Vitamins and Nutrition in Pregnancy

You may need more nutrients during pregnancy than you did before, as your baby is totally depends on you for their all requirements. While you are pregnant you will require some extra supplements to get vitamins and minerals to fulfill your requirements. Including healthy and varied food items in your diet during pregnancy will help you to get all the vitamins and minerals you need. Avoid taking any supplements containing vitamin A, as too much vitamin A consumption could harm your baby.

Your health specialist may prescribe supplements them for you, or you can get supplements from supermarkets and pharmacies. Make sure that the multivitamin tablet does not contain vitamin A (or retinol), if you want to fulfill your folic acid or vitamin D requirement from it. There are some vitamins and minerals that are especially crucial during pregnancy:

Folic acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin required by every cell in your body for optimal healthy development and growth and very important for pregnancy.  Having folic acid before and during early pregnancy can prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (also called NTDs), including spina bifida. Some research shows that taking folic acid can also help prevent birth defects and heart defects in your baby’s mouth called cleft lip and palate. You must start taking folic acid as soon as you find out that you are pregnant.  You should also start including foods that contain folate (the natural form of folic acid) such as green leafy vegetables in your daily diet. Some fat spreads such as margarine and breakfast cereals may have folic acid added to them.  You should take at least 400 micrograms folic acid tablet every day while you are trying to conceive and until you are 12 weeks pregnant.

Vitamin D

Your body require sufficient amount of Vitamin-D to keep your bones healthy and to provide your baby with enough vitamin D for the first few months of his/her life for development of bones and teeth. Vitamin D also regulates the amount of phosphate and calcium in your body. Deficiency of vitamin D can cause children’s bones to soften and may results rickets (a disease that affects bone development in children).

During pregnancy, your body requires at least 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D each day. You can get this amount from your prenatal vitamin or food. Good sources of vitamin D are Milk and cereal that has vitamin D added to it and Fatty fish like salmon.  Your body also makes vitamin D with contact with sunlight. But too much exposure with sun can lead to cancer and skin aging. So, it is better to get your vitamin D requirement from food or your prenatal vitamin. Your doctor will talk to you about taking more as a supplement, if your vitamin D levels are low.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is very important for your body as it protects cells and helps to keep them healthy. The requirement of vitamin C during is significantly increased due to larger volume of blood in the mother and the growth of the unborn baby. Vitamin C is also important for the formation of collagen which is particularly important in blood vessels. It also helps in adsorption of iron from your diet. Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables like oranges and orange juice, strawberries, red and green peppers, blackcurrants, broccoli, brussels sprouts and potatoes. A balanced diet can provide all the vitamin C necessary for your body.

Usually a pregnant woman needs around 60mg vitamin C a day.

Calcium

Calcium is necessary for the formation of your baby’s bones and teeth. The rich sources of calcium are dairy products (such as milk, cheese and yoghurt) and fish with edible bones (such as sardines and pilchards). Other good sources of calcium are breakfast cereals, green leafy vegetables (such as watercress, broccoli and curly kale), dried fruit (such as figs and apricots) bread, almonds, tofu (a vegetable protein made from soya beans) and soya drinks with added calcium. The suggested dietary intake of calcium is 1000 mg per day for pregnant women over 18 and 1300mg for teenagers aged 14-18 years. If you think that you’re not taking enough calcium in your daily diet, consult your doctor about taking a calcium supplement. Calcium in combination with Vitamin D is complementary for having good teeth and bone health.

Iron

It is important to have an appropriate intake of iron during pregnancy to prevent mother’s iron stores and keep them maintained. Low iron levels in early pregnancy may results in low birth weight to premature birth. The minimum requirement for iron in pregnancy is about 27mg a day. A mixed diet of plant and animal foods can provide your daily iron requirement. Red meat is the best source of iron as well as also along with protein and zinc. Chicken and fish are also good source of iron but not as much as red meat.

Iron can also be found in iron-enriched breakfast cereals, leafy green vegetables and legumes. Foods including vitamin C (such as broccoli, tomato or capsicum) and a glass of fruit juice to daily you meal will increase the amount of iron the body required. Apart from this, coffee, tea and unprocessed bran can also inhibit iron absorption. You may think for taking an iron supplement if you’re iron deficient, but is recommended to consult your doctor before taking any supplementation as it cause symptoms like constipation and can be very harmful in larger amounts.

Zinc

Zinc is a component of various enzymes that help regulate gene expression and maintain structural integrity of proteins.  The deficiency of zinc has negative effects on fertility for both men and women. Having 15 mg of zinc daily helps both men and women to improve their fertility. Sufficient amount of zinc is particularly important for the rapid cell growth that occurs during pregnancy. Zinc can be found in vegetables, eggs, lean meat, seafood, whole grains, peas, onions, beans, legumes and nuts. SOURCE

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