26 pregnancy nutrition tips for 2023

Do you know the best foods to eat to support fertility and pregnancy?  We asked the team at My Expert Midwife for their recommendations – here is what they told us:

Top 10 Nutrients for Female Fertility

1. Folate or folic acid (the man-made form of folate) – known as vitamin B9, it is crucial for women’s overall health and particularly important when it comes to having babies. This is because it significantly improves fertility and plays a vital role in supporting the healthy development of baby’s brain, spine and neural tube in the early weeks of pregnancy, when women may not yet know they are pregnant.

2. Iron – There is an important association between a woman’s levels of iron in the blood and her fertility. A deficiency – as well as an excess – of iron can negatively impact female fertility.

3. Calcium – is important for the healthy functioning of blood vessels, nerves, muscles and the endocrine system. As well as playing many roles within the body, low levels of calcium can result in decreased concentrations of vitamin D. It is an essential nutrient for fertility and a building block for a healthy pregnancy.

4. Zinc – can help to regulate hormone levels and egg maturation. Good levels of zinc are associated with shorter ‘trying-to-conceive’ periods before achieving pregnancy, when compared to women with a zinc deficiency.

5. Vitamin C – is a powerful antioxidant. It protects cells from oxidative stress and contributes to the normal function of the immune system.

6. Vitamin B6 – is important in the regulation of hormonal activity, which leads to higher chances of conception.

7. Vitamin B12 – plays an important role in the process of cell division and normal red blood cell formation, which lead to healthier eggs and reduced ovulatory infertility.

8. Selenium – affects the functioning of the thyroid gland and plays an important role in reducing oxidative stress in the body. Selenium deficiency is linked to female infertility.

9. Healthy fatty acids, like Omega-3 (found in oily fish and flaxseed, for example) –  can help improve the quality of your eggs and delay their ageing.

10. Iodine – plays an important role in the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland. Women who have healthy levels of iodine have higher chances of becoming pregnant and do so sooner than women who are moderately to severely deficient in it.

 

Top 10 Nutrients In Pregnancy

1. Folate – Found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, pulses, beans and nuts and seeds, folate is the naturally-occurring form of Vitamin B9. It is essential throughout the first trimester of pregnancy and supports the development of the brain, spine and neural tube in your unborn baby. Folic Acid is the synthetic form and is recommended for all women who are thinking of becoming pregnant or who are pregnant. 400Ug of folic acid is  recommended by the UK Department for Health for all women trying to conceive and throughout pregnancy. Natural folate is more bioavailable and therefore can be easier for the body to absorb than synthetic folic acid.

2. Iron – is needed to make red blood cells for the increased blood volume in pregnancy and for the growth and development of baby. Iron-deficiency anaemia occurs when intake of iron is low and is linked to poor health outcomes for both mums and babies. Iron can be found in red meat, dark green vegetables, pulses, dried fruits, nuts, and fortified breakfast cereals. Some women may be advised to take an iron supplement in the form of Ferrous Fumarate or Ferrous Sulphate.

3. Vitamin D – Humans create Vitamin D in their bodies when they have direct exposure to the sun, however, in the UK we very rarely have sufficient exposure to produce the amounts we need and so a daily supplementation of 1000IU is advised for all pregnant women. Vitamin D can also be found in eggs, fish with bones (sardines, mackerel, herrings, and pilchards), and fortified dairy products. It is vital to supporting our immune systems which are compromised during pregnancy and is also important in the growth and development of baby.

4. Calcium – Is important for growth and development of healthy bones, muscles, nerves, and teeth as well as hormone balance in both mums and babies which increases the need for it in pregnancy. Calcium is found in dairy foods, tofu, almonds, Brazil nuts, soyabeans and fortified cereals.

5.  Iodine – In pregnancy iodine is needed for the development of baby’s nervous and skeletal systems as well as its role in producing thyroid hormones and regulating metabolism. Fortunately, iodine deficiency is rare, but you can increase your intake by including eggs, whole milk, whole grains, and seafood in your diet.

6. Vitamin C – Found in abundance in many fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits, carrots, berries, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes and white potatoes Vitamin C is integral to the support of a healthy immune system and to cell health and renewal. It is also known to help absorption of iron so can help to reduce iron-deficiency anaemia as well.

7. Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Found in oily fish including herrings, mackerel, salmon and trout, Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential for baby’s brain and eye development. 2-3 portions of fish are advised each week in pregnancy. For women who don’t eat fish a good-quality supplement containing EPA and DHA is advised.

8. Choline – Produced in small amounts by your body Choline is thought to work alongside Folate to prevent Neural Tube Defects, as well as being vital to the growth of your baby’s brain. However, the small amounts naturally produced are not sufficient in pregnancy and so supplementation from foods including, eggs, milk, beef, pork, chicken, beans and pulses, spinach, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and whole grains is advised.

9. Protein – Meat (avoid liver), nuts, eggs, fish, seeds, and fortified foods are all good sources of protein which is essential for normal growth and development of baby’s organs and tissues, especially their brain. It also plays a crucial role in maternal development, in particular healthy uterine and breast tissue.  Protein needs increase in the second half of pregnancy.

10. Carbohydrate – Carbs provide energy in controlled amounts but are converted to sugars in higher quantities, so it is important to be aware of complex and refined carbs. Complex carbohydrates are released slowly from whole grain foods (pasta, rice, flour, bread), vegetables, beans, pulses, and fruits. These foods are also high in fibre which is invaluable in gut motility helping to reduce the risk of constipation and which can have a beneficial effect on your gut microbiome. Avoid refined carbs such as sugar, biscuits, cakes, white flour, white pasta, and white rice although in small quantities could be eaten as a treat.

For a full A-Z of preconception and pregnancy nutrition, visit My Expert Midwife.

About Lisa Baker, Editor, Wellbeing News 4406 Articles
Editor Lisa Baker is passionate about the benefits of a holistic approach to healing. Lisa is a qualified Vibrational Therapist and has qualifications in Auricular Therapy, Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Seichem and is a Reiki Master.