best supplements to take during pregnancy
If you are pregnant or trying to have a baby, you may be wondering if you should take vitamins or supplements to keep mother and baby healthy throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
The family’s GP, Dr Roger Henderson, reviews which pregnancy vitamins or supplements to take and when to take them to ensure a healthy pregnancy:
What are prenatal vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are natural supplements that pregnant women can take to help their bodies get enough vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy pregnancy. Eating a healthy, varied diet will get you most of the vitamins and minerals you need, but taking a prenatal vitamin to fill in the gaps in your diet can help, as well as taking a supplement before you get pregnant. The following vitamins are recommended during pregnancy:
If you are pregnant or there is a possibility that you could become pregnant, the current advice is that you should take a folic acid supplement every day before you become pregnant until the 12th week of pregnancy. The usual recommended dose is 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) per day. Folic acid is essential because it can help reduce your baby’s risk of developmental problems in the early weeks of pregnancy, including birth defects such as spina bifida.
Some women may need a higher dose of folic acid – 5 mg strength – which is available by prescription from your doctor. People who may need it include:
- Those with a family history of spinal cord abnormalities.
- Those who have a neural tube defect or if the father has a neural tube defect.
- Those taking medication for epilepsy.
- Women with previous pregnancies affected by spinal cord problems.
- Obese women.
- Women with diabetes, sickle cell disease, celiac disease, anemia or thalassemia.
- Those on antiretroviral therapy for HIV.
Although the best advice is to start taking folic acid before you get pregnant, if the pregnancy is unplanned, just start taking it as soon as you know you’re pregnant.
Folic acid is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables and potatoes, and some breads and breakfast cereals are fortified with it. You can buy folic acid at a pharmacy or you can get it for free if you qualify for the Healthy Start program. If you want to get your folic acid from a multivitamin, make sure the tablet does not do not contain vitamin A (or retinol).
Vitamin D is needed for healthy growth – it helps keep muscles, bones and teeth healthy – and supplements are now recommended for all pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as breastfed babies. Recent studies have also suggested that having good levels of vitamin D during pregnancy may reduce your baby’s risk of developing childhood asthma. Lower levels have also been linked to increased levels of infection in babies.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should take 10 micrograms (400 units) of vitamin D each day, but if you have very little sun exposure or have dark skin, you may need a higher dose of 20 micrograms per day. day.
Vitamin D is also found in certain foods such as fatty fish, eggs and red meat, and is added to some breakfast cereals and non-dairy milk alternatives. You can get free vitamin D supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and eligible for the Healthy Start program, otherwise your pharmacist can advise you on the best vitamin D supplements to take.
Iron helps your body make red blood cells and these carry oxygen to the developing baby. Iron is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, lean meat, nuts and dried fruits, and some fortified breakfast cereals.
If you have low iron levels during pregnancy you may feel very tired and become anemic and your doctor may prescribe iron tablets. If you start to feel excessively tired or have concerns, ask your GP for advice.
Vitamin C is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables and if you eat a balanced diet you may not need to take a vitamin C supplement. Good sources of vitamin C include berries, citrus fruits , broccoli, sprouts and potatoes. If you want to use a supplement, aim for one that contains 70 mg of vitamin C per day.
Which Pregnancy Vitamin Should You Take?
Instead of individual vitamins to meet your needs, you may choose to take a pregnancy supplement that contains multiple vitamins and minerals.
There are a number of good supplements available from pharmacies, but if you’re unsure which one to take, a good balanced supplement should contain the following:
- 400 IU vitamin D
- 70mg vitamin C
- 10mg vitamin E
- 6mcg of vitamin B12
- 400 mcg folic acid
- 200mg calcium
- 3 mg of thiamin
- 17mg iron
- 2 mg of riboflavin
Your pharmacist or doctor can advise you if you have any questions about this. Some pregnant women may feel mildly nauseous when taking prenatal vitamins, and in such cases chewable or liquid forms may be helpful.
Research has shown that taking multivitamins may not be necessary during pregnancy, as a healthy and varied diet will allow you to get most of the vitamins and minerals you need. However, folic acid and vitamin D are essential. If you’re not sure, talk to your midwife or health advisor.
Last update: 22-02-2021
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