The best known vitamin necessary for pregnancy is folic acid. If you are planning on getting pregnant, start taking folic acid at least 3-5 months prior to becoming pregnant and throughout your pregnancy for a number of compelling reasons. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects (NTDs)—serious birth defects of the spinal cord (such as spinal bifida) and the brain (such as anencephaly) as well as congenital heart defects, cleft lips, limb defects, and urinary tract anomalies in developing foetuses. Neural tube defects occur at a very early stage of development, before many women even know they’re pregnant.
*It’s a good idea to take a folic acid supplement and increase your intake of folic acid-rich foods such as;
Food sources: Spinach, Broccoli. Brussel Sprouts, liver, garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, Asparagus, Berries, Avocado, Eggs, Bran Flakes, Chick Peas, Soy Beans, Oranges, Grapefruit.
Vitamin B6 may be used as a hormone regulator. It also helps to regulate blood sugars, alleviates PMS, and may be useful in relieving symptoms of morning sickness.
Food sources: Tuna, banana, turkey, liver, salmon, cod, spinach, bell peppers, and turnip greens, collard greens, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, chard.
Studies suggest vitamin E can improve sperm health in men. The meaning of the name for vitamin E ‘Tocopherol’ literally means to bear young. Vitamin E is also an important antioxidant to help protect sperm and egg DNA integrity.
Food sources: Sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, papaya, dark leafy greens.
Vitamin D is needed to help the body create sex hormones which in turn affects ovulation and hormonal balance.
Food sources: Eggs, fatty fish, dairy, and cod liver oil. You can also get vitamin D from sitting out in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes per day. But absorption is impacted by the darkness of your skin.
Research indicates that the two most beneficial omega-3s fatty acids are EPA and DHA. Although EPA and DHA naturally occur together and work together in the body, studies show that each fatty acid has unique benefits. EPA supports the heart, immune system, and inflammatory response. DHA supports the brain, eyes, and central nervous system which is why it is uniquely important for pregnant and lactating women. Omega-3 fatty acids have positive effects on the pregnancy itself. Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labour and delivery, lower the risk of pre-eclampsia and may increase birth weight. Omega-3 deficiency also increases the mother’s risk for depression.
Food sources: Chia seed, Flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines, halibut, shrimp, snapper, scallops.
Fill your body’s iron reserves before you get pregnant, especially if you are experiencing heavy PMS. Once you’re expecting, your body has difficulty maintaining its iron stores, as your baby siphons the mineral from you. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, take a multivitamin along with a liquid iron supplement throughout your pregnancy to keep your iron levels up. Sufficient iron levels = sufficient energy.
Food sources: Lentils, spinach, tofu, sesame seeds, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds (raw), venison, garbanzo beans, navy beans, molasses, beef.
Your body needs zinc this essential mineral for the production, repair, and functioning of DNA – the body’s genetic blueprint and a basic building block of cells. Getting enough zinc is particularly important for the rapid cell growth that occurs during pregnancy. Without it, your cells can not divide properly; your oestrogen and progesterone levels can get out of balance and your reproductive system may not be fully functioning. Low levels of zinc have been directly linked to miscarriage in the early stages of a pregnancy. Zinc also helps support your immune system, maintain your sense of taste and smell, and heal wounds.
Food sources: Calf liver, oysters, beef, lamb, venison, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, mangoes, yogurt, turkey, green peas, shrimp. Zinc can be damaged by cooking so it is important to eat some foods high in zinc in their raw forms.
Vitamin B12 has been shown to improve sperm quality and production. It also may help to boost the endometrium lining in egg fertilization, decreasing the chances of miscarriage. Some studies have found that a deficiency of B12 may increase the chances of irregular ovulation, and in severe cases stop ovulation altogether.
Food sources: Clams, oysters, muscles, liver, caviar (fish eggs), fish, crab, lobster, beef, lamb, cheese, eggs.
What foods to avoid when preparing your body for pregnancy:
Red meat: too much red meat increases the amount of ammonia in the body, which can interfere with the implantation of the egg in the uterus. Red meat can also be detrimental for men as it increases acidity and affects sperm activity; sperm perform better in alkaline conditions.
Refined sugar: Too much refined sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause or exacerbate PCOS –- a condition that affects ovulation and is one of the leading causes of female infertility.
Non-organic chicken: Conventionally raised chicken is full of antibiotics and hormones, which can have a detrimental effect on hormone balance and health.
Alcohol and caffeine: Studies have shown that the more you drink, the less likely you are to conceive. One study showed that women who drank more than five units of alcohol a week (five glasses of wine) were half as likely to fall pregnant within six months as those who drank less. There is also evidence that caffeine (even one coffee a day) significantly reduces your chances of conceiving.
Cut out smoking: Smoking causes high levels of cadmium, a toxic metal, in the blood, which depletes the body of zinc – an essential mineral in pregnancy.