Generally, we all know that there are sensitive times in life; one of these periods is when a woman is pregnant. During this period a pregnant woman’s body goes through changes
It’s always a wise idea to eat healthy especially during pregnancy. The diet of a pregnant woman does not affect only her health but also the development of the baby. When you’re pregnant, you need more nutrients and most importantly vitamins. Vitamins should be in your diet and food supplement for optimum prenatal and pregnancy health.
Vitamins are essential organic micro nutrient molecules that an organism needs for the proper functioning of its metabolism.
Vitamins are either not synthesized in the body or are synthesized in inadequate quantities.
Vitamins have various biochemical functions. Most vitamins function as co enzyme or co factors. Both deficient and excess intake of a vitamins can potentially cause clinically significant illness。
Firstly, let’s look at the classification/types of vitamins
There are 13 vitamins and they are classified into two;
Water soluble vitamins (vitamin C and vitamin B complexes-B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12),
And Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K)
WATER SOLUBLE VITAMINS: – This vitamin dissolve easily in water, and are readily excreted from the body, to the degree that urinary output is a strong predictor of vitamin consumption. More consistent intake is important because water soluble vitamins are not readily stored.
VITAMIN C, VITAMIN B1, VITAMIN B2, VITAMIN B3, VITAMIN B5, VITAMIN B6, VITAMIN B7, VITAMIN B9, VITAMIN B12.
FAT SOLUBLE VITAMINS: – This vitamin is absorbed easily through the intestinal tract with the help of lipids (fat). Fat soluble lipids are:
VITAMIN A, VITAMIN D, VITAMIN E, VITAMIN K. (A, D, E, K)
FUNCTION OF VITAMIN
Each vitamin is typically used in multiple reactions and therefore has numerous functions. One of its functions is on fetal development
FETAL DEVELOPMENT– There are essential nutrients needed in the dietary plan to be undertaken before, during and after pregnancy. Nutrition of the fetus begins at conception; therefore the nutrition of the mother is important from before conception as well as throughout pregnancy and breast feeding. During pregnancy you don’t eat the food of two people but you eat for two, which is you eat for both your health and that of the developing fetus.
Fetus develops from the nutrient it absorbs using the genetic blueprint inherited from its parents. This nutrient (esp. vitamins & minerals) are required to be present at certain times which thus facilitate the chemical reactions that produce among other things, skin, bones, muscles, nervous system e. t. c.
If there is serious deficiency in one or more of these nutrients, a child might develop diseases caused by vitamin deficiency. Even minor deficiencies may cause a fetus/child permanent damage.
Vitamins are also essential for health maintenance of adult cells, tissues, and organs, they also enable human to use chemical energy provided by food they eat efficiently.
BIOCHEMICAL IMPORTANCE OF VITAMIN ON FETAL GROWTH
VITAMIN B9 (FOLIC ACID)
Folic acid which is the synthetic form of the vitamin B9 (folate) is needed both in pre- and peri conception. Humans cannot make folate, therefore it is required from the diet making it essential vitamin.
The body converts folic acid to folate which is needed for the body to make DNA & RNA, and metabolizes amino acids required for cell division.
Folate contributes to spermatogenesis also. In women folate is essential for oocyte quality and maturation, implantation, placentation, fetal growth & organ development.
During pregnancy not consuming enough folate leads to folate deficiency that results to neural tube defect (NTD) in babies, anemia, DNA synthesis inhibition, and most times brain defects and cancer. You can prevent folate deficiency as well as preventing your baby from experiencing health issues associated with this deficiency by taking folate supplement of at least 0.5mg/day in addition to foods rich in folic acid.
Some foods rich in vitamin B9 are green leafy vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, beet root, spinach, sesame seeds, walnut, eggs, citrus fruits, oranges, grape fruit, lemon, beef liver, pawpaw, bananas, avocado, e.t.c.
VITAMIN A (RETINOIDS)
This is a fat soluble vitamin which is important during and after pregnancy for normal vision, immune system, and tissue strengthening. Vitamin A also helps the heart, kidneys, lungs, and other organs to function properly. They exist mostly as Carotenoid. Carotenoid that can be converted by the body into retinol are referred to as provitamin A carotenoids.
