Prenatal supplements are part of most pregnant women’s everyday diet. The problem is that not all women know exactly what and how much to take. Here are three basic guidelines for the intake of mineral and vitamin supplements during pregnancy:
1) You cannot take unlimited amount of prenatal supplements – Vitamin excess is not helpful. More than that, it may put you and the fetus at risk, especially when it comes to fat soluble vitamins. For example, Vitamin A excess may cause birth defects in the fetus’ nervous system (spina bifida, hydrocephalus) and urinary tract.
2) Any intake of prenatal supplements should be balanced – Some vitamins and mineral don’t go well together. For example, calcium lowers the absorption of iron and vice versa. On the other hand, some nutrients are absorbed better when they are consumed simultaneously, like iron and Vitamin C. In any case, it is best to consult a certified clinical nutritionist or your doctor before taking one supplement or another.
3) The best way to get the minerals and vitamins you need is naturally through the food you eat. Your diet, of course, should be based on highly nutritious food versatile enough to contain all food groups: a) dairy foods, b) fruit c) grain/cereal, beans and legumes d) lean meat, fish and eggs, e) vegetables, f) sugary foods and g) water.
Having said that, some vitamins are better absorbed in the body when consumed as supplements, such as folic acid and Vitamin B12.
Prenatal supplements you will need to take
Unfortunately, most people’s diet is not good enough to supply the body with all the nutrients it requires (Let’s face it, the modern way of life is not always the healthiest one), especially during pregnancy. For this reason, pregnant women are recommended taking dietary supplements to complement the nutrients they get from food. These supplements include the following:
Belonging to the Vitamin B group, folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTD) in the embryo during the first stages of pregnancy by up to 30%. Since the neural canal closes 21-28 days after fertilization, it is recommended taking a daily dosage of 400 micrograms of folic acid three months before you attempt to get pregnant.
During pregnancy, the dosage should remain the same unless A) you or your husband has a family history of NTD, B) you suffer from certain diseases – such as epilepsy, diabetes, Crohn’s disease or celiac, C) you are overweight (your BMI is 30 or higher), D) you are treated with lithium or methotrexate or E) you suffer from MTHFR Mutation. These cases may require a much higher dosage of folic acid (up to 10 times higher than normal). You should consult your doctor.
Omega-3 fatty acid (Docosahexaenoic acid) is essential for the development of the brain, eyes and nervous system of the fetus. Omega-3 is especially important in the third trimester, when the fetus’ brain grows at the highest rate. Research has found correlation between babies who suffer from low omega-3 deficiency at birth and neuropsychiatric conditions, such as ADHA, during childhood and adolescence.
The recommended dosage is 200 Milligram a day starting from the 18th week of pregnancy. If you don’t want to take omega-3 as prenatal supplements, you should eat fish, such as herring, salmon, mackerel, cod, sardines or tuna, twice a week (but no more than 3 times a week to avoid mercury poisoning).
Medical researchers suspect there is a connection between morning sickness during pregnancy (NVP) and Vitamin B6 deficiency.
As a food supplement, the recommended dosage of Vitamin B6 is 25 mg every 8 hours. Vitamin B6 is abundant in legumes, nuts, meat, fish and ginger.
Iron from the third month onwards
Iron is one of the most important prenatal supplements. Most doctors advise taking it as an oral supplement (drops, extended-release tablets, pills and capsules) starting at the end of the third month of pregnancy to prevent anemia as a result of the increase in blood volume.
It is important to note that iron intake may cause unpleasant side effects, such as constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloated stomach. If you suffer from one of these side effects, you should switch to another label.
The recommended dosage for pregnancy is 30 milligrams from the second trimester to 6 weeks after birth. Your doctor may change the dosage based on your blood tests.
You should also eat foods rich in iron: meat, turkey, chicken, eggs, fish, legumes, green vegetables, beets, oats, quinoa, nuts and tahini. As mentioned above, eating foods with high percentage of Vitamin C (peppers, guava, citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwi, broccoli and pea) enhances iron absorption in the body.
Unless you get plenty of sunlight during the day (which is problematic in colder regions), you will need to take Vitamin D3 supplement throughout pregnancy at a dosage of 200-400 IUs every day. Vitamin D is essential for normal development of the fetus’ brain and immune system.
Iodine is a natural chemical element similar to oxygen, hydrogen and iron. It is essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It also necessary for the proper development of the fetus’ nervous system. For this reason, some doctors include it in the list of recommended prenatal supplements.
Accepted dosage is 150-200 microgram per day. Foods rich in iodine include seaweed, sea fish, seafood, dairy products