Positive eating during pregnancy - vitamin & mineral aware
84347 Dr Fysh - Nov 20, 2015
Pregnancy is one of the few times your doctor will recommend you take a supplement, even if you have a healthy diet. It is always better to get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals from a varied diet; however, the physical demands of pregnancy mean you could benefit from an added boost. Consultant Paediatrician Dr W John Fysh says:
“Vitamin and mineral supplements are definitely recommended for the benefit of both mother and foetus. They help avoid osteoporosis in the mother in later life and optimise growth, bone and dental growth, and healthy formation of tissues in the baby. It is important to continue to take a supplement while breastfeeding as well.”
As an expectant mother it is also worth bearing in mind that not all nutrients are beneficial to your health. For example, vitamin A is an important part of our diet but taking too much has been linked to birth defects. For this reason you should avoid standard multivitamins, which will contain vitamin A, and go for supplements specifically formulated for pregnancy.
You can get supplements from pharmacies and supermarkets, or your GP may be able to prescribe them for you.
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because our bodies make it when we are exposed to sunlight. Luckily for those of us in cooler climates, sunshine isn’t the only source of vitamin D. It can also be taken as a supplement and pregnancy and breastfeeding are times when that is recommended.
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body to keep bones and teeth healthy. Pregnant women should take enough vitamin D to provide for the baby’s first few months of life. The NHS recommends a supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day when you are pregnant and if you breastfeed.
Vitamin D deficiency in children can cause bones to soften and can, in extreme cases, lead to rickets.
You can also boost your vitamin D levels by eating oily fish, eggs and meat. It is also added to many breakfast cereals, soya products and spreads.
Another important supplement is folic acid. Doctors recommend boosting your intake to help to prevent neural tube defects, including spina bifida. The NHS recommends women take a 400 microgram folic acid tablet every day while trying to get pregnant right and continue with that dose until they are 12 weeks pregnant.
If you didn’t take folic acid before you conceived, you should start as soon as you find out that you are pregnant.
It is also good to boost your folic acid levels by eating food that contains folate which is the natural form of folic acid. Leafy green vegetables and brown rice are both good sources. It is also added to many breakfast cereals and spreads such as margarine
Occasionally some women may be advised to take a higher dose – see your GP before doing so.
Of course vitamin D and folic acid are not the only important nutrients you need when you’re pregnant. Other key vitamins and minerals should be provided by a healthy diet though, rather than additional supplements.
Iron is important; if you are short of it, you’ll probably get very tired and may suffer from anaemia. Lean meat, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, and nuts are excellent sources of iron. The NHS advises that it is possible to obtain enough iron this way which means that, for most people, there is no need to increase your intake with supplements.
The same goes for vitamin C which protects cells and helps to keep them healthy, and calcium which is vital for the developing teeth and bones of your baby.
So, by eating a healthy, varied and balanced diet with additional supplement support you will be providing everything you and your growing baby need.
About Dr Fysh
Dr Fysh is one of the country’s leading consultant paediatricians, currently a consultant at The Portland Hospital for Women and Children, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health and the Royal College of Physicians. Having experienced first-hand the suffering caused by serious medical conditions to babies and young children and the emotional and financial strain that this can place on parents on a daily basis. He joined the board of directors as Chief Medical Officer and has been instrumental in the building of the NurtureFirst product.