Prenatal nutrition is essential to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby. With all the different pregnancy supplements on the market it can be very confusing to know what you should be taking and whether you need a complete multivitamin supplement.
To help you with your pregnancy nutrition, I have outlined key vitamins and minerals required whilst pregnant.
Folate is essential in early pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects. A supplement containing at least 400mcg of folic acid should be taken 1 month prior to conception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Vitamin B12 is important for neurological development in the foetus. If you are vegetarian or vegan it is recommended that you take a supplement containing vitamin B12. The recommended daily intake during pregnancy is 6mcg per day.
Low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy have been linked to low vitamin D levels in the infant. Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with impaired skeletal development and increased incidence of hypocalcaemia seizures in infants. If your vitamin D levels are low, supplementation will be required with the dose dependent on your level of deficiency. If you have not had your vitamin D levels tested and are concerned, speak with your healthcare practitioner.
Pregnancy increases iron requirements due to increased red blood cell volume and the demands from the developing foetus and placenta. Iron supplementation is generally only recommended if there is increased risk of deficiency (if you are vegetarian/vegan or are having a multiple pregnancy). Iron levels should be tested at your first antenatal visit and again at approximately 28 weeks. Routine supplementation is not recommended. In addition, some forms of iron can cause constipation and nausea.
Calcium is important to ensure your baby builds strong bones, teeth, healthy heart, nerves and muscles. The recommended daily intake of calcium for pregnant women aged between 19-50yrs is 1000mg. If you avoid dairy and do not consume other high calcium alternatives, it is recommended that you take a calcium supplement to meet this requirement.
Iodine is important for normal growth and mental development of your baby. Iodine supplementation at a dose of 150mcg is recommended prior to conception, during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega 3’s, in particular docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are vital for foetal brain and eye development. Oily fish is the richest source of omega 3’s. If you do not eat much fish, an omega 3 supplement should be considered.
It’s always a good idea to start taking supplements like these when you start trying to conceive, but sometimes a baby is a surprise. In the case you are surprised by a baby, it’s recommended that you take these supplements as soon as possible to prevent any negative outcomes to your pregnancy. Most pharmacies stock a pregnancy multivitamin, as do the large grocery stores, so feel free to try a few different ones to work out which brand suits you best. As always, consultation with your doctor or midwife should be undertaken in regards to the best options for you.
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Reference: The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 2014, ‘Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation and Pregnancy’, pp.1-14