Eating a well-balanced and healthy diet during your pregnancy will ensure that you and your baby get the nutrients you need. Although all vitamins and minerals are crucial during this period, there are certain nutrients that should be of foremost priority.
In a perfect world, it is ideal to get the nutrients you need from daily diet. However, if you are expecting a baby, your body will need to take supplements too. This is to ensure that you get all the vitamins and minerals you need at the right doses.
For pregnant women like yourself, you must remember to take the following supplements:
- Vitamin D at 10 micrograms daily throughout your pregnancy. Ideally, this vitamin should be taken even after delivery and throughout your breastfeeding years.
- Folic acid at 400 micrograms daily. This should be taken even before pregnancy and throughout the first trimester.
A word of warning- never take Vitamin A supplements during pregnancy. High doses of retinol is said to be extremely harmful for the fetus.
It’s not difficult to obtain supplements for pregnant women. In fact, you can purchase them over the counter at pharmacies and grocery stores. You simply need to get a prescription from your doctor prior to buying supplements. If you plan on obtaining your folic acid and Vitamin D supplementation from multivitamins instead, make sure that the product does not contain Vitamin A.
Folic Acid Before and During Pregnancy
Folic acid is a very important nutrient during pregnancy. Its primary function is to prevent birth defects such as neural tube defects and spina bifida. It is recommended that expecting mothers take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid in tablet form when trying to get pregnant and until 3 months into pregnancy. If you failed to take folic acid before you detected pregnancy, it is necessary that you start immediately once you confirm pregnancy.
Aside from supplementation, experts suggest to consume food items that contain high levels of folic acid or folate. Green leafy vegetables and brown rice are teeming with folic acid. Breakfast cereals and fatty spreads such as butter and margarine contain folic acid. It is hard to obtain the recommended folic acid from diet alone, thus it is important for expecting mothers to follow a strict folic acid supplementation.
Increased Folic Acid Dosage
There are women who are known to be highly likely to encounter neural tube defects problems during pregnancy. These individuals are then advised to take a higher dosage of folic aid at 5 milligrams daily for 12 straight weeks.
Women with increased risk of developing neural tube defects are as follows:
- Expecting mother or partner are suffering from a neural tube defect themselves
- History of neural tube defect during past pregnancies
- Family history of neural tube defect of both mother and partner
- Diabetes mellitus diagnosis
Women who are prescribed with anti-epileptic drugs are cautioned to seek the advice of their doctors as they may need to further increase folic acid supplementation.
In addition, you may also be ordered to undergo screening and diagnostic exams prior to prescription of higher folic acid supplementation.
Vitamin D Supplementation during Pregnancy
In order to keep the bones and teeth in top shape, Vitamin D is most often prescribed in women. Vitamin D has crucial functions in the regulation of calcium and phosphate in the body.
Vitamins D is necessary during pregnancy in that the unborn fetus needs adequate supply of this nutrient to thrive and survive in utero. Ideally, Vitamin D supplementation should be at 10 micrograms daily throughout pregnancy and until the breastfeeding stage.
Deficiency in Vitamin D supplementation can result in the softening of bones leading to a condition known as rickets.
Natural sources of Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish such as mackerel, tuna, sardines, and salmon as well as meat and dairy products. Food manufacturers now add Vitamin D in some food items such as soya products, dairy, cereals, powdered milk, spreads, and breakfast cereals. Due to the difficulty in obtaining the ideal concentration of Vitamin D in the food we eat, supplementation is a must.
Iron Supplementation during Pregnancy
If you have been suffering iron deficiency even prior to pregnancy, you are most likely to suffer from anemia once you do get pregnancy. It is recommended to consumer food items that are high in iron such as green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, and nuts to name a few. If you are into nuts, try out grocery items that are filled with nuts such as peanut butter during pregnancy. This is one way on how you can achieve a healthy diet during pregnancy. Unless you are allergic to nuts, never try including them as part of your daily dietary needs.
Majority of breakfast cereals are fortified with iron. If these aren’t enough to supply your needs, your doctor will then prescribe you to take supplements.
Vitamin C Supplementation during Pregnancy
Vitamin C is a vital nutrient as it protects the cells from disease-causing microorganism. Always include fruits and veggies high in Vitamin C as part of your daily diet regimen. Excellent sources of Vitamin C are:
- black currants
- bell peppers
- citrus fruits
Calcium Supplementation during Pregnancy
Just like iron, calcium is an all-important nutrient to ensure the proper development and growth of the baby’s bones and teeth. Some food sources that are high in calcium are:
- dairy products
- dried fruit
- green leafy vegetables such as watercress, kale, and broccoli
Special Diets for Vegans and Vegetarians
For expecting mothers who are on strict vegan or vegetarian diets, there is simply not need for you to modify your food choices and habits. However, you may find it extremely difficult to get iron and Vitamin B12 from veggies alone. Your doctor will most likely prescribe you to take supplements so you and the baby can get the right dosage of these nutrients.
If you are a strict vegan or if you have food sensitivities, it is best to check with your doctor of how you can still get the nutrients you need. A dietitian will be the best person to assist you in developing a healthy and balanced diet for you and your baby.