zinc. It also passes toxins from mother to child- in some cases, umbilical cord blood has been shown to have over 200 toxic chemicals per sample, including BPA and other chemicals known to disrupt development. Because your baby’s developing liver isn’t ready to process toxins, reduce your exposure to damaging chemicals, such as phthalates, parabens, damaging pesticides (choose organic!)- and remember, food is your primary toxic exposure, many of the chemicals we consume, breathe, and touch have neither been evaluated for toxicity nor studied for their effects on a fetus’ developing organs.
Not only is it important to provide extra nourishment for your developing child, but in order to give nutrition you have to receive nutrition. Without meeting your needs, your baby’s needs are not met. Many women experience taste changes, morning sickness, cravings for less healthful foods, and other nutritional roadblocks that may be circumnavigated at stressful times with supplemental protein (IN.POWER) and a drinkable multivitamin designed for maximum absorbability (nutreince).
Put food first- but don’t compromise. Every day counts. Several micronutrient deficiencies during pregnancy have scary outcomes: folate deficiency leading to spina bifida or iodine deficiency leading to congenital hypothyroidism are well understood. Mothers-to-be can experience anemia, high blood pressure, birthing complications, and even death as a result of inadequate micronutrient intake. A review study of almost 99,000 pregnant mothers who took multivitamins during pregnancy found that the benefits outweighed potential drawbacks. These infants had a reduced risk of being small for gestational age, developing neural tube, heart, vessel, and urinary tract defects, and limb deficiencies. However, most multivitamins fall short on absorbability, and those that supply excessive amounts of some nutrients can drastically reduce absorption of other nutrients. For instance, high levels of iron and zinc may actually create detrimental outcomes in women who are otherwise sufficient. Not to worry! We designed Nutreince so you don’t have to worry about micronutrient interactions, dissolving a horse pill, or overdosing. It is safe and effective for you before, during, and after pregnancy.
Minerals for Mothers-to-be
Minerals fill many metabolic and material roles, such as activating vitamins, supporting fluid balance, making nerves and muscles twitch, and providing structure in bone. Cravings for minerals can be so intense during pregnancy that they can cause pica (a psychological disorder that causes the eating of non-nutritive substances like hair, soil or stones!). During pregnancy, most mineral requirements increase. It is important to get the right amount of minerals because too much supplementation of one mineral can reduce levels of another.
- Copper. Unlike other minerals, avoid supplementing copper during pregnancy because your levels can double! Copper is very important for making blood and blood vessels, bones, tendons, connective tissue, and wrapping nerves in their fatty myelin sheaths. A newborn infant will take up a lot of its mother’s copper during the third trimester while also boosting its stores of iron, likely to defend against low stores for blood-building during the low-copper low-iron breastfeeding stage.
- Iron. Because iron deficiency anemia is so common during pregnancy and iron supplementation has been shown to increase risk of gestational diabetes, you may wish to get a serum ferritin level to better assess iron storage status and be willing to supplement during the third trimester. We do not recommend taking iron in a multivitamin, however, and eating more iron throughout all of pregnancy is highly recommended as requirements increase from 18 to 27 mg per day. Some women also become anemic during pregnancy due to a lack of folate or vitamin B12. Iron deficiency compromises nerve development, as copper does, and compromises DHA production, all of which negatively affect a baby’s brain development.
- Calcium. Despite having an entire skeleton to develop, calcium needs do not increase during pregnancy, but be sure not to neglect them. Calcium channels are critical for internal communication and support brain development, and calcium supplementation in the second half of pregnancy has been shown to reduce risk of hypertension during pregnancy. The majority of women who do not meet their daily calcium needs before pregnancy must boost what they both eat and supplement to get the 1000 mg/day required. It is very difficult to meet these needs without safe and effective calcium supplementation. We formulate our Nutreince multivitamin with 600 mg of calcium daily so you can eat with an insurance policy.
- Magnesium. A complement to calcium, magnesium relaxes muscles, supports normal blood pressure, supports bone development, and activates certain vitamins. Magnesium may help reduce early uterine contractions and losses increase with chronic stress, which indicates a clear need for additional magnesium during the rigors of pregnancy despite a pregnancy and non-pregnancy RDI of 400 mg per day. Magnesium is found in green foods, other vegetables, beans, whole grains, and meats, but only in a specially crafted multivitamin like Nutreince will you find it given separately from calcium to both boost your levels and improve its absorption. (You can learn more about Anti-Competition Technology here.)
- Selenium. Supportive of the antioxidant glutathione’s production, infantile selenium deficiency follows from its mother’s selenium deficiency. Low selenium status is associated with compromised immunity in the infant and correlated with increased risk of gestational diabetes. Selenium is critical for the mother’s thyroid health before, during, and after pregnancy.
- Zinc. Moderate zinc deficiency is common worldwide and responds well to supplementation. Because it is required for cell division, growth, and metabolism, zinc status is critical for a developing infant. The size of the thymus gland is correlated with zinc status as zinc boosts immune development and the immune response. Moreover, higher zinc levels are associated with less risk of both low birth weight in the baby and high blood pressure during pregnancy in the mother. Zinc is important not to over-supplement because it antagonizes copper levels, so you may require additional dietary or supplemental zinc per day to achieve the 40 mg recommended per day during pregnancy and lactation.
