There are some vitamins and minerals that are especially important and you should take care that you are including them in your daily meals. Of course we all know that a healthy balanced diet is the best way to get the necessary vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to sustain a healthy pregnancy. But continuously cooking nutritionally balanced meals can be exhausting and sometimes, especially when there are other little toddlers around, survival is the first option above choosing organic, wholefoods and preparing them perfectly!
So a nutritionally balanced diet can provide most vitamins and minerals needed, but is that always possible to maintain? No! So this is where pregnancy vitamins come in handy!
It’s important to note that 400mcg of folic acid and 10mcg of Vitamin D are recommended during pregnancy by the HSE. So even if you choose not to take a multivitamin – you should still take supplements containing folic acid and Vitamin D. Clonfolic is a cost effective brand of folic acid.
Please come into Grant’s Pharmacy if you have any questions about your pregnancy diet. After 5 pregnancies now and with a keen interest in good nutrition, I hope this article will help expectant mothers to practice the healthy diet they need during the 40 weeks of pregnancy. Eating small amounts of healthy food regularly helps alleviate nausea and fatigue coupled with increased hydration. The best, cheapest and most available hydration available to you is water. Never underestimate how important water is in your daily regime. Lots of fatigue and headaches are directly attributable to a lack of water intake. This should be your first step towards a healthly diet during your pregnancy.
It is best to get vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, but when you are pregnant you will need to take some supplements as well.
- Vitamin D each day throughout your pregnancy and if you breastfeed
- 400 micrograms of folic acid each day – ideally you should take this from before you are pregnant until you are 12 weeks pregnant
Do not take vitamin A supplements, or any supplements containing vitamin A, as too much could harm your baby. If you want to get your folic acid or vitamin D from a multivitamin tablet, make sure that the tablet does not contain vitamin A (or retinol) – the staff in Grant’s Pharmacy will advise you on the safest option for you.
acid is important for pregnancy as it can help prevent birth defects known as
neural tube defects, which can cause conditions such as spina bifida. You should
take a 400 microgram folic acid tablet every day while you are trying to get
pregnant and until you 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. You should also eat foods that contain folic acid, such
as green leafy vegetables and brown rice. Some breakfast cereals, breads and
margarines have folic acid added to them.
You need to take a bigger dose of folic acid if:
- you have had a baby with spina bifida
- you have diabetes
- you are taking medicine for epilepsy
- you have coeliac disease
You need vitamin D to keep your bones healthy and to provide your baby with enough vitamin D for the first few months of his life. You should take a supplement of 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D each day or more. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, and these are needed to help keep bones and teeth healthy. Only a few foods contain vitamin D. The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight on your skin taken in a safe manner.
It is unlikely your prenatal vitamin provides enough vitamin D. A recent study in the US, found women taking 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily had the greatest benefits in preventing preterm labour/births and infections. The study confirmed vitamin D at this level is not only safe for you, but for your baby, and the researchers from this study now recommend this daily dosage of vitamin D for all pregnant women. The average prenatal vitamin only contains 400 IU of vitamin D, so additional supplementation may be taken daily.
Vitamin D during pregnancy and beyond.
Vitamin D is beneficial for your own personal health. Vitamin D now has extensive research supporting its role in immune function, healthy cell division and bone health. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus. Many studies are finding a connection between low serum vitamin D levels and an increased risk of certain types of cancers, autoimmune disease, neurological disease, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin D invests in the well-being of your baby by supporting healthy bone development. Deficiency with vitamin D is also related to preeclampsia.
Many factors influence the body’s ability to make and absorb vitamin D. These factors include: where you live, the season, how much time you spend outdoors without sunscreen, skin pigmentation, age, obesity, pollution, and having healthy intestines with optimal absorption capacity. These factors come in to play because Vitamin D is actually a hormone and needs sunlight, in order for the body to manufacture it properly.
What steps can you take to get Vitamin D?
You can begin by making an effort to eat more vitamin D containing foods. Next, research suggests sensible sun exposure (usually 5-10 min of exposure of the arms and legs or the hands, arms, and face, 2 or 3 times per week) can help as well.
However, the best way to really ensure adequate vitamin D is through simple supplementation. When supplementing, your choices will be between two forms of vitamin D. Ergocalciferol is the vegetarian form of vitamin D and cholecalciferol is the animal-sourced form, usually derived from fish liver oil or lanolin from sheep. We will be happy to direct you towards the best supplement for you.
