Give Your Future Baby a Healthy Heart. Start NOW!
Give Your Future Baby a Healthy Heart. Start NOW!
Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time is one of the first precious moments during pregnancy.
The heart is the first fully functional organ to develop in an embryo. The first heartbeat happens at 22-23 days and is pumping blood through the developing embryo. This is well before most women know that they are pregnant! The majority of women don’t know that they are pregnant until they miss a period, around 28 days gestation.
The time of heart development is so important for the health of the baby as well as long-term health of the child as they grow older. The first heartbeat allows all of the cells that are rapidly developing to get necessary nutrients from the blood supply.
If we compare creating a baby to a building project (the most miraculous and amazing building project)– then we need to have all of the materials on board to get it done properly. Creating a baby requires all of the 97 essential nutrients as building materials from day 1, not day 30 or 40, or later!
All women of childbearing age need to be optimizing their health to prepare for babies, planned or unplanned!
About 1 in 1,000 babies will be born with a heart abnormality. Not many studies have been done in humans about nutrients and heart development. Much of what we know we get from animal studies.
Diet's Impact on Developing Baby
Unfortunately, with today's Standard American Diet, or SAD for short, many people aren’t getting their essential nutrients. Even if you are eating a healthy diet, you may not be getting adequate essential minerals due to diminished mineral content in the soil. With higher than 80% loss in our soil mineral content over the past century we would count ourselves lucky to get enough minerals to cover our very basic needs, let alone the high demands of pregnancy. Not to mention the increased demand for nutrients in today's toxic world!
Here are the essential nutrients that you, and every woman, needs to know about for proper development of the heart and cardiovascular system in babies. Keep in mind that the development of the heart isn’t happening alone, and the nutrient demands of pregnancy are high across the board. It’s important to eat a whole foods diet and educate yourself about nutrition in preparing for pregnancy!
The pregnancy RDA (recommended daily allowance) for folate is 600 micrograms (mcg) per day. Traditionally, pre-natal supplements contain a form of folate called folic acid. Synthetic “folic acid” is a chemical that is not normally found in foods or the human body. It can be converted into usable forms of folate, but this conversion is limited to about 200 mcg per single dose in healthy volunteers.
Dietary sources: Folate-rich foods include liver, legumes, and greens.
The RDA for Vitamin A in pregnancy is 2567IU’s/day.
Dietary sources: Animal food sources rich in pre-formed vitamin A include dairy products, liver, and fish oils. Rich sources of plant sources of provitamin A carotenoids include orange and green vegetables, such as sweet potato and spinach.
The current RDA for Vitamin D in pregnancy is set at 600IU/day. This is based on limited studies looking at bone health, and many researchers and doctors believe that this should be higher. However, most prenatal supplements only contain 400 IU’s! Talk to your doctor about your vitamin D levels (can be found through a blood test) and need for supplementation.
Dietary sources: Vitamin D is found in very few foods, cod liver oil being one of them. We make Vitamin D in our skin when exposed to UV rays from the sun. The amount you make is dependent on skin color, obesity, sun exposure, and physical location (the further from the equator you live the less UV rays you are exposed to throughout the year).
The RDA for calcium doesn’t change during pregnancy due to increased absorption from food during pregnancy. The RDA is 1000mg/day.
Dietary sources: Calcium is rich in dark green leafy vegetables, dairy products, properly prepared nuts, seeds, and beans, especially sesame seeds and sesame seed butter (tahini)!
The RDA for iron during pregnancy is 27mg/day, up from 15-18mg/day for non-pregnant women. That’s a big increase! Iron loss during pregnancy can be as much as 700mg.
Dietary sources: Make sure you’re eating your iron rich foods like red beets, dried fruits, dark berries, blackstrap molasses, liver, pumpkin seeds, chocolate, and red meat. Iron absorption inhibitors include dairy, black tea, red wine, and coffee. Iron absorption promoters include foods rich in vitamin C and fermenting and soaking oxalate and phytate rich foods. There are many herbal medicines that help to promote iron absorption and utilization!
The RDA for zinc during pregnancy is 11-12mg/day.
Dietary sources: Red meats, properly prepared nuts and legumes.
Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA)
There are many types of omega-3 fatty acids. The one recommended in pregnancy is ALA and the AI (adequate intake) is 1.4g/day.
Dietary sources: You can get ALA from green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, to name a few.
Remember these key points:
By the time you know you’re pregnant, your baby’s heart has already developed.
You need a good mix of nutrients from real whole food to have the healthiest pregnancy and baby possible!
The development of the heart is happening alongside everything else that is developing in that embryo, and the nutrient demands of pregnancy are high across the board, not just the nutrients listed above.