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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more

Eating for Two

The food cravings and aversions that sometimes accompany pregnancy arenít just motivated by hormonal fluctuations, they are due in part to your baby's nutritional demands and to physiological changes in your body that affect the absorption and metabolism of certain nutrients. These changes help insure normal fetal development and later, fulfill the demands of lactation.

During pregnancy, your natural levels of vitamin B12 and B6, electrolytes, proteins, glucose, and folate decrease; while lipids, triglycerides, and cholesterol increase. In Nutritional Impacts on Women, researchers Frank E. Hytten, M.D. and Angus Thomson wrote that changes in nutritional needs occur too early in a pregnancy to be exclusively a response to fetal needs, and instead appear to be caused by the womanís body adapting to the new pregnancy.

The food you eat, as well as nutrients that are stored in your bones and tissues and those that are synthesized in the placenta, supply your baby with all the nutrients he or she needs for growth and development. However, exactly how nutrients are exchanged between you and your baby is not well understood. In the past, pregnancy was believed to be a host-parasite relationship, with the fetus taking whatever nourishment it required from the mother. But recent research has shown that the fetus can be more severely affected by lack of nourishment than the mother. "Contrary to the idea of fetal parasitism, there seem to be feedback mechanisms operating in the mother that would reduce the maternal supply line to the fetus when nutrients are in short supply," states Pedro Rosso, M.D., of Columbia University's Institute of Human Nutrition.

The placenta acts as a doorway through which nutrients, hormones, and other substances are transferred from you to the fetus. According to Dr. Roslyn Alfin-Slater, Nutrition expert and author of "Human Nutrition, A Comprehensive Treatise," if the mother-to-be is poorly nourished, her placenta does not function well. In addition, her health may suffer and the baby may be born at a low birth weight and suffer growth abnormalities if deprived of essential vitamins and nutrients over a prolonged period of time.

The following are essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are often affected by pregnancy. To ensure your health and that of your baby, eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and talk to your doctor about vitamin supplements. However, if you do take vitamin and mineral supplements during your pregnancy, be sure they are at RDA levels and avoid large doses of vitamins and minerals. For example, in animal studies, megadoses of vitamins A and D have resulted in fetal defects and the same is likely to be true in humans.

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