Essential Vitamins For Your Unborn

Healthy Eating During PregnancyBeing a mom-to-be should be one of the most exciting times of your life. Laying good fundamentals in nutrition helps ensure your body gets all it needs before, during pregnancy and after pregnancy.

Researchers have found that a diet high in essential nutrients helps lower anxiety and stress levels in moms-to-­be. Besides that, eating well for two ensures that your growing unborn baby receives adequate nutrition. Among those that top this important list are folate, iron, calcium and essential fatty acids.


Folate, or folic acid, is also known as Vitamin B9. It plays a major role in making the extra blood that your body needs during menstruation as well as during pregnancy. During pregnancy, it helps in the production, repair and functioning of DNA and RNA. This usually happens in the first 28 days of pregnancy when the embryo’s cells divide and grow rapidly.

Sometime, moms-to-be may not know they are pregnant and do not take adequate supply of this vitamin. A deficiency in folate can result in birth defects, usually affecting the spinal cord.

Folate is also needed to convert homocysteine to methionine. Too much homocysteine in the blood increases the risk of complications in pregnancy – blood clots, placental abruption, recurring miscarriages and still-births.

The most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida (or ‘split spine’) occurs in one to two babies per 1,000 births. It is a condition whereby the bones surrounding the spinal cord do not close properly during the first 28 days after fertilization.

The newborn will have an open portion with a protruding deformed spinal cord, usually in the lower back. The child may later have mobility difficulties and need orthopedic supports like braces, crutches, walkers or wheelchairs.

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On the other hand, anencephaly is a condition in which the unclosed portion of the neural tube occurs at the cerebrum or front of the brain. This results in severe underdevelopment of the newborn’s brain.

Folate is known to be able to substantially reduce the risk of neural tube defects when taken three months prior to pregnancy.

Recommended Folate Intake

  • 400mcg three months prior to pregnancy.
  • 600mcg during 2nd and 3rd trimester.

Good food sources

Dark green, leafy vegetables, asparagus, ladies’ fingers, lentils, beans, fortified grains and liver.


Moms-to-be cannot afford to be anemic before and during pregnancy. Most nutrients are transported by the blood to the embryo. Iron is important to build hemoglobin in red blood cells so that it can supply oxygen to cells for energy and growth. Sufficient iron in the diet helps to prevent low birth weight and premature delivery.

Recommended Iron Intake

  • 20mg for moms-to-be.
  • 100mg tablet for non-anemic moms during 2nd and 3rd trimester.
  • Higher dosage tablets for anemic moms

Good food sources

Green leafy vegetables like lettuce, cabbage and spinach, bitter gourd, dried tofu, lean meat, chicken, anchovies, liver, whole-grains and dried beans.


Calcium is an essential nutrient for the healthy development of the embryo. Calcium is needed to create strong bones and teeth, healthy nerves, heart and muscles. It also aids in blood clotting as well as developing heart rhythm.

When there is an inadequate supply of calcium in your diet, your body will supply the shortfall from your own calcium reserve in your bones, thus adversely affecting your own bone mass. Therefore it is important for moms-to-­be to build up your calcium storage.

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Recommended Calcium Intake

  • 800mg for moms-to-be.
  • 1,000mg during 2nd and 3rd trimester.

Good food sources

Milk and milk derivatives, yoghurt, fish with edible bones, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, tofu, lentils, calcium-fortified biscuits and cereals.

Essential Fatty Acids

Recent studies have found that essential fatty acids support the healthy development of cellular activities in embryo, especially in the brain and eyes. Although it is not listed as one of the essential nutrients recommended for some countries, many food manufacturers have started to fortify their products for moms-to-be and infants with Omega-3 nutrients.

Good food sources

Flaxseed oil, borage oil, oily fish like mackerel, herring, salmon, cod and sardines.

Remember that you are eating for two persons. Both you and your baby need the very best in nutrition. Fill up on folate, iron, calcium and essential fatty acids. Enjoy your pregnancy by eating right – for yourself and your precious baby.

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1 Response

  1. Amy says:

    Spina bifida can be a serious, life altering complication, so it is very important for expecting moms to know what kind of an impact their diet can have on their baby’s life.

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