Pregnancy Supplements – Which Ones Really Matter?
We do our best to eat right and exercise regularly, but sooner or later we are bound to indulge or may be less than ideal with our wellness routines. When it comes to pregnancies, however, and developing a life inside of us, we are less likely to risk even these minor nutritional missteps. We want to ensure that everything we do creates the best possible outcome for our growing baby and the proper nourishment for a healthy development.
While of course eating healthy while pregnant is essential for both mommy and baby’s health, there may still be nutritional gaps in one’s diet or essential nutrients women may need more of during a pregnancy. In addition, a growing baby will take what it needs, nutritionally, from its mother, and if that store is not replenished, may leave the mother depleted. To ensure you and your growing baby are getting the best possible head start, we’ve put together a guide of the top nutrients pregnant woman may want to consider supplementing with.
As always, be sure to consult with your doctor to ensure the right dosages and supplements for your own unique self and growing child.
Folic Acid/ Folate
Folate aids in the development of red blood cells supports the nervous system function and reduces homocysteine in the blood. It is essential during the development of a fetus to help to prevent neural tube defects, so women should monitor their levels before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy. Though folate and folic acid are used interchangeably, the source of these B vitamins does make a difference in how they are absorbed and utilized by the body.
Folate is a more generalized term that refers to B9 naturally occurring in food sources. These forms are recognized by the body and easily assimilated. Whereas folic acid is a synthetic compound sourced from supplements and food fortification. There is some controversy over whether women should supplement with folic acid or aim to get their folate from naturally occurring sources such as dark leafy greens like kale, turnip greens, spinach, as well as lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, lentils and legumes, and animal livers.
If your dietary sources of folate aren’t cutting it, look for folate supplements that list “5-methyltetrahydrofolate” or “5-MTHF” or plant-based, naturally-occurring folate supplements. Stay away from synthetic supplements listing “folic acid”.
Aim to get 400-800 mcg of folate per day. Some recommend increasing this dosage for a few months before becoming pregnant.
In general, iron is responsible for making hemoglobin and carrying oxygen to the mother and baby during pregnancy. It also helps to maintain a healthy immune system. The heart may need to work harder during pregnancy, as there is more blood circulating, and may need extra iron to produce more hemoglobin, especially in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
An iron deficiency or anemia during pregnancy can be associated with infant mortality, premature births, and low birth weight, so it is important to supplement or ensure you get enough iron from your diet. Pregnant women are recommended to take 27 mg daily. Avoid taking iron and calcium together as they are not absorbed well together.
Most women are already deficient in this essential mineral, and during pregnancy it is important for the formation of your baby’s bones, teeth, as well as heart, nerves, and muscles. Calcium is also important to reduce the risk of hypertension and preeclampsia. If a woman does not have enough calcium to spare, the growing fetus will pull stores from the woman’s own bones, leaving her at risk for osteoporosis and other calcium-related deficiencies.
To ensure adequate calcium intake, it is recommended to supplement with 1000 mg daily. Vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium, so be sure to take together for greater absorption rates
Vitamin D is essential during pregnancy to support the immune system, bone health, as well as healthy cell function and division. Low levels of vitamin D may be linked with gestational diabetes, certain cancers, autoimmune issues, and cardiovascular disease.
Calcium and phosphorus are necessary for the absorption of vitamin D, so it is recommended to supplement together and take 4,000-5,000 IU daily, especially if you are not getting regular bodily exposure to sunlight.
Like calcium, many women are already greatly deficient in this essential mineral. A deficiency can be linked to poor fetal growth, preeclampsia, or fetal death, while healthy levels aid the baby in receiving proper nutrition and healthy bone and tissue development.
Magnesium is easily absorbed through the skin and may be supplemented by using a magnesium oil or trace mineral containing ionic supplement versus a dietary supplement. It is recommended to supplement with 350-400 mg of magnesium daily.
Iodine is an essential trace mineral needed to synthesize thyroid hormones and efficient thyroid function. Low levels can lead to a host of issues from depression to weakened immune system, poor metabolism, and even autism. During pregnancy, iodine is an important factor in brain development, and may help to prevent mental disabilities or stunted growth. Deficiency may also be linked to miscarriages and stillbirths.1,2
Iodine is not found in many food sources – the highest naturally occurring source being sea vegetables – so it is recommended to supplement to ensure proper levels. Iodized salt is not recommended due to the high levels of processing and even bleaching that may occur. Instead, iodine can be found in nascent iodine form, where the iodine is more bioavailable due to the diatomic broken bond. Other more common sources of iodine, such as lodoral or iodide sources of iodine have much lower absorption rates.
It is recommended to take between 220-250 mcg during pregnancy, and 290 mcg while breastfeeding.
We all know the importance probiotics play in developing a strong gut ecology and immune system. They are essential for our health and well-being, especially during pregnancy. Not only do they aid in immunity and digestion, but babies receive their beneficial gut bacteria when they pass through the birth canal and when nursing. So, if the mother is lacking these beneficial strains, the baby will as well, leaving it prone to infection and symptoms associated with weakened immunity.
It is recommended to take probiotics from natural dietary sources like kimchi and probiotic beverages and yogurts, as well as dietary supplements containing a variety of strains. Strains such as B. infantis and L. plantarum may even help to produce B vitamins, including folate.
Long gone are the days of no fat, low-fat diets, and fat shaming. Fat is essential for brain and eye development, developing cells, and are carriers for essential nutrition. A mixture of both saturated and unsaturated fats from the right sources are not only healthy, they are are necessary for the development of a growing fetus.
Pregnant women should feel free to consume fats regularly in the form of high quality, raw and unprocessed oils and whole foods from nuts, seeds, avocados, coconuts, and small quantities of fish.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are of the most important fats to supplement with during pregnancy. Some polyunsaturated fats, such as fish oils, chia seeds and hemp, are great sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids, containing EPA and DHA needed for the development of a baby’s heart, brain, eyes, nervous system, a healthy immune system, and to regulate inflammatory response.
Cod Liver Oil is a popular choice for supplementation, supplying high levels of omega-3s along with fat soluble A and D vitamins. If vegan or vegetarian, hemp, chia, and flax oils, or algae can be supplemented. In addition, fish oil as well as algae-based DHA or EPA dietary supplements are available. It is recommended to consume 300 mg of omega-3s a day. BY LAURENTINE TEN BOSCH