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Micky Marie Morrison, PT, ICPFE
Contributing Writer

3 Ways To Boost Baby’s Brainpower Before Birth

Hint: Self care is extra-important in pregnancy.

I once thought that intelligence and brain capacity were genetically predetermined for the most part and not significantly affected by external factors. However, recent evidence shows that certain variables during pregnancy and childbirth can affect a newborn's brain development.

1. Eat well and take your vitamins! Recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, are important for fetal brain development. You can get your DHA by eating two to three servings per week of low-mercury fish such as salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, shrimp or catfish. Other vitamins and minerals that affect baby's brain grown in utero are vitamin D and Zinc. Be sure to take a complete prenatal multivitamin to get plenty of these essential nutrients.

2. Exercise regularly throughout pregnancy. Add this to the many reasons you should exercise at least 20 minutes a day while pregnant: A new study showed that regular prenatal exercise actually boosts baby's brain development. After measuring activity levels of 60 women throughout pregnancy and then measuring brain activity of their newborns, researchers discovered that babies born to mothers who exercised at least 20 minutes a day showed more mature cerebral activation, suggesting that their brains had developed more rapidly.

3. Try to avoid a Cesarean. Interesting, a study published by the Yale School of Medicine showed that vaginal childbirth triggers the expression of a protein in newborn brains that improves brain function. The study found that expression of that same protein is inhibited in babies born by C-section, which led researchers to believe that these findings might be one more reason to avoid Cesareans that aren't medically necessary. Staying active and fit during pregnancy helps reduce your risk of medical interventions.

Need help getting started? Try this great prenatal workout to help meet your daily exercise requirement!

PHOTO: iStock