5 Nutrients to Help Optimise Pregnancy Outcomes
6 min read

5 Nutrients to Help Optimise Pregnancy Outcomes

Author_Nicola-Mackay Diet & Nutrition Supplements

Improving pregnancy outcomes starts long before conception, in fact it starts at the early stages of follicular growth around 100 days before we ovulate.

Eating a healthy, varied diet in pregnancy will help you to get all the vitamins and minerals you need. However, there are some vitamins and minerals that are especially important and may need to be supplemented.

You and your partner should be getting plenty of zinc. Zinc contributes to ovulation and fertility in women and also semen and testosterone production in men with zinc deficiency being correlated with impaired sperm production.

Zinc is a component of various enzymes that help maintain structural integrity of proteins and help regulate gene expression, so getting enough is particularly important for the rapid cell growth that occurs during pregnancy. The average requirement for zinc during pregnancy is 9mg/day but some women will need as much as 11mg/day or more.

Zinc can be found in lean meat, wholegrain cereals, milk, seafood, legumes and nuts

During pre-natal care, it is essential to focus on increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids because they are not made within the body and so we either need to eat omega 3 containing foods or supplement them.

During pregnancy tissue stores tend to decline as they are used for the developing foetus so it is important we improve our levels well before trying to conceive.

In pre-conception care, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation reduces the risk of:

- Preterm birth < 37 weeks
- Early preterm birth < 34 weeks
- Low birth weight babies (LBW)
- Perinatal death*
- Neonatal care admissions*
- Low birthweight babies (LBW)
- Pre-eclampsia and hypertension
- Peri-natal depression

Additionally, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves fetal brain and retina development, reduces the risk of cerebral palsy, and reduces the risk of post-partum depression (now commonly known as post-natal depletion) in the mother.

Good food sources of omega 3’s include oily fish (salmon, mackerel), grass-fed meat, organic eggs and poultry, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds.

During pregnancy, a woman’s need for iron doubles in order for her to be able make enough haemoglobin for both herself and for her baby. If you don’t have enough iron stores (known as ferritin on a blood test) before you fall pregnant or during pregnancy you have a higher risk of developing iron deficiency anaemia.

The risks that can come with severe cases of anaemia during pregnancy are something that every mother will want to avoid. These can include:

- increased risk of having a premature birth
- increased risk of having a low birth weight baby
- increased risk of postpartum depression

Many women may only have a blood test once they fall pregnant, but if you are seeing a health practitioner to support you with preconception care then testing your iron levels should certainly be something that is assessed as early as possible.

The average requirement for iron in pregnancy is 27mg a day. A mixed diet of animal (red meat) and plant foods (dark leafy greens) can help you achieve your iron intake.

Iodine is considered to be an essential micronutrient in preconception and pregnancy care. During pregnancy, a woman’s requirements increase by 50% and can be even higher. ⁠⠀

Iodine crosses the placenta to the embryo-fetus and is essential for, hormone synthesis, nervous system development, growth of the baby's brain, eyesight, hearing. Mild to moderate iodine deficiency can result in learning difficulties and affect development of motor skills and hearing of the child, whilst also leaving women in a position to develop hypothyroidism (under-active metabolism).

⁠Iodine supplementation for pregnant women is recommended by the World Health Organisation at 250mcg per day.

Food sources of iodine include seaweed, seafood, kelp, iodised salt, eggs and prunes.

CoQ10 is is a fat-soluble nutrient found in the body that is used to produce energy for cell maintenance. We make CoQ10 and it is essential for the production of energy in our body however as we age and pending lifestyle and disease factors we may need much more than what our body can produce.

CoQ10 is concentrated in organs with high rates of metabolism such as the heart, kidney, and liver and during pregnancy in the development of a maturing follicle. The effects of CoQ10 are wide and relate to pregnancy due to its effect on the anti-oxidative capacity and energy production in the oocyte. It has been show to:

- play a critical role in cell growth and energy metabolism which is crucial to positive pregnancy outcomes.
- improve ovarian response women with low ovarian reserve.
- assist with steroid hormone biosynthesis, oocyte maturation, fertilisation and early embryonic development

In simpler terms - to create an egg we need cell proliferation to occur at a rapid rate and CoQ10 supports that process each step of the way.

Food sources of CoQ10 include organ meats, pork, beef, chicken, fatty fish, sesame seeds, pistachios, cauliflower, broccoli, lentils

Resources: The primary resource of this article was the Jennifer Ward Naturopath Blog - Experts in women's hormones and fertility: https://www.jenniferwardnaturopath.com.au/blog