The 3 Most Important Nutrients for Baby's Development and How to Get Them

July 11, 2019 | Exercise & Nutrition

Pregnancy is an incredible time when baby is being sewn together in mom’s womb. This is no small feat, and a healthy baby requires some very important vitamins and minerals.

Luckily, prenatal vitamins, which are available at your local grocery or drug store, will provide mom with all of these important nutrients.

But, what exactly are these nutrients, and why do they matter?

1. Folic Acid

Folic acid is an important nutrient during early pregnancy, as it it a key building block for baby’s spinal cord. The spinal cord, or neural tube, is one of the first parts that are developed in a baby, and this happens during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

During pregnancy, folic acid:

  • helps prevent birth defects, especially spinal and neural tube defects like spina bifida
  • helps prevent anemia in mother and baby

When is folic acid important?

Ideally, it’s best to begin taking a folic acid supplement 1-3 months before you become pregnant, until baby is 12 weeks along in it’s development.

While this is the best case scenario, when the pregnancy was unplanned or comes as a surprise, mom of course, wouldn’t have started taking a prenatal vitamin or folate supplement beforehand.

For most pregnancies, not having taken a folate supplement before becoming pregnant doesn’t cause any issues, however, it really is best to speak to your health care professional if you have concerns.

Foods with Folic Acid

  • asparagus
  • citrus fruits (grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime)
  • spinach
  • eggs
  • lentils
  • avocado
  • beets
  • egg noodles (type of pasta)

2. Iron

In order to build baby, mom’s body uses iron as one of the building blocks – and in no small amount! For a healthy pregnancy, mom will need double the iron she normally would.

If enough iron isn’t provided (either by diet or by an iron supplement), mom can develop anemia. Anemia during pregnancy is a problem as it leads to much higher chances of developing postpartum depression once baby is born and can lead to complications with baby.

During pregnancy, iron:

  • helps mom and baby avoid anemia
  • prevents low birth weight for baby
  • helps baby develop healthy brain and nervous system

Pssst… check out our huge list of 49+ iron-rich foods that are great to eat during pregnancy! We’ve even chosen a few of our favourite delicious iron-rich desserts that you can easily bake yourself at home.

When to take iron during pregnancy

It’s best to start taking an iron supplement when mom has her first prenatal appointment, which is typically between weeks 6 and 8.

Iron-rich Foods

  • dark chocolate
  • almonds
  • oats and oatmeal
  • potatoes
  • meat, poultry and seafood

3. Calcium

Why is calcium important during pregnancy? Calcium is an important nutrient in pregnancy, for both the mother and baby.

During pregnancy, calcium:

  • is used to help build and strengthen baby’s bones
  • keeps mom’s bones and teeth strong and healthy
  • is needed to produce breast milk

When is calcium important?

The third trimester of pregnancy is one of the most important times to ensure you are getting enough calcium because it’s the stage of development where baby’s bones are being strengthened by the mineral.

High Calcium Foods

  • milk
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • green peas
  • beans (chickpeas, kidney beans, edamame)

More about Pregnancy Nutrition

Can I Drink Coffee & Tea While I’m Pregnant?

3 Indulgent Iron-Rich Recipes Perfect for Pregnancy

10 Super Important Reasons to Exercise During Pregnancy