Chapter 2: Nutrition for Fetal Development
“We cannot always or even often control events, but we can control how we respond to them. When things happen which dismay we ought to look to GOD for HIS meaning, remembering that HE is not taken by surprise nor can HIS purposes be thwarted in the end.” Elisabeth Elliot
“I know of no greater simplifier for all of life. Whatever happens is assigned. Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good. Decisions become much easier, directions clearer, and so my heart becomes inexpressibly quieter.”
Devotion from Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot, “Ever Been Bitter?”
Last week we talked about how from conception to approximately the 8 week of pregnancy constitutes the most critical stage when all systems are undergoing important foundational development. This period of tissue differentiation during the first two months is when the growing fetus is most susceptible to damage from drugs and chemicals, viral infections, x-rays, electromagnetic radiation and poor nutrition. Much critical development takes place before a woman even knows she is pregnant, so nutritional and environmental preparation for pregnancy must begin well before conception.
We talked about Hypospadias, one of the most common congenital birth defects, that occurs in one out of every hundred twenty five live male births. Hypospadias is where the opening of the urethra appears on the underside of the shaft of the penis. Undescended testicles and inguinal hernia are the most common associated anomalies found in boys with with hypospadias. Hypospadias results when hormonal disturbances result in incomplete virilazation around the eighth week of gestation. Exposure to pesticides, plastics and industrial chemicals is a likely culprit, but so is exposure to estrogenic soy.
We talked about the importance of birth weight and that having a low birth rate baby increased the chances for insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and other health challenges later on in life. The use of Cod Liver Oil results in bigger babies, regardless of other factors. Trials have shown that folic acid supplementation also increases birth weight. Iron deficiency compromises fetal growth and a major deficiency in any vitamin or mineral is likely to do the same.
Optimal fetal development depends on a nutrient-dense diet. A generous intake of all nutrients-especially the fat soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids, biotin, folate, choline and glycine will supply the baby everything it needs for robust and vigorous growth and a long, healthy life to come.
Key Nutrients needed to support Development:
Vitamin A -according to Weston A. Price in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Vitamin A deficiency produces spontaneous abortion, prolonged labor and death of the mother and her offspring during labor; eye defects including the complete absence of eyes; defects of the snout, dental arches and lips; displacement of internal organs including the kidneys, ovaries and testes, and deafness due to degeneration of the nervous system.
Vitamin A is necessary for
the differentiation and patterning of all of the cells, tissues, and organs within the developing body. It’s especially important for the development of the communication systems between the sense organs and the brain-these systems are highly compromised in autism. Even mild vitamin A deficiency compromises the number of nephrons in the kidneys which could lead to poor kidney function in later life. The number of cells in the kidneys is highly dependent on Vitamin A status during embryonic and fetal development.
It is also necessary during fetal development and throughout adult life to maintain the presence of cells lining the lungs called cilia. These hairs sweep away debris and foreign material, protecting the lungs from pollutants and infectious diseases. Vitamin A is necessary for their continued growth.
Generous helpings of vitamin A-rich organs, cod liver oil and animal fats to support perfect fetal development will help to keep vitamin A levels at an optimum in mother and the baby.
plays a role in lung development
adequate levels protect newborn from tetany, convulsions, and heart failure
builds strong bones
Sally Fallon recommends 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D from cod liver oil, and additional amounts from fatty fish, fish eggs, shellfish and grassfed butter, egg yolks and lard. A study of over ten thousand infants in Finland showed that direct supplementation of 2,000 IU per day to infants in the first year of life virtually eradicated the risk of type 1 diabetes over the next 30 years.
Vitamin E-” In 1922 named Fertility Factor X” because rats could not reproduce without it, two years later researchers dubbed it “tocopherol” from the Greek tokos, meaning “childbirth,” and ferein, meaning “to bring forth.”
Is almost certainly essential to human reproduction, probably helps with the nutritional transport system of the placenta
Unrefined vegetable oils are high in Vitamin E, but they are also high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which deplete the body of this nutrient.
Good sources of Vitamin E is grass-fed animal fats is four times higher than that of grain-fed animal fats. Butter can be an especially rich source if it comes from grass-fed animals. Nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables and freshly ground grains also contain Vitamin E.
Vitamin K-compared to vitamins A and D, very little is known about the role of vitamin K in embryonic and fetal development. The enzyme that uses vitamin K to activate vitamin K-dependent proteins first shows up in the skeletal and nervous tissue of the embryo. These proteins help lay down calcium salts in bone tissue and keep calcium of the soft tissues where it does not belong.
Example of the mother who took Warfarin during pregnancy. This drugs interferes with the normal clotting mechanism of the blood by creating an effective vitamin K deficiency. During the early development of the middle third of the infant’s face, the cartilage of her septum calcified; at birth, her nose was a stub. She also had cavities and plaques in her spinal cord; she required oxygen due to respiratory distress at birth; and she was quadriplegic by twenty months.
