Nutrition for pregnancy, birth and beyond – Part 2

We hope you enjoyed last week’s Q&A with Tabitha McIntosh, Naturopath and Clinical Nutritionist from Awaken Your Health, and her yummy recipe (click here if you missed it).

This week Tabitha discusses important nutrients to support mum throughout her pregnancy, as well as baby’s development.

Enjoy this week’s recipe for Tabitha’s hunger-stopping savoury muffins – a great nutrient dense and easy lunch or snack (whether you’re pregnant or not)!

Nadine xxx

What are three key nutrients needed throughout pregnancy to support mum and baby’s development?

In addition to the common knowledge that dietary folates (and supplemental folic acid or 5-methyl folate) is an important consideration for preconception and throughout each trimester of pregnancy, there are numerous other nutrients that are critical to both mum’s health and the health of developing bub in utero – in particular iodine, iron and calcium.


Preparing the thyroid for pregnancy is something I work on with clients in clinic often. The thyroid gland is the body’s reservoir for iodine, and in that first trimester of pregnancy (often before a woman even realises she is pregnant), the thyroid has to work overtime to produce enough thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) for both herself, and her baby; who will not have their own thyroid until the second trimester. Iodine is a critically important ‘building-block’ for adequate thyroid hormone production, to ensure healthy brain development in the baby. Requirements for iodine increase in pregnancy by more than 150%, and maternal iodine deficiency and subsequent thyroid dysfunction can sadly result in adverse outcomes for the baby such as reduced IQ and mental impairment.

The western diet is not adequate for iodine. Recent Total Diet Study Surveys conducted by the FSANZ showed that 70% of women of child bearing age are not consuming enough iodine – and that a substantial amount of Australian women enter pregnancy with inadequate iodine status. Australian soils are well known to be low in Iodine, and really we can only rely on foods from the ocean (ocean fish, seaweed, microalgae), fortified foods such as iodised salt, and a good quality pre-natal and pregnancy supplement to supply us with our dietary iodine to support healthy thyroid function during pregnancy. It’s always advised to have a basic thyroid screen in the first trimester of pregnancy as well as to supplement with between 220-280ug of iodine as part of your normal antenatal supplement. The richest sources of dietary iodine include mackerel, sardines, wild salmon, dulse granules, seaweed, and iodised salt. Remember that not enough iodine and too much iodine can both be an issue, so go gently and seek advice from a health care provider who is experienced in pregnancy nutrition.


Iron is a mineral that is critical to the health of both mum and infant throughout pregnancy. Most notably because of the significant haemodilution (expansion and dilution of mum’s blood volume) that happens between 12 weeks and 28 weeks gestation. Symptoms of low iron for mum during pregnancy include poor stamina, shortness of breath, dizziness, dark rings under eyes, and poor immune capacity. As iron supplementation in the first trimester of pregnancy can contribute a bit to nausea, it’s wise to prepare prior to conception by building your iron stores (ferritin) to a reasonable level, to carry you through early pregnancy. Most women do require some iron supplementation from 12-30+ weeks gestation, to ensure that they have a comfortable pregnancy, and to allow for the baby to set up its own iron stores from mum in the third trimester as well. Rich sources of iron include lean pasture-raised beef, lamb, egg yolks, sardines, chicken thigh, pork, bone broth, parsley, spirulina, buckwheat, pine nuts, green leafies, and cashews. Iron stores should be assessed pre-conception and mid-gestation to ensure adequate levels.


Calcium is particularly important in the second half from 20 weeks onwards (and all the way throughout breastfeeding, too). As the baby’s skeleton starts to ossify and harden in the second half of the pregnancy, it’s critical for mum to achiever her daily calcium requirement so as to protect her own skeleton. I find most mums can achieve their daily amount with some education around the right portions of hard cheeses, tub-set yoghurts, milk and fortified milk alternatives (such as almond / coconut / soy / oat). However in women who choose to be dairy-free, we have to work harder, with fish with bones (sardines, salmon), green leafies, unhulled tahini, chia seeds, and potentially a supplement.

The cost of not covering your dietary calcium requirements, particularly throughout the second half of pregnancy and post-partum, include compromise to mum’s own bone density, and potentially cracking a tooth / losing some height, and developing osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis). The development of bub’s skeleton is prioritised over the maintenance of mum’s skeleton, so the main cost is left with mum. Vitamin D status is also relevant to protecting mum’s skeleton, particularly in the autumn and winter months.

Staying on top of some of this basic pregnancy nutrition can not only ensure a smoother ride for mum, but also best outcomes for baby-to-be. We all want out babies to have the opportunity to reach their best health potential, and the investment of seeking personalised advice from an experienced Clinician in the area of pregnancy nutrition can pay off a thousand fold.


Hunger-stopping savoury muffins

A savoury frittata that contains eggs, ocean trout or wild salmon, and greens such as parsley / baby spinach, and some parmesan, grilled halloumi or cooked feta, is a filling and nutrient dense snack that covers off on all of the above mentioned minerals. These savoury muffins are really a blank canvas – you can include whatever ingredients you have handy at home. They taste great and a sprinkle of dulse flakes on top for additional iodine goes a long way!


(Makes 12 muffins) 

12 eggs (organic, free range)
A little coconut oil, olive oil or organic butter, or baking paper to line the muffin tin
Sea salt, pepper and dulse flakes to taste
Vegetables – the following combinations work really well:

  • Tomato + basil Parmesan cheese (1 cup chopped tomatoes, 1 cup chopped fresh basil, ½ cup grated parmesan)
  • Kale + garlic (1 cup chopped kale, 2 cloves chopped garlic)
  • Sweet potato + onion + feta cheese (1 cup cubed and baked sweet potato, 1 small red onion chopped finely, feta cheese 100g crumbled)
  • Asparagus + baby spinach + smoked salmon (1x 100g pack of Tasmanian smoked salmon, 2 bunches of chopped blanched asparagus, 1 cup baby spinach chopped)
  • Parsley + grilled halloumi + broccolini (1 cup chopped organic parsley, one pack of halloumi grilled in small pieces prior to adding, and 2 bunches broccolini, finely chopped)


Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.
Lightly grease muffin tins with coconut oil, olive oil, organic butter, or baking paper.
Place vegetable combination of choice.
Whisk eggs well in a large bowl, add sea salt, pepper and dulse, then stir in veggies.
Optional shaved parmesan on top.
Bake for 20-25 mins, or until eggs are fully cooked through.


To get in touch with Tabitha, or to find out about her special pregnancy package head to www.awakenyourhealth.com.au


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