A baby’s brain development starts shortly after conception, and then all of our brains continue to develop into early adulthood. The fetal brain starts developing during the third week of gestation. If you’re pregnant, your baby’s brain will change and will begin to create folds that become different brain regions.
The changes that occur in the anatomy of the brain during this time show how complex it is.
The pathways that create the superhighway of information in the brain are being made.
When you’re pregnant, some things can contribute to brain damage in the baby. For example, toxic exposure in both babies and young children, such as lead exposure, can cause brain damage and interfere with its development.
Tips to Boost Your Baby’s Prenatal Brain Development
Situational factors in pregnancy and childhood, such as maternal stress or economic status, are risk factors for some neurodevelopmental problems. Then, on the other hand, there are positive influences, such as parents engaging with their baby from a young age, that can build resilience in the brain.
The most common birth injuries directly affect the brain. For example, commonly reported birth injuries to include hematoma, hypoxia, spinal cord injuries, and brachial plexus injuries.
Working with a well-trained and experienced medical professional and receiving proper prenatal care can reduce the risk of certain brain damage situations and injuries.
You can also take other steps while you’re pregnant to give your baby’s brain a boost. The following are some of those to keep in mind.
Before You Get Pregnant
If you’re trying to get pregnant, there are things you can do in the meantime that may help you have a healthier baby.
Try to avoid alcohol even if you aren’t yet pregnant. Even light alcohol consumption can have severe effects on your baby’s development. If you use any recreational drugs, you should stop those well in advance of getting pregnant.
Below are more details about prenatal vitamins, but think about starting them before you’re pregnant, and also work to have a balanced diet.
Eat Nourishing Foods
The healthier you are during your pregnancy, the healthier your baby is likely to be during this time. Good eating habits are critical for your baby’s overall health and also their brain health.
You want a diet low in processed foods and high in healthy fats, lean protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables. If you’re experiencing cravings of any kind, it can be a sign of a vitamin or mineral deficiency, so rather than giving in to junk food temptations, think about what your body might be missing.
Your doctor should talk to you about how to choose a prenatal vitamin that will be well-absorbed and used by your body.
Proper Vitamins & Minerals
Prenatal vitamins fill in any nutrition gaps if you aren’t getting everything you and your baby need from your food, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, iron, and folic acid.
Folic acid is essential when you’re pregnant. It helps form your baby’s healthy brain cells, and increasingly researchers are finding that having an adequate amount can reduce the risk of autism. Folic acid can also help reduce the chances of congenital disabilities.
Adequate folic acid intake during pregnancy can reduce the risk of spina bifida or neural tube defects by 70%.
Healthy fats are something to focus on during pregnancy. Around 70% of your baby’s new tissues that are developing are fat-based. Aim to have a diet made up of anywhere from 25% to 35% healthy fats.
Healthy fats are found in lean meats, dairy, beans, nuts, and certain fish like salmon.
If you’re worried about not eating enough healthy fats, talk to your doctor about whether or not you should take a supplement. A fish oil supplement is an excellent way to give your fat intake a boost in a healthy way that can positively impact brain development.
A study conducted by Harvard Medical School found that women who ate a lot of fish during their second trimester had babies who scored higher on mental development tests later on.
Don’t Take Any Medicine Without Talking to Your Doctor
Both prescription and over-the-counter medicines can be harmful when you’re pregnant. Your doctor should go over what you can and can’t take, but if you have any confusion or questions, ask before taking something.
Some medicines have been linked to congenital disabilities, anxiety, autism, ADHD, and developmental issues.
Avoid Exposure to Toxins
Toxins aren’t good for you, nor are they good for your baby.
There are toxins all around us, so it’s hard to avoid them all, but there are some steps you can take to reduce exposure.
For example, don’t have prolonged exposure to cleaning products, and choose non-toxic options when you can. Try to choose all-natural household items and if you live somewhere with a lot of air pollution, think about wearing a mask.
When you’re pregnant, doing a bit of exercise is good for you and your baby’s brain.
You don’t have to do strenuous workouts, and of course, clear anything new you’re going to do with your doctor first.
Even just swimming or taking walks can have a lot of benefits for your health and the health of your baby.
Maybe you can take a class specifically for pregnant women.
Get Plenty of Rest!
Finally, manage your stress and get plenty of rest. Everything you can do to take care of yourself will translate to better health for your baby, including their brain development.
Sleep when you can, and don’t feel wrong about needing more rest when you’re pregnant. Don’t be hard on yourself about it. When you get enough sleep, it helps your immune system, and it’s a good way for you to lower your stress levels.
Find things you enjoy doing and find soothing during your pregnancy. Maybe you take a warm (not hot) bath or read a book.
Take time for yourself because that’s all going to help your baby be healthier and reduce certain risks.