- Iodine. Iodine levels may vary depending on where your food grows, as soils vary wildly in iodine content. Because iodine is required for thyroid hormone to work and thyroid controls metabolism and growth rate, iodine requirements rise from 150 to 250 mcg during pregnancy. In fact, a pregnant mother both shares iodine and thyroid hormones with her fetus to spurn growth. Get more iodine by consuming more seaweeds, seafood, and at least meeting your baseline RDI with a solid multivitamin like Nutreince.
Vitamins to Support Your Developing Child
While all vitamins play a critical role in development, these deserve an honorable mention for their support of healthy human gestation.
- Vitamin C. Besides helping to make all connective tissue in a developing body, Vitamin C is important for development of the brain in several ways, and its deficiency results in less brain volume! Vitamin C also facilitates iron absorption from plant foods, which is critical in the third trimester.
- Choline. While not an official B vitamin, choline is a critical B-aby vitamin. Choline helps to make every cell membrane (as part of phospholipids as phosphotidylcholine), supports internal communication (as part of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine), and participates in reactions that support cell division with folate and vitamin B12. Like folate deficiency, poor choline status can cause spina bifida. Choline helps boost spacial and auditory memory during development. Eggs are your best food source of choline, while we boast 425 mg in Nutreince.
- Folate. Yes, folate- not folic acid- is what we put in our multivitamin. Here’s why: while everyone can use folate to some extent as we find this form in food (raw foliage that you ate, aka green leafy vegetables), not everyone can use folic acid (synthetic folate). Worse yet, for those with MTHFR and other unlucky mutations, folic acid may do more harm than good. What is certain is that folate is required for a healthy fetus. Folate (and B12) support healthy cell division, the main occupation of a fetus, and reduce risk of spina bifida. It also lowers homocysteine levels in the mother, which reduces risk of high blood pressure and, with B12, may help alleviate depressive symptoms in some. Many mothers-to-be may have already compromised folate levels with inadequate diet or the use of medications that reduce levels, such as oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy drugs with estrogen, opiates, metformin, loop diuretics like lasix, and corticosteroids. For those with genetic mutations finding a multivitamin, like nutreince, is essential as it contains the most bioactive form, the methylated form of folate called 5-MTHF.
- Vitamin B12. A cousin in function to folate, vitamin B12 supports the brain and blood of a developing infant. With folate, B12 helps reduce homocysteine, improving blood pressure. B12 also protects the protective fatty sheath (called “myelin”) around neurons. Various neuropathies can develop without adequate B12 and in an infant with a hereditary vitamin B12 deficiency, expect brain and spinal cord damage because there is less white matter with delayed myelination. Here again finding the superior active source of B12, called methylecobalamin, is preferred, and what we provide in nutreince.
- Vitamin D. A supportive nutrient for reducing risk of post-partum depression, Vitamin D is essential for fetal d-velopment of the immune system, skeleton, and affects several cell types throughout the body. You can easily become d-ficient if you live north of Atlanta, stay out of the sun most of the day, or eat a dairy/fish-free diet. Low vitamin D in infants is correlated with reduced thymus size, increased markers of inflammation, and usually follows from inadequate maternal vitamin D levels. Current research suggests that supplementation to the pregnancy RDA of 600 IU per day reduces risk of deficiency, increases birth weight, improves infant mortality, and even may reduce risk of autism (at a level of 5000 IU per day), though more research is needed. Vitamin D is not as risky to supplement as previously thought – 3 of 15000 reported cases of vitamin D overdose in the last 15 years resulted in clinical toxicity. So the 2000 IU per day in our nutreince is not only safe for all women including mothers-to-be, t has also been shown to be a clinically effective dose.
- Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a critical nutrient for growth and development of the brain, bones, and blood. While birth defects have resulted from high dose supplementation during pregnancy, the RDA only increases from 700 to 770 mcg during pregnancy– but like zinc, many women are not meeting even that initial 700 mcg requirement. Vitamin A helps neurons grow and specialize, helps develop sight, regulates cell growth/development/death, and has been preliminarily shown to support the developing baby’s immune system. Nature prioritizes vitamin A for growth as well: a baby ingests high levels from the first breastmilk (colostrum) that decrease over time. Because some people do not process beta-carotene as vitamin A with great ease, covering your bases in an excellent multivitamin is a good insurance policy for a vegan diet.
These essential micronutrients will not only improve your metabolic health, but can help establish a food-first-foundation that supports your newborn from the start. We love getting emails from new and expecting mothers who are using nutreince as their prenatal vitamin. We lovingly refer to those babies whose mothers used nutreince during their pregnancy as our “nutreince babies.” We are so proud that our multivitamin can support the needs of these new mothers and give their precious newborns the critical nutrition they need to start their extraordinary new life. We invite you to consider using nutreince as your prenatal vitamin and to discover our simple and delicious Triple Threat smoothies, puddings, cheesecakes and ice creams, made from a combination of our – nutreince multivitamin, IN.POWER, the cleanest protein we could produce, and SKINNYFat, filled with brain-nourishing medium chain triglycerides– to support yourself when you don’t have the time, or stomach, for the kitchen.
While it can be daunting to cook healthy meals, sleep well, enjoy exercise, supplement smart, and reduce stress while consuming delicious whole foods rich in essential micronutrients, you will be far better off for it- and so will your baby.