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Pregnancy supplements

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What should I be taking?

Provided you are eating a healthy diet during pregnancy you will be receiving the vast majority of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to keep you and your growing baby on top form. There are, however, two particular vitamins that are especially important, Pregnancy supplements are important for the health and well being of yourself and your unborn baby,  so here are the two main supplements you may need:

Folic Acid – aka Vitamin B9

The first trimester (13 weeks) of your pregnancy are the most critical for your baby’s physical development.  Folic acid has been proven to help prevent the development of neural tube defects, such as Spina Bifida.  These types of defect occur when the spinal cord does not fuse together fully and leaves an opening in what should be a sealed tube. Experts recommend that you take 400mcg of folic acid every day during the first trimester, and agree that taking it when you are trying to conceive can also help.  If you are already into your first trimester before you learn about the benefits of folic acid then it is okay to start taking it late, as your growing baby will still benefit.

Some women may be at higher risk of their baby developing neural tube defects, particularly if there is a family history of them, or if the mother is diabetic.  Anti-epilepsy and some other medications can also increase the risk.  In these instances women are advised to talk to their GP, as a higher dose of folic acid supplement may be recommended.

In addition to taking the folic acid supplement, you can aim to eat foods that are high in folate, the natural form of the vitamin.  Folate is most abundantly found naturally in:

  • Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and turnip greens
  • Brown rice
  • Marmite or other yeast extract foods
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Asparagus
  • Beansprouts

It is also added by some manufacturers to brands of:

  • Breakfast cereal
  • Breads
  • Margarines

Vitamin D

This is the second very important vitamin during pregnancy,pregnancy supplements and it is recommended that pregnant women take a 10mcg supplement every day throughout the pregnancy, and continue after birth whilst breastfeeding.  Vitamin D is important because it contributes to the regulation of phosphate and calcium in the body, which not only keep Mum’s teeth and bones healthy, but ensure that your baby grows strong ones too.

Most of our vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight, and soaking up rays without sun cream on your face and arms for just 20 minutes each day can really boost your body’s reserves.  As everyone’s skin sensitivity is different, take this as a guideline only, and always be careful not to let your skin burn.

In winter, and in the UK in general, it can be difficult to gain sufficient sun exposure, and taking the vitamin is a great way to ensure your body gets enough of this vital vitamin.  It can also be found in certain foods, and pregnant women can include the following in their diet to help boost levels:

  • Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines
  • Eggs
  • Meat

It can also be found as an added extra in certain manufactured foods:

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Soya products
  • Dairy products
  • Margarine

Other Supplements

Unless there is a specific need, most pregnant women do not need to be taking additional supplements.

Routine blood tests may reveal a dip in iron levels in some women, in which case your midwife may recommend you take an iron supplement to help your body provide sufficient quantities for the extra blood that it is producing in support of your baby.  You can boost your iron levels naturally by eating red meat, leafy vegetables and dried fruit.  Many breakfast cereals also contain added iron.

A healthy diet will generally do the rest.  Eating moderate amounts of a range of healthy foods is the best advice.  The myth of eating for two is one that many women are aware of, and research suggests that you actually only need around 300 extra calories a day to support your growing baby.  Tempting as it may be to indulge, both you and your baby will benefit if you maintain a healthy rate of weight gain throughout your pregnancy, and you will find it easier to regain your shape post-birth if you eat sensibly.

Vitamin A

It is worth noting that too much vitamin A can actually harm your baby, so this particular supplement should be actively avoided.

 

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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