Supplements and Pregnancy: What’s Safe? (Part 2)
Last week we looked at some of the vitamins and minerals that are both needed and safe to take in pregnancy. This week we’ll look at a few more vitamins and minerals needed in pregnancy.
Pregnancy places a heavy burden on a woman’s body. Everything seems to speed up: blood flow through the body, weight gain, needed nutrients intake, etc. A pregnant woman’s needs for macronutrients increases. Her need for micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) increases as well. While it’s always advisable to get your nutrients through your diet, that’s often difficult to do when pregnant. Morning sickness, changes in food tolerance and desire, lack of appetite, cravings – these things can all make it difficult to get the needed amounts of nutrients. This is where supplements come in.
Needed Vitamins and Minerals in Pregnancy
To review, the following vitamins and minerals were discussed last week:
- Folate.Folic Acid
- Omega 3
- B Vitamins
Here are some more vitamins and minerals needed in pregnancy.
Iodine is a mineral. This mineral is needed in production of thyroid hormones. The thyroid is a gland that makes hormones that help the body use and store energy from food. In pregnancy, iodine is needed for the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system (the brain, spinal cord, and nerves).
If you take a prenatal vitamin, please note that not all prenatal vitamins contain iodine. If yours does not then it’s important that your diet contains adequate amounts of iodine.
Good dietary sources of iodine include:
- Enriched or fortified cereals
- Enriched or fortified breads
- Iodized salt – check the label to make sure it contains iodine
The recommended dosage of iodine during pregnancy is 220 micrograms daily.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. As discussed last week, fat-soluble vitamins require care when taking them. Since they’re fat soluble any excess is stored in body tissues. This accumulation can lead to toxicity which can cause birth defects and poisoning. Discuss with your physician whether or not you should supplement vitamin D beyond what’s in your diet.
Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption. It affects your nerves, muscles, and immune system. Your baby will use vitamin D in production and development of their bones and teeth.
Vitamin D can be found in your prenatal vitamin, your diet, and is made by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Since exposure to sunlight poses its own health dangers, it’s best to get your D through your diet or prenatal vitamin.
Good food sources of vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish (such as salmon)
- Milk with vitamin D added (check the label)
- Cereal with vitamin D added (check the label)
The recommended daily dosage of vitamin D in pregnancy is 600 IU (international units).
Magnesium is a mineral and is involved in many processes in your body. Its main role is in the immune system, muscle, and nerve functions. If you have a magnesium deficiency during pregnancy you’re at risk for chronic hypertension and possibly premature labor.
There have been some studies that have linked magnesium supplementation during pregnancy with reduced risks of fetal growth restriction and preterm birth.
Some good dietary sources of magnesium include:
- Green leafy vegetables – such as kale and spinach
- Fruit – especially figs, avocado, banana and raspberries
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes – black beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans
- Vegetables – peas, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, artichokes, asparagus, and brussels sprouts
- Seafood – salmon, mackerel, and tuna
It’s recommended that pregnant women have a daily intake of 350-360 mg.
We looked a bit at DHA needs in pregnancy last week. Fish oil contains DHA and it also contains EPA. Both DHA and EPA are essential fatty acids and both are very important in fetal brain growth and development.
Although the research is inconclusive, some studies have linked DHA and EPA supplementation during pregnancy with after-birth brain development and decreased maternal depression. Research is also inconclusive regarding the correlation between maternal DHA and EPA supplementation during pregnancy and improved cognitive function in their child after birth.
There are several inconclusive studies about supplementing fish oil in pregnancy, but most studies support the theory that fish oil supplementation during pregnancy reduces the risk of preterm delivery.
Food sources of EPA include:
- Low-mercury fish – salmon, sardines, pollock
It’s recommended pregnant women consume two to three servings of low-mercury fish per week (NOT per day).
Again, pregnant women need to be careful with taking fat-soluble vitamins and it’s advised that you consult with your healthcare provider about this issue. Beta-carotene plays a role in the development of fetal bones and teeth.
Dietary sources of beta-carotene include:
- Milk and eggs
- Green and yellow vegetables
- Yellow fruits
It’s recommended that you consume 770 mcg – 1000 mcg max daily.
Vitamin C is water-soluble, meaning the body will excrete any excess as opposed to being fat-soluble where the body stores any excess. This means water-soluble vitamins do not have the toxicity dangers fat-soluble vitamins have.
Vitamin C is actually an antioxidant that protects against tissue damage, helps with the absorption of iron, and helps build a strong, healthy immune system.
Good dietary sources of vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits
- Bell peppers
- Green beans
The recommended dosage for a pregnant woman is 80-85 mg daily with a maximum daily amount of 2000 mg.
The need for nutrients, both macronutrients such as fats and proteins, and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, increases dramatically during pregnancy. But more is not always more so please consult with your healthcare provider BEFORE starting any type of supplementation, whether in your diet or in the form of vitamins and minerals.
Next week we’ll talk about herbs during pregnancy, what they are, if tthey ’re safe and if they’re even needed.
Image Credit: American Pregnancy Association