Prenatal Development and Prenatal Vitamins
Getting The Best - From Vitamins to Chicco
Once a woman confirms her pregnancy (and she can hold food down again), her primary focus turns to the health of her baby. This is the time when diet and exercise take on a whole new meaning as she learns about what foods are best for her health - and ultimately her baby's health - and what supplementation is necessary to ensure the proper level of vitamin and mineral intake. Prenatal vitamins usually become a part of a woman's daily routine by the time she is mid-way through her first trimester - when she's feeling up to eating and shopping for wonderful Chicco baby things!
Prenatal means occurring or existing before birth, coming from the Latin "pre-" which means before, and "gnatus" meaning birth. Together the words mean before birth. In countries of the British Commonwealth, such as the UK and Australia, the word "antenatal" is used instead of prenatal. Another terminology difference lies in the expression "prenatal pills" as opposed to "prenatal vitamins". Again, they are saying the same thing, just using words that are more common to specific speech.
One of the most vital of all prenatal supplements is folic acid, the critical agent in preventing neural tube defects - especially spina bifida. A baby with spina bifida, the most common of all neural tube defects, is born with a spine that is not closed. The nerves are exposed and damaged, affecting the baby with varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence, and in some cases, mental retardation. Since the damage occurs within the first 28 days after conception, when most women haven't even figured out they're pregnant, it is advisable for women desiring to conceive to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day during the period of time they are trying to become pregnant. They should continue taking the folic acid until they are at least 12 weeks pregnant, which is the end of the first trimester. This protects the baby during prenatal development of the brain and spinal cord.
Throughout prenatal development stages, the baby's growth needs are constant and growing along with the baby. From the germinal stage, where the fertilized egg (zygote) beings its travels to the uterus and arrives as a blastocyst, through implantation and the embryonic stage, the primary nutrition needs are to support the placenta and umbilical cord development, where the baby will receive its nutrition. It is here that folic acid, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, and iron are needed in larger doses.
During the fetal stage, when the cell differentiation of the embryo is almost complete, the early body systems and structures continue to develop, as does the neural tube into the brain and spinal cord. The baby continues to grow in size and weight, but the bulk of the growing will happen later in the pregnancy. During the first five months of pregnancy, the baby is developing all of its organs, respiratory system, circulatory system, and physical characteristics. After 24 weeks, it is possible for the baby to live outside of the womb, but it is very dangerous because every part of the baby is still in development stages. It is during prenatal development that genetic problems can occur in the baby - such as trisomy 21, or Down syndrome, which is the most common genetic anomaly during prenatal development
The latter part of the pregnancy, from around the 20 week mark until nearly one month after the birth of the baby, is referred to as the perinatal period. The word is a combination of the Greek "peri" which means around, and the Latin "natus" meaning birth. Again, the baby is taking all of the necessary nutrition from the mother through the placenta, so it is important that she take special care to ensure her levels of essential vitamins and minerals are up to speed. After childbirth, and on into nursing, the nutritional needs remain great, so taking vitamins is still important.