Vitamin A deficiency is a little rare but can also occur when a mother don’t eat well. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to an eye condition called xerophthalamia (inability to see in low light), increase chances of cancer e.t.c.
Foods rich in vitamin A are sweet potato, pumpkin, green leafy vegetables, cantaloupe, bell pepper, Chinese cabbage, beef, eggs, peaches, fruits including apricots, and mangoes, dairy products such as milk, yellow vegetables such as carrots, squash, broccoli e.t.c.
VITAMIN C (ASCORBIC ACID)
This vitamin serves as an antioxidant that protects tissues from damage and helps body absorb iron, builds a healthy immune system both for the mother and the baby.
Sources are citrus fruits, bell peppers, okro, monkey kola, soursop, cherry, rose apples, green beans, straw berries, pawpaw, potatoes, broccolli, tomatoes.e. t. c.
VITAMIN D (CALCIFEROL, 1, 25-DIHYDROXY VITAMIN D)
This is a fat soluble vitamin responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate; it also helps body nerves, muscle and immune system work well.
N/B: Your immune system protects your body from infection.
Your baby needs vitamin D to help during his bones and teeth formation/growth.
Good sources of vitamin D are; fat fish e.g salmon fish, milk, and cereal with added vitamin D.
Your body also makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight
VITAMIN E (TOCOPHEROL)
Vitamin E deficiency is rarely seen in healthy adults. For pregnant women, insufficient dietary vitamin E (that can be found in vegetable oils, nuts, cereals and some leafy green vegetables) may lead to complications such as pre-eclampsia. The above claim is still subject to further research.
Vitamin K helps in blood clotting and serious bleeding prevention.
Newborn bleeding disorders requires immediate treatment with VK supplements. Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) which usually occurs at birth may result in haemorrhage inside the new baby’s skull. Newborns’ Vitamin K is naturally low at birth and the transfer of maternal Vitamin K from the breast milk to the placenta is slow, therefore the need for vitamin k supplement at doctor’s recommendation during prenatal and postnatal care is very essential.
Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, comes from plants. It is the main type of dietary vitamin K. Another vitamin K source is vitamin K2, or menaquinone, which is found in some animal-based and fermented foods.
Sources of vitamin K are: Leafy vegetables, kale, cucumber, tomatoes, okro e.t.c.
VITAMIN B1 (THIAMINE):-This vitamin raises energy level and regulates the nervous system. It raises energy level by aiding enzyme needed for energy (glucose) metabolism; this vitamin also plays a key role in nerve/muscle function. A pregnant woman will hardly be weak under normal circumstances when this vitamin is in place. Vitamin B1 can be source from all nutritious food in moderate amounts, cauliflower, oranges, eggs, potatoes, asparagus, kale, fortified cereals, whole grain, wheat germ, organ meats, eggs, rice, pasta, berries, nuts, legumes, pork meat, e.t.c
VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN):- This is a water soluble vitamin that works as antioxidant, helping to fend off free radicals, which if left unattended and can create pathways to diseases. It works with coenzyme in helping with cellular metabolism. In addition B2 plays a role in fat metabolism and promoting healthy muscle, nerve and heart disease.
VITAMIN B3 (NIACIN) – All the vitamin B complexes (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12) usually works together in DNA-related (cellular) processes, conversion of food to energy thereby aiding the body utilize proteins, carbohydrates and fats, maintaining healthy immune system, protects & slow mental decline by keeping the amino acid homocysteine in check, supports and maintain the myoclin sheath which keep nervous system functioning well. Their support of cell development and role as co factors to enzyme help neurotransmitter do their job.
INDIGENOUS FOOD RICH IN VITAMINS FOR PREGNANT WOMEN
This vegetable is rich in vitamin C (immune function) and vitamin K (aids in blood clotting). Okra can be used to make local cuisine and soup, good for pregnant women.
GARDEN EGG/GARDEN EGG LEAF
Garden egg/leaf is rich in vitamin B1 essential for proper heart and nervous system functioning. Vitamin B6 also present which aids in cellular respiration. Garden egg can be eaten raw, or its extracted juicy water can be consumed when pregnant.
