Vitamins and supplements in pregnancy
Following a well-balanced diet should give you most of the nutrients required for a healthy pregnancy. But there are some vitamins which may need supplementing in your diet, as well as some which should be avoided while you’re carrying your baby. Here’s a guide to help you work out which vitamins and supplements you need.
Folic acid helps reduce the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida. The most important time to take it is a few months before you conceive and during the first trimester (12 weeks). During this period, it’s important that you are eating a healthy balanced diet as well as taking a folic acid supplement. You can also include folic acid-rich foods in your diet such as green vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, beans, and peas; and fruits such as oranges.
Iron and vitamin C
Iron is one of the key nutrients you need throughout pregnancy – it’s important for carrying extra oxygen around in your red blood cells and your baby needs it for their developing brain.
If you run short now, your baby may be fine but you’ll run the risk of becoming anaemic, which will leave you feeling tired, washed-out and generally unwell. Your doctor may recommend an iron supplement. If not, make sure you have plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet such as red meat, fish, eggs, dried fruit, wholegrain breakfast cereals and breads, and green leafy vegetables.
Iron is best absorbed by your body, try to eat some fruits or vegetables rich in Vitamin C at the same time, so have a glass of fruit juice with your cereal or have some fresh fruit as a starter to your main course.
Getting enough omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy is important, as they will help your baby’s nervous system to develop healthily, as well as help prevent you from getting heart disease. Plus, studies have shown omega fats taken during pregnancy can lead to a brainier baby!
Oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon are all rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids but you shouldn’t have more than two portions a week, as the fish can also contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful for your baby. Alternative sources of omega 3 are seeds such as pumpkin and flax – you’ll need about two tablespoons a day – or you can always have a supplement instead.
Prenatal vitamin supplement
You could opt for just one multivitamin supplement specially made for women trying to conceive or who are pregnant. It’ll help you get the right balance of nutrients recommended for a healthy pregnancy, including folic acid and iron.
But make sure you choose a supplement made for use during conception and pregnancy and not a regular multivitamin, as these can contain potentially high levels of the vitamins you should be avoiding.
Foods such as pâté and liver sausage are good sources of iron but they can also contain very high concentrations of Vitamin A which can harm your baby if consumed in high amounts.
It is recommended that pregnant women should avoid liver products. You should also be aware that some vitamin supplements are high in this vitamin, so always choose a safe pregnancy supplement. Your doctor will be able to help you with this.
However, there is a form of Vitamin A, known as carotene, which is fine for pregnant women to have. Carotene can be found in red, yellow and orange peppers, mangoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, tomatoes and watercress.
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