If you are already taking a prenatal vitamin supplement prescribed by your health care provider, you should continue this supplement throughout pregnancy. Supplements are usually needed to make certain that your body gets all the necessary nutrients and vitamins. However, vitamins do not take the place of nutritious food.
Folic acid is an essential nutrient for pregnancy. In addition to reducing the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida, folic acid is necessary for proper cell growth and development of the embryo. Although it is not known exactly how folic acid works to prevent NTDs, its role in tissue formation is essential. Folic acid is needed for the production of DNA, which is necessary for the rapid cell growth of fetal tissues and organs early in pregnancy. That is why it is important for a woman to have enough folic acid in her body both before and during pregnancy. Folic acid is found in some green, leafy vegetables, most berries, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, and some vitamin supplements.
Iron is an essential mineral for all women, but it is especially important during pregnancy. Many women have low iron stores as a result of monthly menstruation and diets low in iron. Good sources of iron include red meats, poultry, fish, leafy green vegetables from the cabbage family, such as broccoli, kale, turnip greens, and collards, legumes, dry beans and peas, and canned baked beans, whole-wheat bread and rolls, and iron-enriched white bread, pasta, rice, and cereals.
Calcium is needed to build healthy bones, and is also an important part of pregnancy nutrition. If there is not enough calcium in a mother's diet, the unborn baby may draw calcium from her bones, which can put women at risk for osteoporosis later in life. The recommended calcium intake for most women is 1,600 milligrams during pregnancy. Four or more servings of milk or another dairy product each day equals about 1,600 milligrams of calcium.
Feeling tired? Most women experience fatigue and want to sleep more than usual in the first trimester. You should try managing your daily schedule to allow for an adequate amount of rest at night. Short naps during the day can help, too. And be sure you are eating properly, as this contributes to needed energy. Fortunately, most women find that this fatigue usually resolves by the end of the first trimester.
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