Which supplements should I be taking during my pregnancy? Which nutrients are essential for my baby's optimum development? These are some of the most common questions for many pregnant women.
It can become very confusing to know which supplements you need to take when you become pregnant. Prenatal vitamins can be bought from your pharmacy or most supermarkets, and will contain all the supplements you will need to keep yourself as healthy as possible throughout your pregnancy. These multi vitamins should be perfectly sufficient but it is worth knowing a little bit about some of the individual vitamins within them and what they do.
Here are the 5 most important supplements and nutrients you need to include in your diet for a healthy pregnancy.
Before taking any supplements you should talk to your doctor or mid-wife and get their advice. Each person is different and will require varying supplements throughout their pregnancy.
1. Folic Acid
Getting enough folic acid can reduce your baby's risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida by up to 70%. Research has shown that folic acid can also reduce the risk of other defects, such as cleft lip, cleft palate, and certain heart defects. Taking folic acid may even lower your risk of preeclampsia.
Your body actually absorbs the synthetic version of folic acid a lot better than the one found naturally in food so even if you feel you have a balanced diet, a supplement is strongly recommended. Foods that are naturally rich in folate include lentils, dark green left vegetables such as broccoli and spinach so try to get as much of these in your diet as possible, as well as taking the supplement.
Iron is essential even before you’re pregnant to help you maintain a healthy immune system. It is vital for making haemoglobin which is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells.
When you become pregnant, the amount of blood in your body increases to almost 50% more than the normal amount so more iron is needed to make more haemoglobin. Low iron levels can affect the baby’s growth and is associated with premature delivery.
Your prenatal vitamin will contain calcium but it is not likely to be enough, so it is advised to make sure enough calcium is included into your diet as well as this. Make sure to include foods such as milk, yogurt and dark green leafy vegetables.
Calcium will help your baby grow and develop strong bones, teeth and health muscles including the heart. If you don’t have sufficient amount of calcium for your baby in your diet, your baby will attempt to draw it from your bones which will lead to complications in the future.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a huge part in maintaining the body’s calcium levels. Most people in the UK are low on Vitamin D due to lack of sun exposure, but many all over the world suffer from it too. If you are short of Vitamin D when you go into labour, it is likely that your baby will be too and this leaves them at risk of abnormal bone growth resulting in easy fractures etc. Oily fish is a good source of Vitamin D.
5. Essential Fatty Acids
Your prenatal vitamin won’t contain any essential fatty acids such as omega 3 which are vital for the development of your baby’s brain, nerve and eye tissue. Research has suggested that those babies whose diets are in abundance of these have the edge in terms of early development, and the same goes for newborns whose mother’s had a diet full of essential fatty acids.
You can get these in supplement form as well as through your food. Fish is a major source of these essential fatty acids but you need to be careful not to eat too much fish that are high in mercury during your pregnancy so it is worth speaking to your doctor or midwife about their recommendations.