This is highly nutritious. Contains vitamin C, beta-carotene (provitamin A), vitamin B2, vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid-niacin). It improves high density lipo protein (HDL) which is good cholesterol and it aids in fat and protein metabolism.
Highly nutritious. Contains vitamin C, niacin (VB3- that helps solve insomnia), vitamin A (beta carotene), vitamin E, thiamine (VB1), riboflavin (VB2), pantothenic acid (VB5), vitamin B6, folate e.t.c.
ROSE OR WATER APPLES
It aids in keeping pregnant women hydrated, contains vitamin C, niacin, thiamin, and vitamin A.
PITANGA BERRIES (CHERRY)
This is rich in vitamin B2 helps in ensuring proper development and body tissues growth like skin, eyes, immune system, connective tissues and mucous membranes. Also contains vitamin C, vitamin A, and other vitamin B complexes.
Prevents scurvy because it’s a good source of vitamin C, also vitamin C is known as blood pressure lowering vitamins, so it contributes greatly during pregnancy.
Repairs Body Tissues. They are a good source of vitamins A and C which helps to promote good eye vision lungs,. It is usually said that waterleaf is a “blood pumping machines” as it plays a vital role in the adequate production of blood in the human body.
It is good for pregnant women as it helps increase their blood levels and as well, supply them with other vital nutrients which the body needs. Water leaf uses are versatile such as for culinary purposes, they are used to prepare waterleaf soup, waterleaf stew or sauce, yam, salad and more.
It is rich in the blood clotting vitamin known as vitamin K .To avoid the low levels of vitamin K, incorporate Asparagus in your daily diet and improve the ability of the responsible proteins in the blood for the thickening of the blood and better clotting. Asparagus is also rich in folate. Folate in asparagus works together with vitamin B12 to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment because vitamin B 12 deficiency can cause such problems like memory loss, impaired thinking and general cognitive difficulties.
Therefore, adequate intake of the vegetable will help enhance your memory and improve your cognitive reasoning.
FLUTED PUMPKIN LEAF
It provides a good amount of vitamin C, A, B2 and E. It maintains body tissues, cells, membrane as well as improves memory and maintains the skin. It can be used for local cuisine or extracted and taking as juice.
There exist organic compounds in tomatoes called lycopene which is the major carotenoid in the human body and a stronger antioxidant that protect the system from oxidative damages as well as preventing free radicals that are prone to cause any type of cancer in the body.
The lycopene found in tomatoes protects the body against mouth and breast cancer and also fight against prostate cervical cancer, prostate cancer, cancer of the rectum and stomach as well as esophagus and pharynx cancers.
Consuming tomatoes regularly will aid in preventing any chance of cancer in your body.
Consumption of cucumber contributes to the proper health of the bone of both mother and child and this is because it contains vitamin D which helps to improve calcium absorption.
Coconuts are a good source of essential vitamin B-complex such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, and pyridoxine which all help to convert food into fuel and as well replenish the body. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant in coconut that helps to remove some damaging oxidizing agents which can cause certain damages to body cells and tissues. Coconut oil contains vitamin E and is used as a face cleanser naturally or as additives because it helps to moisturize the body, prevent wrinkles, and remove impurities on the skin.
Presence of folic acid in almond fruit helps iron present in the almond work properly in the body and reduces birth defects in newborn which is an incidence that can be dangerous to babies. It also helps in stimulating healthy tissue formation and cell growth. Doctors normally prescribe folic acid supplement to women during pregnancy to ensure good development of the tube, thereby keeping mothers and their babies healthy.
Intake of this almond is food for pregnant women due to its richness in folic acid.
Mushrooms contain protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One of Mushroom antioxidant agent is vitamin C. Mushrooms also contains a small amount of vitamin D.
Sea foods such as salmon fish periwinkle, snail, crab, crayfish e. t. c. are also good source of vitamin and aids in fetal development. They are usually used to make African cuisines such as Afang soup, Edikang Ikong, ogbonno, e..t.c. Other good sources of vitamins are carrot, lettuce, cabbage, pear. e.t.c
TAKE HOME: Think about nutritional value when you are to eat, make sure you are eating nutritious food for your health and for your baby. Take diets rich in vitamins. Follow the doctor’s instruction during this period.