brain development utero

The building blocks for a baby’s brain begin to form at just 16 days in utero! That is usually a couple of weeks before you even know you’re pregnant. So much energy goes into the development of the fetal brain that it is important to know how to best optimize the conditions in which it grows. What you ingest, how you think and feel, and even the remnants of your own childhood can play an important role in your baby’s brain development.  

Here are some ways that you can consciously take part in that amazing process:  

Make sure you are getting plenty of healthy fats, fresh and unprocessed whole foods, DHA*, folic acid*, iron*, calcium*, iodine* and water during your pregnancy. DHA is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid that is paramount to the early and sustained development of the brain, along with the nervous system and eyes. This comes in certain prenatal vitamins(*), supplements and a variety of fish that contain low mercury (scaleless and small). 70% of the brain’s tissue is comprised of fat, so make sure you’re getting enough of the good stuff! Adding a trusted prenatal vitamin, walnuts, avocado, butter, coconut oil, almonds, and of course if you are not vegan, fish to your diet is imperative for healthy brain development.  

You are intrinsically tied to your baby in ways that may not be obvious to everyone. Your thoughts and feelings can have a direct effect on your baby’s brain function and how they relate to the world. I read a book while I was pregnant that I highly recommend called: The Secret Life of the Unborn Child. There was a study that suggests being ambivalent or carrying negative attitudes toward your baby or pregnancy can lead to complications in birth, bonding, stomach and behavioral issues. This is of great importance to consider especially in light of recent anti-abortion laws popping up like wildfire. Excessive amounts of stress can lead to high levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the body, directly affecting the fetus and their cortisol regulation in the future. When these levels rise, our body’s organs, including the placenta, are deprived of blood, while muscles contract in order to prepare for us for the life saving primal fight or flight response. When the placenta is deprived of the blood that provides all of the oxygen and life giving nutrients, the fetus is essentially being starved. 

Positive and loving feelings toward your baby while they are still on the inside, not only has the power to strengthen your bond early, but also helps to stimulate brain activity. Talking, singing, reading and playing music for your baby, especially in the third trimester when they can hear the outside world, along with sweet loving belly rubs, helps to stimulate and inform baby that they are cherished. And if that’s not enough, these actions and feelings are also said to have a positive and lasting effect on your babies DNA.

There are, of course, the day to day stresses of life and pregnancy that are normal and tolerable. However, if you are having feelings of depression, isolation, or anxiety during your pregnancy, for the health of yourself and your baby please reach out to someone. There are amazing midwives, doulas, therapists, hapai circles, mommy groups and unmet friends who are here that can help. Happy Pregnancy!

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