The importance of good nutrition during the reproductive process was recently given considerable attention with reports of studies regarding the relationship between folic acid and neural tube defects. The research showed that women consuming adequate daily amounts of folate, a B-Complex vitamin, throughout their childbearing years may reduce their risk of having a child affected with spina bifida or anencephaly, birth defects of the brain or spinal cord.
Nutrition plays an important role in fetal development, particularly during the first trimester of pregnancy. The amounts of many vitamins and minerals needed during pregnancy and lactation are increased.
VITAMIN A is a fat-soluble nutrient which plays an important role in the healthy formation of bones, teeth, and skin. It is necessary during pregnancy and lactation. Since fetal requirements for vitamin A increase maternal needs, a 25% increase over pregnancy intake is advised by many experts. Vitamin A is used by the body for growth and repair of body tissues and for healthy hair.
BETA CAROTENE is the preferred source for vitamin A for a number of very important reasons. Beta carotene is non-toxic because the body converts beta carotene into vitamin A only as it’s needed. Beta carotene is one of the antioxidant nutrients much like vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium.
VITAMIN C has many uses in the body and, during pregnancy, there is an increased need. Breast milk contains a wide variance of ascorbic acid content per liter, generally between 40-55 mg. It is essential for the absorption of inorganic iron, functions in the production of collagen, and is essential for the immune system. Vitamin C is needed for healthy teeth, gums and bones while affecting the integrity of collagenous structures in the blood vessels. Vitamin C also participates in the conversion of folic to folinic acid.
VITAMIN D is an important nutrient in the reproductive cycle. It facilitates calcium absorption and participates in bone metabolism. Studies have shown that vitamin D plays a role in promoting positive calcium balance in pregnant women and one of its metabolites, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, freely crosses the placenta.
VITAMIN E protects fat soluble vitamins, and is essential for the hair, skin and mucous membranes. It also participates in the synthesis of hemoglobin.
VITAMIN B-12 helps form normal red blood cells and a healthy nervous system. B-12 is important for the role it plays in DNA synthesis and the metabolism of single carbon units. It also helps the body metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins more effectively.
FOLIC ACID is necessary for growth, the division of cells and for the formation of red blood cells. It helps with reproduction and it is necessary for the health of the glands and the liver. Folic acid forms the coenzyme tetrahydrofolic acid, which transfers one-carbon units to various compounds in the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and cysteine. There is evidence that adequate intakes of folic acid during childbearing years may reduce the risk of neural tube defect pregnancy. About 25% of normal pregnant women in the United States have marginal to low serum levels.
IRON supplementation is essential for almost all pregnancies, especially for those cases of women with low serum ferritin levels. Studies indicate that 20% of pregnant women in the United States enter pregnancy with low iron stores and may have difficulty meeting the increased iron demands of pregnancy by diet alone. The recommended daily dietary intake is 30 mg of supplemental iron throughout pregnancy.
B-COMPLEX vitamins should be considered during pregnancy for two reasons: (1) blood levels generally decline during pregnancy and; (2) fetal levels exceed those in the mother, reflecting active transport across the placenta. A clear reduction in pyridoxal phosphate (vitamin B-6) has been observed in pregnant women. Studies also indicate that B-6 needs tend to increase in pregnant women with diets rich in proteins. Vitamin B-6 is necessary for the proper functioning of both nerves and muscles, including pressure-sensitive nerve cells and cardiac muscles. B-1 (Thiamin) is important for carbohydrate metabolism, digestion, and the functioning of the heart.
NIACIN is a B-complex nutrient which plays a role in growth and the proper functioning of the nervous system. Niacin also participates in energy metabolism.
INOSITOL is necessary for hair growth, the metabolism of fats and cholesterol and for the formation of lecithin.
PANTOTHENIC ACID is essential for growth, contributes to energy functions and is necessary for the skin.
SELENIUM preserves tissue elasticity, and works with vitamin E. Like vitamin A, C, and E selenium is an antioxidant.
ZINC aids in the digestion and metabolism of phosphorus and protein. It is a component of insulin and of male reproductive fluid. Zinc also participates in the metabolism of RNA and plays a role in wound healing.
CALCIUM is a mineral which is necessary for the metabolism of bones and teeth.
MAGNESIUM is essential for the metabolism of potassium and calcium. It is also required for the mobilization of calcium from bone. Magnesium is important as an activator for enzymes involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids. It also plays a role in neuromuscular activity and impulse transmission.
MANGANESE plays a role in enzyme activation. High levels of this nutrient can be found in the bones, liver and pituitary gland.
-Eat a well balanced diet, including whole grains, yogurt, fresh fruits and vegetables.
-Both Men and Women have benefited from a diet high in Vitamin C and protein.
-Avoid fried foods, sugar, animal fats, caffeine, red meat, dairy and junk food.
-Men should avoid nitrates, salt, sugar and red meat.
-Avoid alcohol, tobacco and cigarette smoke, and all drugs.
-Men should reduce their weight.
-Women should check for anemia and make sure they aren’t underweight.