If you are short of iron, you’ll probably get very tired and may suffer from anaemia. Lean meat, green leafy vegetables and dried fruit contain iron. Many breakfast cereals have iron added. If the iron level in your blood becomes low, there are many supplements available so best to chat to our staff to find the one that suits you and keeps your bowels moving too!
You need vitamin C as it may help you to absorb iron from food. Citrus fruit, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, blackcurrants, potatoes and some pure fruit juices are good sources of vitamin C. If your iron levels are low, it may help to drink orange juice with an iron-rich meal.
Calcium is vital for making your baby’s bones and teeth. Dairy products and fish with edible bones – such as sardines – are rich in calcium. Breakfast cereals, dried fruit – such as figs and apricots – bread, almonds, tofu and green leafy vegetables – such as watercress, broccoli and curly kale – are other good sources of calcium.
You also need to know which foods to avoid in pregnancy –
Vitamin E – Vitamin E is good for cell protection but actually isn’t recommended at high levels in pregnancy. Pregnacare products and Clonfolic Multicare have low but adequate levels of Vitamin E. The Sona Pregnacare products have higher levels but that may not necessarily be a benefit.
The Vitamin B’s! – All products contain good levels of Vitamin B1, B2, B3,B6, B12. Vitamin B5 is a good one to take if you’re not eating enough chicken, potatoes, beef, porridge, tomatoes, eggs, broccoli or wholegrains which are all good sources. Vitamin B5 plays a role in the breakdown of energy from food and the production of antibodies so isn’t one you should miss. Vitamin B7 (biotin) is good for energy production and possibly has a role in insulin synthesis and is great to have during pregnancy.
Beta Carotene – Can help in Vitamin A deficiency and is present in safe levels in pregnancy supplements
Copper – Copper is good for infant growth, brain development and immunity.
Inositol ( also known as Myo-Inositol) – This is present only in Pregnacare Max. This is of note as it is thought to have a role in regulation of hormonal activity and insulin sensitivity and there is a thought that it may be of use in gestational diabetes – more studies are needed though to have evidence.
Iodine – This helps with thyroid hormone regulation.
Magnesium – This helps convert food to energy and has a role in parathyroid gland function and bone health.
N-Acetyl Cysteine – This is present in Pregnacare Max alone. It could potentially be effective in patients suffering from recurrent pregnancy loss but more evidence is needed.
Omega 3 – Pregnacare Plus Omega 3, Pregnacare Max and Seven Seas Pregnacare Plus all contain good levels of DHA and EPA. This can be useful for foetal development, foetal weight and gestational term timing. I would really recommend taking a supplement with the omega fats as I think very few women get adequate amounts through diet.
Selenium – It is good for immune system development and reproductive health.
Zinc – Zinc is useful to promote wound healing, cell production and the processing of carbohydrates, fats and protein. It is also very effective in boosting the immune system. The level ingested must remain low in pregnancy.
A specialized vitamin and mineral pregnancy supplement is available at Grant’s pharmacy so please ask our staff for advice about the best supplement to meet your needs and keep well in your pregnancy. I would personally recommend Pregnacare Max. Equally, if you are continually suffering from any type of infection during pregnancy, then my personal favourite is Immune Biotix. This supplement is safe in pregnancy and contains 2 Billion probiotics along with beta-glucans, aged garlic, vitamin D, zinc, selenium and copper. It boosts the immune system safely and helps fight infection. This is especially important during pregnancy when your body is under extra pressure due to your growing baby.
Please remember, that all vitamins are best absorbed by your body when consumed as “normal” food and having a balanced and healthy diet is the best way to maintain optimal health! I’ve been through 5 pregnancies and I know each one is different and your palate and acceptance of certain foods may change even throughout one pregnancy. I’d be so happy to answer any diet related questions on this so feel free to mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org, with Pregnancy diet as the topic of your email. I will do my best to answer your questions. Alternatively, drop into any Grants Pharmacy and chat to our staff.
Leonie, Janet or any Pharmacist in Grant’s Pharmacy can tell you more about the supplements used for pregnancy. Every Grant’s Pharmacy has a private consultation room where you can discuss any personal ailments discreetly and without embarrassment. Pop in and experience a fast, friendly and informed service. Grant’s Pharmacy is located in Wexford town, in Enniscorthy town (Duffry and Rafter St), in Arklow town – all beside Pettitts SuperValu and in Gorey town opposite the GPO. Find us on Facebook.