Prenatal Vitamins: Nutrition Your Baby Needs to Prevent Birth Defects
A birth defect is a structural or functional abnormality that is present at birth. It can cause physical or mental disabilities in a child. It is also the leading cause of death among newborn babies. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports that birth defects affect one in 33 babies born each year. Birth defects account for 20% of all infant deaths1. If you are an expectant mom, this data may be worrisome. Although not all birth defects are preventable, you still have a chance to lower your risk. Nutritious meals and healthy habits help reduce certain birth defects such as cleft palates, anencephaly, and spina bifida.
Prenatal nutrients that are crucial for your baby's developmentA common yet preventable factor that leads to birth defects is poor nutrition during pregnancy. Eating healthy helps deliver essential nutrients for the baby's physical growth and brain development. An expectant mom's diet always includes nutritious meals and a high-quality prenatal supplement. Four nutrients that must be a part of a prenatal diet: Vitamin B12
- Shortage of B12 can cause severe developmental issues in babies. Pregnant women with low B12
- levels have a higher risk of giving birth to preterm babies2.
- Infants can be born with spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
- Eating foods rich in B12 such as meat, fish, egg, and dairy products, along with supplements helps to lower the risk of neural tube defects in babies.
- Vegans and vegetarians may be deficient in B12 and must include a supplement.
- Folate is a B vitamin that helps make red and white blood cells (DNA and RNA).
- Adequate folate intake is necessary during periods of rapid growth like pregnancy and babyhood.
- Make sure to eat plenty of fresh greens and dark vegetables like broccoli and Brussel sprouts.
- Gynecologists also recommend folate supplements to cover extra needs you don't get from your diet.
- Low levels of folate during pregnancy can cause neural tube and heart defects in infants3.
- When choosing a prenatal supplement, make sure that it delivers the biologically active form, 5-MTHF. Most supplements provide Folic Acid which is the inactive form of vitamin B9. Look for labels with Quatrefolic instead of Folic Acid to ensure you are getting the active form.
- Sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D, yet most pregnant women still lack this vitamin.
- Vitamin D is critical during fetal development of bone growth, heart function, muscle function, nerve development, and immune response.
- Researchers suggest that vitamin D intake during pregnancy helps reduce the risk of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders4.
- Lower levels of vitamin D can lead to smaller birth weight and cause preeclampsia (rise in blood pressure) in pregnant women.
- If you can't get enough sun exposure, include vitamin D enriched foods and start a supplement that provides vitamin D3 (The active form that is readily used by the body).
- Iodine deficiency leads to a condition called cretinism and growth retardation in newborns5. Iodine is vital to make the hormone thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends pregnant women use iodized salt and take a daily supplement with 150 micrograms of iodine to get around 290 micrograms per day.
- Seaweed, raw milk, and prunes are also a great way to supply iodine to your developing child.
- Pregnancy is the most critical time for a baby's development. It is why most OBGYN's recommend high-quality prenatal supplements along with daily nutritious meals to cover any deficiencies.
References: 1. Data & Statistics on Birth Defects 2. Maternal vitamin B12 in pregnancy and risk of preterm birth and low birth weight: A systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis, 2017 Aug 1 3. Folate deficiency and folic acid supplementation: the prevention of neural-tube defects and congenital heart defects, 2013 Nov 21;5(11):4760-75. doi: 10.3390/nu5114760 4. Developmental Vitamin D3 deficiency alters the adult brain, 2005 Mar 15;65(2):141-8 5. Consequences of iodine deficiency and excess in pregnant women: an overview of current knowns and unknowns, 2016 Sep; 104(Suppl 3): 918S–923S