Getting the Right Nutrients During Third Trimester

You've made it to the home stretch once you've made it to the third trimester. Your body is changing, your hormones are fluctuating and your baby's growth is accelerating.

In your third trimester, nutrition plays a critical role in your health and the development of your baby. You want to make sure to consume an additional 450 healthy calories a day even if you feel too full of baby to have room for food.

Try eating smaller meals throughout the day instead of three traditional meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner. It can be easier to consume and digest smaller meals.

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Key Nutrients

Iron

Your blood volume is increasing and so is your baby's. As blood quantity increases, so does your need for iron. Iron is necessary to carry oxygen to active and growing cells.

Daily Recommended Dose: 27 mg

Sources: red meats, beans, lentils and fortified grains

*Tip: Iron can be absorbed more easily if iron-rich foods are consumed with vitamin C-rich foods.

Calcium

The same mineral that's good for your bones and teeth is also good for your baby's developing bones and teeth.

Daily Recommended Dose: 1,000 mg

Sources: milk and dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, broccoli, dark greens, sardines

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Protein

Protein is a primary building block for your baby's muscles, tissues and organs. During the third trimester, your baby is growing faster than ever, so protein is especially important. Fortunately, most women get plenty of protein in their normal diets.

Daily Recommended Dose: 6.5 ounces

Sources: meats, chicken, fish, milk, beans, peas, lentils, nuts and tofu

*Tip: Iron can be absorbed more easily if iron-rich foods are consumed with vitamin C-rich foods.

Vitamin D

Many pregnant women in the United States don't get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D works with calcium to help your baby's bones and teeth develop. It also is essential for healthy skin and eyesight. During pregnancy, mom transfers vitamin D to the baby, so if mom is deficient, so is baby.

Daily Recommended Dose: 600 IU

Sources: fortified milk, fatty fish, such as salmon and exposure to sunlight

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is especially important during the third trimester, as it helps with new tissue formation to aid in recovery from labor and delivery.

Daily Recommended Dose: 80 mg if 18 and younger; 85 mg if 19 and older

Sources: citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, spinach, kiwis and berries

Other Vitamins and Minerals

Many other vitamins and minerals can be just as important during the third trimester as they were earlier in your pregnancy. As labor approaches, your body needs a strong immune system, antioxidants and nutrition for optimal functioning and healing.

You want to keep eating fresh fruits and vegetables. If you're having trouble eating all your servings during meals, try eating several small snacks throughout the day that include these food groups.

Beyond essential vitamins and minerals, you want to make sure that you are consuming DHA and lutein, as well.

DHA

DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that accumulates rapidly, especially in the 2nd half of pregnancy in the neural cortex and retina. Intake of omega-3s during pregnancy, specifically DHA, is associated with improved visual and cognitive development in infants.

Daily Recommended Dose: 200 mg

Sources: cold-water fatty fish like salmon and sardines and some prenatal vitamins or supplements. Lesser amounts can be found in eggs and some dairy products.

Nordic Naturals - Prenatal DHA, (500 mg), 180 Count
Nordic Naturals - Prenatal DHA, (500 mg), 180 Count

Easy to swallow gel capsule. While pregnant, I preferred taking my DHA separate of my main prenatal vitamin. Many prenatal vitamins that included DHA are not yet USP certified.

 

Lutein

Lutein is a carotenoid concentrated in the eye. It's important for eye health, as lutein filters out harmful blue light and acts as an antioxidant protecting cells from oxidative stress. Lutein is also found in the brain from infancy through adulthood, particularly in the regions of hte brain involving memory, learning, language and visual processing.

Because the human body cannot product lutein, it must be consumed through diet or supplements. During pregnancy, you pass lutein to your baby through the placenta, and after your baby is born, she can get lutein from your colostrum and breast milk or from formula. Lutein levels are approximately 50% higher in colostrum than in mature breast milk.

Daily Recommended Dose: 200 mg

Sources: leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach, plus other vegetables, fruits and egg yolk.

* If you're breastfeeding, look for a prenatal vitamin that includes lutein. If you're formula-feeding, look for a formula that includes lutein.

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