B complex vitamins
Deficiency of vitamins of the B complex is proven to increase significantly the risk of birth defects in babies. For example, the folic acid deficiency increases the risk of neural tube, the incomplete development of spinal cord or brain. Insufficient amounts of folic acid can also lead to problems with urinary tract, heart, limb, and cleft palate problems in newborn babies.
B12 is another important vitamin for normal development and health of both the mother and the baby. This vitamin can be deficient in vegetarians, especially in vegans, because it cannot be found in non-animal foods, at least not in sufficient amounts.
These two vitamins work together and play an important role in cell division and in formation of the nerve covering. In addition, they prevent the build-up of homocysteine, which is believed to be one of the contributors to birth defects.
Ideally, these vitamins should be taken as supplements before conception, and they certainly must be taken all the way through pregnancy.
Iron, Calcium, Magnesium
Iron is an important mineral for many processes in the body. Its deficiency leads to anemia. It can be found in multivitamins, and additional amounts, outside multivitamins, should be taken only on doctor’s advice. Pregnant women should avoid iron sulfate because it may cause constipation.
Calcium is vital for normal bone development of the unborn baby and also for the health of mother’s bones. It can reduce blood pressure during pregnancy and many pregnant women also found that taking calcium supplements before bedtime makes them sleep better. Calcium and magnesium work together to alleviate muscle spasms during pregnancy.
Recommended daily intake is 1000 mg to 1200 mg of calcium and 500 mg of magnesium per day.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 are also very important as they provide normal development of the fetus. DHA, which is a type of omega-3, participates in brain and retina formation and development.
These essential fatty acids can be found in cold water wish like salmon, herring and mackerel, or in walnuts and flax seeds. They can also be taken in form of supplements, but pregnant women must make sure that the supplement has been filtered well for heavy metals and other harmful elements.
Probiotics are believed to prevent eczema in newborn babies if taken during pregnancy. They are basically beneficial bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, which inhabit the intestines, promote absorption of important nutrients and fight harmful bacteria and fungus.