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How to improve baby brain development during pregnancyBy: Maria Davi & Amanda Capriglione, RDN, CDN

Updated: Jun 2, 2021

Co-founders Feed Mom & Me


Raising healthy kids starts in the womb. As soon as you see that positive mark on a pregnancy test, your motherly instincts kick in. Naturally, you want nothing but the best for your growing baby.

Research states that genes are responsible for half of a newborn’s IQ and that the baby’s environment influences the rest. While there are plenty of ways to boost your baby’s brain development outside of the womb, isn’t it amazing that it can actually begin before then? Taking art, music, and sensory classes through play is essential after birth, but diet, emotions, and the uterine environment are critical in pregnancy and sometimes overlooked.

To help develop your growing baby’s intelligence, make sure to continue reading…


When does a fetus develop a brain?

Once the sperm and egg unite, they form a one-celled entity called a zygote. Cells start to rapidly divide and begin to implant into the uterine lining, roughly around the second week after conception.

On or about the fourth week after conception, the neural tube along your baby’s back starts to close, and the baby’s brain and spinal cord develop. The following week, your baby's brain separates into three distinct parts; the front brain, midbrain, and hindbrain. At this point, your baby has a brain of its own! During the first trimester, the nutrient folate is crucial for the development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord.


What affects brain development during pregnancy?

Nutrition is not only essential for you but also for your growing baby. Like the growth of the fetus, brain growth is affected by the quality of your diet.

Infections also pose a considerable risk to the growing baby’s brain by interrupting development, including brain cells’ formation and wiring. You can best protect yourself and your growing baby by washing your hands frequently, not sharing foods or drinks with others, and of course, avoiding sick friends and family members.

How to improve baby brain development during pregnancy?

1. TAKE A DAILY PRENATAL MULTIVITAMIN with DHA.

Your body needs extra nutrients, vitamins, and minerals during pregnancy, which your developing baby is entirely dependent on you. That is why pregnant women are advised to take all natural prenatal vitamins daily.

Vitamins for baby’s brain development during pregnancy are very important due to the fact that most diets (especially during the first trimester -- hello nausea!) aren’t enough to provide all the essential vitamins that nurture your baby’s development and growth.

The essential vitamins and minerals the best prenatal vitamins should contain the following:

Folate helps form your baby's neural tube and supports the development of your baby's spine and brain development.

Choline is essential to your brain and nervous system, which is needed to regulate memory, mood, muscle control, and other functions. It is vital for your baby’s brain and spinal cord to develop correctly by aiding the formation of the neurotransmitters in your baby’s brain. It is also known to influence lifelong memory functions during the third trimester.

DHA helps your baby’s development of their brain, eyes, and nervous system. Supports the development of the cerebrum, which is responsible for thinking, remembering, and feeling. Supports the development of the cerebellum, which is responsible for all motor control, and the development of the brain stem, which is responsible for your lungs, heart, and blood pressure, and ultimately keeps the body alive. It is also known to support a healthy mood and well-being in the postpartum period. We believe it's best to take prenatal vitamins with DHA.

For more information on prenatal vitamins, please check out our Benefits of Feed Mom & Me Complete Prenatal with DHA Multivitamin Blog. You got this mama, you and your little one are going to thrive!

2. MANAGE YOUR STRESS

Did you know stress harms your baby’s nervous system? Some studies suggest stress during pregnancy may increase the risk of congenital brain malfunctions in your developing baby.

Try to do everything you can to reduce stress in your life, like any major life changes. Lighten your workload and learn how to relax! Sometimes the best thing for yourself is self-care in the form of saying, “no” to extra events/projects and taking the extra time for vegging out or going for a long walk. Also, try some stress-reducing activities such as breathing exercises, meditation/yoga, and journaling.

3. STAY ACTIVE

Staying active and exercising mildly is good for your body physically and mentally and good for your developing baby. The endorphins released during exercising cross the placenta, showering your baby in feel-good hormones, giving them a happy uterine to develop in. Exercising increases the flow of blood in your body, which overall boosts your baby’s development.

Research suggests exercising can increase your baby’s hippocampal cells, which enforces the learning and memory part of the brain up to 40%!

4. STAY HYDRATED

Water is critical for everyone, you need it to live, that includes your developing baby. Staying hydrated can actually boost your baby’s brain development. It is also important for the production of blood, the formation of amniotic fluid, and for the excretion of toxins and waste. On average, pregnant women should drink about 100 oz daily (translates to about 12.5, 8 oz glasses), and possibly more during the hot summer months. Keep in mind, some hydration can also come from soups and fruits/veggies.

