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7 Must Nutrients if You are Planning for Pregnancy

... Krissy Brady/Womens Health:

So you've decided the time has come for a bun in the oven—and not the dinner roll kind. Getting a jump on your prenatal nutrition is super important, as there are plenty of vitamins and minerals you're going to need more of once you're knocked up. Not only will the initial prep work give your fertility a boost, but it will also get your body ready for when mini-you sets up shop. While your best line of defense is a well-balanced diet, that alone may not provide enough of the recommended vitamins and minerals you need, says Susan Smarr, M.D., ob-gyn at Kaiser Permanente in California. Since diets vary, prenatal vitamins help cover any nutritional gaps that need filling. Here, find out which are essential for a healthy mom—and a healthy baby.

Folic Acid

Found in: Nuts, beans, citrus fruits, and leafy green veggies (like kale, spinach, and collard greens)

Folic acid helps support the normal development of the baby's central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Because the nervous system develops during the first month of pregnancy—often before you even know that you're pregnant—it's important to stock up on this vitamin right away

Iron

Found in: Kidney beans, oysters, sesame seeds, lentils, and spinach

According to a 2011 study published in the journal PLoS One, iron deficiency early in pregnancy could have a major impact on a child's long-term brain development, so it's important to get enough of the stuff while you’re trying to conceive.

Vitamin C

Found in: Strawberries, oranges, kiwi, mangoes, and blueberries

Speaking of vitamin C, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), it can help trigger ovulation for women—as well as increase men's sperm count. Cha. Ching. The recommended daily intake is 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for non-pregnant women (with that changing to 85 milligrams once you're expecting).

Calcium

Found in: Milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli, and dark, leafy greens

"Taking calcium pre-conceptually aids in increasing maternal bodily stores for the developing baby's bone development," says Gaither. It's recommended women get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily, both before and during pregnancy

Vitamin B6

Found in: Chicken, turkey, spinach, carrots, brown rice, and sunflower seeds

Taking vitamin B6 on the regular helps in hormone regulation, and by stocking up ahead of time, you could help stave off morning sickness, says Gaither. (Happy dance, anyone?) Post-pregnancy, not only does it help the nervous system function properly, but it's an important nutrient for brain development and function, as well.

Zinc

Found in: Red meats, poultry, nuts, whole grains, dairy products, and oysters

According to the APA, zinc is important for ovulation and fertility in women, as well as for semen and testosterone production in men. Make sure you both get the recommended dietary allowance of 15 milligrams of zinc daily to help keep your reproductive system in tip-top shape.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Found in: Walnuts, edamame, grass-fed beef, and fatty fish (like salmon, trout, and sardines)

Experts believe omega-3 fatty acids may enhance embryo quality in women undergoing IVF, says Gaither. What's more, research shows that omega-3's support fetal growth and development. 

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