Prenatal Nutrition: Facts and Myths

Pregnant? Now you’re eating for two-well, sort of. Typically, when people think of being pregnant and “eating for two”, they think of doubling the normal intake of food. However, the need to eat double the calories is merely a myth. Eating for two actually involves considering the nutrition needs of both mother and child: what vitamins and minerals are needed to keep both the mother and baby healthy. In terms of calories, a woman only needs to consume around 300 extra calories to support the healthy growth of her baby. Also, it is worth noting that if a mother chooses to breastfeed her baby, the nutrition regimen of her prenatal habits should continue during the breastfeeding period since what goes into the mother goes into her milk.


Obstetricians recommend that pregnant women get in the habit of taking prenatal vitamins on a daily basis. These vitamins are meant to keep both the mother and baby healthy. Prenatal vitamins contain higher amounts of nutrients than what is found in a standard daily vitamin, so you have to be sure to choose a vitamin that is specifically formulated for prenatal use. With that in mind, all vitamins are not created equal. To ensure proper prenatal nutrition, read the labels on your vitamin options and check the daily value of each of the essential vitamins. It is also best to choose a trusted brand when selecting prenatal nutrition supplements, or brands your doctor may recommend.

When reading labels, look for Calcium and Folic ACID as some of the major ingredients: Vitamin D, C, A, B6, B12, E, K, and Folic Acid. Women who get at least 4,000 IU of Vitamin D daily during pregnancy have a lower risk of prenatal labor and early births as well as a lower risk of infection. Vitamin D also helps promote healthy muscle function and stable moods. Folic acid to prevent prenatal tube defects which can lead to brain and spinal cord problems. Folic Acid is also recommended for healthy heart function. All the vitamins you need during pregnancy cannot be gleaned from one source alone; a healthy intake of vitamins must come from a combination of a healthy diet and vitamin supplements.


Iron is one of the most important minerals you need to have in your diet and in your prenatal supplements. Iron helps maintain healthy production of blood, which is essential for keeping up the mother’s strength and baby’s source of nutrients, according to WebMD. The March of Dimes also notes that Iron is needed for the development of healthy muscles in both mother and child. Calcium is another mineral needed for healthy development. Calcium plays a large role in strong bones and, the March of Dime mentions, many pregnant women do not get enough Calcium during pregnancy and end up losing bone mass or having problems with their teeth.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Development

The use of Omega 3 fatty acids is relatively new to the world of supplements. Docosahexaenoic acid, commonly known as DHA, is a popular source of Omega 3 fatty acids, explains The March of Dimes. The organization notes that most prenatal supplements do not contain this useful nutrient and that additional DHA supplements should be added to your prenatal routine. DHA helps in the development of healthy eyes and a high functioning brain in baby as well as helping the mother to have sharper memory capabilities. DHA can be obtained through eating fish such as salmon; however, during pregnancy you have to be extra careful about your consumption of mercury, often found in fish, so a supplement can be a good resource for this nutrient.

Possible Problems of Malnutrition

Not getting the correct types and amounts of nutrients in your prenatal diet can pose serious problems for both mother and child. The National Library of Medicine explains that a lack of Iron can cause anemia and infections as well as poor muscle function. They also explain that deficiencies in other nutrients can lead to early birth and/or a low birth weight. It is vital to both the mother’s health and baby’s development that a mother’s prenatal intake of nutrients meet both their needs. Getting the right vitamins and minerals is especially important during pregnancy.

Vitamins such as Vitamin C, which promotes a health immune system, and D which assists in healthy bone growth can be found in most daily vitamins, but only prenatal vitamins have the right amounts needed during pregnancy. Minerals like Iron and Calcium are also incorporated into prenatal supplements. Sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, also known as DHA should also be sought during pregnancy. Such sources can include fish and supplements. A healthy diet of proteins, grains, and lots of fruits and vegetables should go along with the use of supplements to create a healthy prenatal routine that will benefit both the baby and the mother.

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