Elsa Joseph is the mother of a charming little boy and an Airline Pilot. Keenly into reading and writing only after personally trying it.
There are certain essential nutrients that every pregnant woman should consume to avoid congenital disabilities and to make your baby smarter. Nutrition is undoubtedly crucial for the development of the fetus but what is even more vital is the quality plus quantity of your meal. Lifestyle also plays a significant role during pregnancy. Along with physical wellbeing, mental health is equally substantial. All these different aspects play a role in making your baby smarter. Let's look deeper into it.
How much to eat during pregnancy?
The quantity of your food does matter. Often people misinterpret eating more during pregnancy with eating twice your everyday consumption. It is not advisable to practice eating for two.
In the first trimester, extra calories are not required, with one fetus. In the second trimester, a lady pregnant with one fetus requires only 300 extra calories and 600 calories for twins. For the third trimester, a pregnant woman needs around 450 extra calories for a single fetus.
It is crucial to keep a track record of your weight gain. Your obstetrics-gynaecologist will be monitoring it at every visit. Weight gain directly relies on your BMI before pregnancy. If you were underweight ( BMI less than 18.5), then you need to gain more weight than average. If you were overweight (BMI more than 25.0) or obese ( BMI more than 30), you require relatively lesser weight gain than average. If your BMI was normal before pregnancy, then weight gain during the first trimester is 1 to 5 pounds or no weight gain for some. Now, by your second and third trimester, your weight should increase weekly by 0.5 to 1 pound.
It enables the production of thyroid hormone. If its output is inadequate in the body, it causes hypothyroidism. The thyroid hormone is essential for proper bodily functioning. It's incredibly important during your first trimester because your baby's thyroid gland is in the development stage and not producing the hormone yet. It may hamper normal fetal development resulting in congenital anomalies, decreased intelligence, cretinism and goitre.
Iodine is needed to help develop your baby's brain and Central Nervous System. Even a mild iodine deficiency leads to an increased risk of ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Its scarcity increases the risk of miscarriage or preterm delivery that is a baby being born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. A severe deficiency of iodine can also cause a baby born with auditory or intellectual problems with low IQ (intelligence quotient).
- Dairy products
- Some vegetables, but it depends whether the vegetables were grown in iodine-rich soil or not
- Iodised salt
You can also take iodine supplements if your doctor recommends it.
DHA is docosahexaenoic acid and is a type of long-chain omega-three fatty acids. DHA lays the foundation for the development of your baby's brain nervous system and eyes. It also helps in improved psychomotor development and improved attention skills. Typically, our diet is deficient in omega-3, and during pregnancy, it further decreases because the fetus uses it for development.
The best source of DHA
- Seafood, so you must be eating 2-3 serves per week of low mercury omega three rich fish during your pregnancy.
- Flaxseed, chia seeds and hemp seeds
- Green leafy vegetables
Other benefits of consuming omega-3:
- Omega-3 lays the foundation and is the main component of retina and brain development in the baby.
- It helps in the reduction of risk of preterm labour.
- Strong bones
- Healthy birth weight
- Studies suggest there's also an inverse relationship between omega three and postpartum depression. The lesser the mommy-to-be consume it during pregnancy, the higher the chance of depression.
Avoid the supplements mentioned below as they may cause harm to fetus in-utero
- High multivitamin
- Vitamin A, retinol
- Fish liver oil
Choline is a vital nutrient, but many people are oblivious of its importance. Just like Vitamin D and DHA, the body makes choline from scratch, but the production is insufficient, and so it has to be replenished with diet.
Choline in the food is available in the water-soluble and fat-soluble form. The water-soluble and free choline is absorbed in the small intestine and stored in the liver. This form of choline is distributed in the entire body for the creation of cell membranes. Whereas the fat-soluble form is absorbed as it is, enters the lymphatic system. It transports to tissues, including the brain and placenta.
The deficiency of choline can result in hepatosteatosis (Non-Alcoholic Fatty liver) muscle and liver damage.
Choline helps in the formation of healthy cells, in the development of hippocampus a part of the brain which deals with learning, attention and memory. Choline works with folate to form your baby's brain and spinal cord. Deficiency of choline can result in schizophrenia.
- Egg yolks,
- Wheat germ, and
- Lean red meat
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli
- Cow's milk
Folic acid is a vitamin-B. It helps in the new cell generation in our bodies. Everything including the skin, hair, and nails – make new cells each day. Folic acid is a simulate of folate essential both during pre-conception and during pregnancy.
Folic acid helps in forming the neural tube, the deficiency of which can cause neural tube defects. It is also crucial as it helps in preventing congenital disabilities of the baby's brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida). Baby's brain and spine formation take place during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, even before your first visit to the gynaecologist. It is, therefore, better to start with folic acid before conceiving. You can consume 400 mcg of folic acid daily.
- Dark leafy vegetables
- Citrus fruits and juices (oranges and grapefruits)
It's also available in supplement form.
Exercise, yes, you read it right. There are numerous benefits of exercising. It helps in
- proper weight gain,
- eases back pain and
- prevents anxiety and depression during pregnancy.
- It also builds stamina and muscle power which helps during labour.
But interestingly, it also enhances brain development and function of the fetus. Exercise has a direct impact on hippocampus. Hippocampus is the complex part of the brain responsible for cognitive functions which aid in spatial learning and memory. Exercising boosts neurons in this region of the brain and thus improving learning ability and memory of the fetus. Thus making your baby smarter.
Speak to your doctor on the next prenatal visit to get a thumbs up for exercising. Though it is safe to exercise in a normal pregnancy, certain conditions prohibit it. Such as
- Low placenta
- Weak cervix
- Diabetes, to name a few.
Alcohol, tobacco and drugs
Avoid alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and limit caffeine intake. These avoidable substances can hamper the normal brain development and will only complicate life for you and your baby.
It has serious repercussions; it can cause learning, intellectual, physical, behavioural disabilities. Smoking and consuming alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Talk to your baby as soon as you find out you're pregnant to strengthen your bond with the baby. By 5th month the baby can hear your voice and even remember things. The baby may also start responding to your voice.
This practice of reading and talking to your baby helps in personality development and are fast to learn new things in life.
Finally, protect yourself from infection caused by a parasite found in soil called toxoplasmosis. You can get an infection if you consume raw meat, undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables.
You can also get this infection if you're a cat owner, especially the cats that stroll outdoors. Wear rubber gloves before disposing of litter. Get someone else to do it. You may be immune to it, but if you're not and get an infection, you can pass it on to your baby. It could result in congenital disabilities like blindness, deafness, and sometimes even mental retardation.
References and Resources
Iodine from US National Library of Medicine
Omega-3 from US National Library of Medicine
Choline from US National Library of Medicine
Folic acid from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Exercise National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information
Reading Cleveland Public Library
Toxoplasmosis Mayo Clinic
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Elsa Joseph