This tragic case of severe deficiency illustrates the essential role of K vitamins in the development of proper facial proportions and the much more important and fundamental development of the nervous system. This case also demonstrates the wisdom in avoiding all drugs during pregnancy.
Vitamin K2 has a higher rate of transport across the placenta than vitamin K1. Vitamin K1 is found in leafy greens, while Vitamin K2 is found in fermented foods such as natto and sauerkraut and grass-fed animal fats-goose liver, cheese, and to a lesser extent butter, egg yolks and fatty meats
DHA-omega 3 oils from plants and fish
may be necessary formation of neurons and the building of the brain lipid phosphatidylserine
precursor to an important compound that protects neurons when they are assaulted by oxidative stress
The baby hoards DHA from the mother, and it may be a contributing factor to postpartum depression.
DHA can be obtained from COD LIVER OIL and fatty fish and in small amounts from grass fed animal fats.
BIOTIN-deficiency in the baby caused an increase in limb and palate defects. These effects were reversed when biotin was added. This occurred in pregnant rats.
is primarily found in liver and egg yolks. Egg whites contain a protein that strongly binds to biotin and prevents its absorption. Cooking neutralizes this protein but not completely. Raw egg whites should be strictly avoid, and cooked egg whites should be consumed in moderation and never without the yolk. The addition of egg yolks to scrambled eggs, smoothies and ice cream help boost biotin status.
necessary for the production of new DNA, and new DNA is necessary for new cells. Growing life in the womb engages in constant cell division and the mother must expand her blood supply with the production of new red blood cells as well which demand a generous supply of folate.
Adequate folate intake prevents defects of the brain and spinal cord and increases birth weight
It may also prevent spontaneous abortion, mental retardation and deformation of the mouth, face and heart.
Synthetic supplements do prevent neural tube defects (brain and spinal cord defects). Pregnant women should use them if they aren’t going to eat folate-rich diets;whenever possible, it is best to meet the folate requirement from food, according to our book.. Folate rich foods include liver, legumes and dark green vegetables.
Choline is related to folate . A low intake of choline is associated with a four fold increased risk of neural tube defects.
Choline has a more direct role in the development of the brain. It is especially important for the formation of the neurons that use the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Rats fed three times the normal choline requirement during pregnancy give birth to offspring with very resilient nervous systems. These offspring have a lifelong 30 percent increase in visuospatial and auditory memory; they grow old without developing any age related senility; they are protected against the assaults of neurotoxins ( along with Vit. A and good bacteria in our gut). They have an enhanced ability to focus on several things at once; and they have a much lower rate of interference memory (when a past memory interferes with a present memory).
Choline protects the baby from chronic stress-related illness later in life. When mom is under stress during pregnancy, the levels of stress hormone in baby also rise, leading to reduced ability to deal with stress after birth. Extra choline during the third trimester protects against this unfortunate outcome.
Sally Fallon recommends 900 to 1200 mg for pregnant women to provide the baby with lasting benefits.
Choline can be obtained from liver, egg yolks, and high quality grass-fed dairy foods, and a lesser extend from meats, cruciferous vegetables, nuts and legumes.
An amino acid necessary for making protein in the baby, mother can obtain glycine primarily from collagen rich foods such as skin and bones or bone broths.
Glycine is depleted in the clearing of excess methionine, another amino acids. Eggs and meats are the main sources of methonine. It is important for the expectant mother to liberally match her egg and muscle meat consumption with glycine rich skin and bone broths and folate rich liver, legumes and greens.
Sulfer-it is essential for a woman to consume abundant sulfer containing foods during pregnancy. Of particular concern is taurine found exclusively in animal-based foods.
Taurine-plays an important role in the neural development of the fetus for protein building and for protection from oxidative damage.
Another crucial role sulfur plays in the fetus involves the safe transport of cholesterol, sex hormones and neurotransmitters to all the fetal tissues particularly the brain.
Cholesterol plays a crucial role in the developing brain. Serum sulfate deficiency is characteristic of autism and so insufficient cholesterol sulfate delivery to the fetal brain due to insufficient sulfate supply from the mother may be a significant factor in autism.
Sulfer is found in highest concentration in our two favorites, egg yolks and liver, along with cholesterol for which it has such affinity. These should be the premier foods during pregnancy, along with a good source of calcium such as raw milk or cheese. Other good sources of sulfur include onions and molasses
Saturated fats make up nearly half of our cell membranes, where they anchor
proteins to specific locations participate in signaling activities, and transport cellular components. They also form an important source of energy and of course, carry the all important fat soluble vitamins. Blood sugar and insulin were lower after the meal rich in saturate fat than after the meal rich in monounsaturated fat. The authors conclude that “saturated fat may be useful in controlling postprandial glucose.”
We cannot stress enough the importance of obtaining these nutrients and the requirements for all vitamins and minerals to be obtained from high quality natural foods, prepared in the home, starting months before pregnancy begins and continued throughout pregnancy, lactation and beyond.