5. GET MORE SLEEP

Do you remember the old saying, you grow while you sleep? This is exceptionally true for your developing baby. Staying well-rested not only boosts your mood and your immune system but also increases your chance for a healthy birth. Getting the right amount of sleep aids your baby’s brain in having the time to grow properly. Aim for 7-8 hours a night according to sleep experts.

6. KEEP THYROID LEVELS IN CHECK.

During pregnancy, a well-balanced Thyroid is crucial for the normal development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. According to a study presented at ENDO 2015, low or high maternal thyroid hormone levels during early pregnancy may significantly lower an infant’s IQ later in childhood.

To receive the most nutrients necessary for a healthy thyroid, maintain a balanced healthy diet, and take a soy-free prenatal multivitamin containing iodine.

7. GET A LITTLE SUNSHINE (VITAMIN D)

Vitamin D has never been so crucial for pregnant women. It helps your body absorb calcium and affects the viability, integrity, connectivity, and neuronal or non-neuronal functions of the developing brain.

We mainly rely on the sun upon our vitamin D intake, it can also be found in eggs and omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish. Vitamin D is also essential for supporting your baby’s development of strong bones and heart.

8. AVOID TOXINS

Breathing in toxins is harmful to anyone, including a pregnant woman and her developing baby. Try to limit exposure to cleaning products, some skin and hair products, and foods high in and pesticides. Make sure also to pay attention to air quality alerts in your area.

Alternatively, use more natural cleaning products such as vinegar and/or products without added chemicals, dyes, or fragrances. We love Honest & Method home!

Look for unscented, fragrance-free, phthalate-free (found in synthetic fragrances and nail polish), and paraben-free on the label. Read more here.

If possible, choose organic food free of pesticides and avoid the dirty dozen. During pregnancy, the baby’s brain, nervous system, and organs are developing rapidly and thus be more sensitive to the toxic effects of pesticides.

Try not to stress when you cannot control these things. Just do your best not to expose yourself to unnecessary chemicals.

9. ELIMINATE ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, AND DRUGS

This may go without saying, but we must include this section! Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs interfere with the development of cognitive brain cells. Alcohol use during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome and often leads to lower IQ, poor cognitive skills, attention deficits, impulsive behavior, and even poor coordination. Nicotine in tobacco constricts your blood vessels, leading to a reduction of blood flow and nutrition to your developing baby, impacting cognitive brain cells. Most abusive drugs cross the placenta and can affect the development of your baby’s brain. They can also have long-lasting implications for brain function and structure.

10. PLAY MUSIC, TALK, AND READ TO YOUR BABY

As you enter your second trimester, your developing baby's ears begin to stand out, and inner ear forms so they can start to hear. Your baby might not understand what you’re saying but talking, reading, and even music stimulates your baby and helps with brain development. You and your partner’s voice can actually soothe and stimulate your developing baby. Try talking to your belly and see if your baby responds by moving!

Research suggests you can shape your baby’s music taste. Music triggers the release of serotonin, the happy hormone, calming and increasing your baby’s concentration. Once you welcome your baby to the world, the same music you played for them in your belly can soothe them. Continue nurturing your little one’s cognitive growth with art and sensory play at Oh My Goodness too!

11. GENTLY MASSAGE YOUR TUMMY

Did you know touch is the first sense your growing baby develops? The fetuses’ somatosensory first develops in their face, mostly on their nose and lips, by connecting directly with their brains by the eighth week of pregnancy. By week 12, their palms, feet, and genitals touch receptors form; by week 17, their full abdomen, and week 32, every touch receptor in their body is connected to the brain through nerve cells.

Your growing baby starts to feel every touch across your belly within the second trimester. Touching your bump can actually soothe your baby and send a calming message to their nervous system. According to Time Magazine, gently rubbing your bump is a good way to stimulate your baby’s brain, boosting brain development. Rubbing your bump is like giving your baby a nurturing hug!

12. NUTRIENT-RICH DIET

During pregnancy, baby’s brain development can be influenced by consuming a variety of nutrients that are essential for mom and baby’s health. In addition to a prenatal vitamin, getting nutrients from food is crucial, although it sometimes can be difficult.

Some foods good for fetus brain development are chia seeds packed with OMEGA 3, egg yolks packed with CHOLINE, avocados packed with Antioxidants and Vitamin B- complex, meat and poultry packed with protein and iron packed.

Continue reading 9 Foods To Boost Your Baby's Brain Development While Pregnant to get some ideas on the different foods to consume for baby’s brain!


If you enjoyed this post from Amanda & Maria at Feed Mom & Me, their website feedmomandme.com. For more about nutrition for mom and baby, plus Prenatal Vitamins, make sure to follow Feed Mom & Me on Instagram.


+ REFERENCES

● http://npic.orst.edu/health.preg.html


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