Nutritional Need In Pregnancy - Part III

In the previous post we discussed about the need for Calcium and Iron in the diet. We shall continue this post with the other minerals and vitamins that are essential during pregnancy.

3.Folic Acid:

Folic acid is a very essential nutrient during pregnancy. It is very important for the fetus to get this nutrient. Folic acid which is a naturally occurring Vitamin B, is needed for the fetus's neural tube to develop properly.The neural tube is part of the fetus which develops into the brain and spinal cord.When the folic acid is not available in the proper dosage, the neural tube does not close properly and the baby is born with a birth defect called Neural Tubal Defect.This defect sets in very early sometimes even before the women finds out that she is pregnant!

Once this defect sets in , it cannot be reversed even by supplementing it with folic acid. Hence it is recommended that Folic acid supplements be started as early as 3 months prior to conception so that the mothers body has a good reserve of this Vitamin.Since most of the times pregnancy is unplanned some countries suggest women in the child bearing age to start taking this supplement[ after consulting the Gynecologist] even if you have just started thinking about starting a family..

In case pregnancy is not planned, the folic acid supplement must be started as soon as the women finds out that she is pregnant and must continue this for the first 3 months of the pregnancy[1st trimester] 

It is also need for the following reasons..

If there is a previous history of birth of a child with congenital malformation , then a higher dose is recommended.Some women may be recommended to take this vitamin throughout the pregnancy depending on their body condition.But always remember that supplements should never be taken on your own. It should be prescribed by your gynecologist.

Folic Acids in Food stuffs:
Folic acid is easily destroyed while cooking. So cover and cook the folic acid rich food. Also avoid overcooking.

4. Vitamin A

Vitamin A, as we are aware, is a far soluble Vitamin which is stored in the liver. This Vitamin is important during pregnancy as it is needed for the development of the embryo's heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, bones and the circulatory system, respiratory system and the central nervous system. It is also essential for fat metabolism and to provide resistance against infection. For the pregnant women ,this Vitamin is essential as it helps in tissue repair after delivery.

Though this Vitamin is important for the mother and fetus, over doses are to be avoided. On no account should Vitamin supplements be taken without consulting a Physician / Gynecologist.

Food sources of Vitamin A [This is not an exhaustive list.Just giving an idea about Vitamin rich foods]

• Butter & ghee
• Whole milk
• Curd
• Egg yolk
• Liver
• Liver oils of cod, halibut, shark

Vitamin A is present as carotenes [which can be converted to the vitamin by the body] in yellow and green colored vegetables

• Drumstick leaves, agathi leaves, spinach, amaranth , beet greens , kale, collards etc
• Papaya, mango, tomato, apricots ,cantaloupe ,orange, peach
• Potato and other tuber[root vegetables] like sweet potato
• Carrot, pumpkin, winter squash, broccoli [chlorophyll masks the carotene!]

Read more about Vitamin A here.

To be continued....

Disclaimer : This post is written to be a guideline and is not a medical advice. For further doubts and clarification consult your Dietitian / Gynecologist.

Earlier in this series on pregnancy:

Series Introduction
Pregnancy - Signs and Symptoms
Changes in the body during pregnancy - Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3
Gestational diabetes - Part 1 and Part 2
Diet in pregnancy
Nutritional need in Pregnancy - Part I, Part 2

Healthy Living....