During pregnancy, the body has to maintain a delicate balance of chemicals and hormones to support the life growing inside you. This can place pressures on your diet that you might not otherwise have experienced. Many modern day foods don’t contain adequate vitamins and nutrients for everyday life, let alone for while you are carrying a child.
Fortunately though, health supplements mean this is no longer a major problem, and pregnant women concerned they aren’t hitting their daily quota for vitamins and minerals can easily find what they are looking for outside of their diet. But, what are you most likely to need? Remember it’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor about supplements before you start taking them.
Are probiotics helpful during pregnancy?
We tend to think of bacteria as harmful, but there are plenty of helpful bacteria that your body gets along with just fine. These helpful bacteria and yeasts are called probiotics and are especially good for your digestive health. There are three major potential benefits of taking probiotics during pregnancy:
- First of all, the immune system becomes suppressed during pregnancy. This obviously leads to a higher chance of infection of the mother, which in turn can be passed on to the child. Probiotics provide a boost to the immune system, helping your body fight off those nasty viruses.
- Pregnancy can come with a lot of unwelcome side effects, one of them being a slowdown of the digestive tract. Probiotics help tune the body back into its normal rhythms so you can avoid cramps and constipation.
- Finally, Probiotics contribute to the build up of good bacteria in the body. Since a baby is sterile while in the womb, the first bacteria they meet — the ones that are going to stay with them for the rest of their lives — are going to be while on their way out into the world beyond your tummy. The more good bacteria present at the time, the more good bacteria your baby’s body will absorb, contributing to lifelong health.
Can omega-3 help your baby’s brain?
Students the world over have been using omega-3 for years to help boost their brain power before that all important test. Now it seems, they aren’t the only ones who can reap the benefit of this often overlooked vitamin. Studies have shown that omega-3 is beneficial for fetal brain and visual development. Although the supplement can be taken throughout pregnancy, make sure you don’t forget it during the third trimester when your baby’s brain sees the most growth.
Don’t forget to take folic acid during pregnancy
Folic acid is a really important one for pregnant women and indeed those trying to get pregnant. A vital B vitamin, folic acid is used directly in the production of new cells, something happening very rapidly during pregnancy. Folic acid is a supplement recommended by doctors as it has an important role to play in preventing birth defects such as spina bifida. The usual recommended dose of folic acid is around 400 micrograms per day, from before pregnancy up to until you are twelve weeks pregnant, but as always talk to your family doctor for expert advice. Some women with certain risk factors such as diabetes should take a higher dosage of folic acid. In addition, try to increase the amount of folate in your diet by consuming leafy green vegetables and brown rice.
Iron can help prevent tiredness during pregnancy
Millions of people across America suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, with iron deficiency being one of the most common. You yourself may just have an iron deficiency, although you probably aren’t aware of it. Having low iron levels causes tiredness and anaemia.
Being pregnant puts a lot of pressure on your body's iron stores. You will need roughly 20% more iron than usual to meet the needs your blood supply and your baby’s blood supply. Studies have shown that iron deficiency is linked to early birth, meaning that it's very important to be keeping your iron levels up, even before conception.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin both during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Vitamin D allows the body to absorb and maintain necessary levels of calcium. This is important for you, but it is especially important for your baby’s skeletal development. Without vitamin D, babies can be born with a low body weight or skeletal problems. Vitamin D supplements are worth taking during breastfeeding too, to ensure healthy bone growth beyond the womb. Doctors recommend taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Calcium is vital for everything from strong bones to a healthy heart
Calcium is an often overlooked mineral crucial for many bodily processes, however, during pregnancy it becomes even more important. Calcium is used to develop your baby's bones, teeth, muscles and heart, making it an important part of your pregnancy supplements.
You need around 1000mg of calcium per day, both during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Whilst it is possible to get this much from a healthy diet, calcium intake can pose a problem for those who aren’t lovers of dairy or are lactose intolerant. Supplements should be used to reach your daily quota of 1000mg per day, however, is important to stay as near to this number as consuming over 2500mg of calcium per day can lead to side effects.
To strike a good balance, it is best to work out roughly how much calcium you are getting in your diet already and supplement deficit with tablets.
Not all vitamins are helpful during pregnancy: avoid vitamin A supplements
Vitamin A is common in many supplements such as multivitamin packets, but both vitamin A and retinol should be keenly avoided by pregnant women. Taking high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy has been shown to increase the possibility of birth defects developing. This is one of the reasons why pregnant women should avoid generic vitamin supplements and instead take a supplement package specifically tailored for pregnancy. While vitamin A supplements should be avoided, you don’t need to avoid foods that naturally contain vitamin A, such as leafy greens and sweet potatoes.