Posts for the ‘Maternity’ Category

Preparing for Pregnancy: Preconception Nutrition

By Lindsay Watkins, RD, CLC, Take Control Health Coach

Many women focus on their diet during pregnancy, but most don’t consider the importance of what they eat before they get pregnant. Pregnancy preparedness makes sense because many pregnancies are unplanned, and many birth defects develop during the first 8 weeks of pregnancy when many women don’t know they are pregnant. Read ahead to find out the optimal diet to prepare your body for pregnancy.

Aim for a Healthy Weight

A healthy body weight improves a women’s chance of conception. Being overweight can also increase risk for complications for mom and her baby during pregnancy and delivery, including high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, cesarean section, pre-term labor and delivery, and stillbirth. Being underweight can cause complications as well, such as pre-term delivery and small birth weight. Focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and healthy fats.


If you are trying to get pregnant or may become pregnant, it’s a good idea to start taking a prenatal vitamin. Look for one with at least 400-600 mcg of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects. These defects develop in the first weeks of pregnancy, so it’s important to start taking this before you become pregnant.  Your prenatal should also have iron in it – the gummy vitamins don’t! Talk with your doctor to find out if you need any additional supplements such as calcium, vitamin D, or DHA.


Small amounts of caffeine, less than 200 mg per day, probably have little effect on fertility, and are considered safe during pregnancy. More than this can delay fertility, and some studies have shown increased risk of miscarriage with high intake of caffeine. Caffeine content is highly variable among brands of coffee and how it’s brewed. In general, up to 12 oz. of coffee per day should not interfere with conception, and is considered safe to consume during pregnancy.


Alcohol intake should be moderated prior to conception, and stopped all together when you become pregnant. If you think there is a chance you are pregnant, it’s best to stop drinking all together. “Moderate” alcohol intake means 1 or less drinks per day (12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of liquor such as vodka, rum, gin, or whiskey).

Resource: Today’s Dietitian


Key Nutrients During Pregnancy: Vitamin D and DHA

By Lindsay Watkins, RD, CLC, Take Control Health Coach

Vitamin D and DHA play a key role in everyone’s health. However, during pregnancy it is especially important to ensure you are getting enough of these nutrients for you and baby.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a key role in bone and teeth development in the growing fetus. Not only is it important for the baby, but it’s also thought the help reduce the mother’s risk for some cancers, autoimmune diseases, Type I diabetes, and heart disease. The growing fetus takes vitamin D directly from mother’s stored vitamin D, so it is especially important for mothers to have adequate blood levels upon becoming pregnant.

Vitamin D, also called “the sunshine vitamin” can be made when the skin is exposed to UV rays. It is naturally occurring in only a few foods such as fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks, and also found in fortified milk and a growing number of other fortified foods and drinks.

While the recommended intake for pregnancy and non-pregnancy is only 600 IU, the average prenatal vitamin only contains 400 IU. Most experts even recommend much more than 600 IU, especially if you are deficient. Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include being overweight or obese, are vegan (or don’t consume dairy), live at latitudes north of Atlanta, Georgia, have dark skin, or don’t spend a lot of time outdoors. Talk with your doctor to find out if you need extra vitamin D during your pregnancy.

Good Sources of Vitamin D – Fatty fish, dairy products, fortified foods



Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a major structural fat in the human brain and eyes, representing about 97% of all omega-3 fats in the brain, and 93% of all omega-3 fats in the eye. DHA is essential for brain development and vision, especially during the third trimester, and up to 18 months old. It also may possibly lower the risk of pre-term labor, low birth weight, and the risk of depression for the mother.

Many people think that flax seed or flax seed oil and walnuts contain omega-3s. While these foods do contain omega-3 fatty acids, it is the shorter-chain omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is different from the longer-chain DHA. While ALA’s are still beneficial, DHA is the main omega-3 that the body needs for optimal health and development during pregnancy. While it was once thought that the human body could convert ALA to DHA, current research shows that this conversion occurs rarely and inefficiently. Fish oil is the most reliable source of DHA.

If you don’t eat fatty fish regularly (2x/week) you may need some extra DHA during your pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association recommends an intake of at least 300 mg per day, and generally recommends a supplement that contains at least 200 mg of DHA. Some prenatal vitamins contain DHA, so check your label and talk to your doctor at your next appointment. If you decide to take a DHA supplement, choose one that is specially formulated for pregnancy. Be careful to avoid fish liver oils, as they contain high doses of vitamin A, which can be harmful to the unborn baby.

Good Sources of DHA
Cold water fish: salmon, anchovies, herring, tuna
– Salmon – 400-700 mg per 3 oz
– Canned light tuna – 190 mg per 3 oz.
– Fortified eggs – 80-200 mg
– Small amounts are found in egg yolks, poultry, and nuts

Breast-Feeding Benefits for Mothers


The New York Times, Julie Glassberg photo

We often hear of the benefits of breast-feeding for babies, but an article on the New York Times Well Blog  is reporting that recent studies suggest that mothers gain even more benefits from breast-feeding than previously found. Past studies have shown that women who breast feed have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers, Type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. There was also evidence of improved cardiovascular health, including a healthy blood pressure.

Now, recent studies found that breast feeding may protect women from a particularly vicious type of breast cancer; and that breast feeding may act as a “reset” button for metabolism, helping women who had gestational diabetes avoid becoming lifelong diabetics. The article goes into detail about the breast cancer study, as well as the research behind the diabetes findings.

Read the article here: Breast-Feeding Is Good for Mothers, Not Just Babies, Studies Suggest