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Vitamins to take during pregnancy

 Why is it good to take vitamins?


There’s a lot you can do to support your health and that of your growing baby during pregnancy. Aside from staying active, getting plenty of sleep and focusing on relaxation, following a well-balanced, diverse diet will lay a strong foundation for good overall health. But even with all the pregnancy superfoods, you can still run into nutritional gaps. And that’s where prenatal vitamins come in. 

As a mum-to-be, it’s only natural to have some questions concerning prenatal supplements. But we hope we can answer them.

Here, we take a look at how long you should take vitamins during pregnancy.
 

Does folic acid help to get pregnant?


Evidence suggests taking folic acid (folate) during pregnancy may reduce the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida, by up to 80 per cent.1 Besides birth defects of the brain, spine and spinal cord, poor folic acid reserves may also increase the risk of low birth weight.2
 
Although you can find folate in green leafy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals, margarine or other fat spreads, it’s difficult to get the amount needed from food alone, which is why supplementation is so critical in pregnancy.
 
In the UK, government health experts recommend women trying to conceive supplement with 400-microgram folic acid every day until the 12th week of their pregnancy.3 If you didn’t start taking folic acid before conception, you must supplement as soon as possible.
 
By 12 weeks, your baby’s neural tubes have sealed, so, theoretically, you don’t need to continue taking folic acid. However, if your pregnancy multivitamin contains folic acid, it’s perfectly safe to carry on supplementing with it. 
 

Taking vitamin D3 while pregnant


Alongside folic acid, you should supplement with vitamin D3 throughout your entire pregnancy and when breastfeeding.
 
The World Health Organisation claims that low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes, premature birth, pre-eclampsia and other tissue-specific conditions. However, the WHO also notes that vitamin D3 deficiency is extremely prevalent amongst pregnant women.4
 
Though you can find small amounts in oily fish, eggs and red meat, sunlight is the best source of vitamin D3: when sunlight hits the skin, your body synthesises vitamin D3.
 
If you aren’t exposed to adequate sunlight, it can be hard to get enough vitamin D3 from food alone, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan.5 That’s why all pregnant and breastfeeding women should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10µg as a helpful maintenance dose.
 
We suggest supplementing with vitamin D3 when you fall pregnant and continue taking it as you breastfeed. Since vitamin D3 is such an important vitamin, you may want to make it a mainstay of your supplement regime in postpartum and beyond.
 
Vegan mums-to-be can look for a suitable vegan-friendly vitamin D3 formula made from lichen.
 

Iodine in pregnancy


Owing to its role in foetal brain development, women need more iodine in pregnancy. In fact, the recommended daily allowance for iodine jumps from 150µg to 250µg daily. Although you can find iodine in milk, dairy products and fish, it can be hard to meet this increased nutritional demand, especially if you’re on a plant-based diet.
 
And so, throughout your entire pregnancy – and indeed while you’re trying to conceive and in the months after when you’re breastfeeding – it’s important to supplement with iodine.
 
Try to look for a formula that supplies around 140-150µg of iodine in the form of potassium iodide. 
 

Why is iron important during pregnancy?

 

In pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases by around 50 per cent. And since iron contributes to the normal formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin, it’s no surprise that you need more iron in pregnancy.
 
If you have anaemia – a condition characterised by a shortage of red blood cells – or carrying twins or multiple babies, you’re more likely to have low iron in pregnancy. Your GP will be able to inform you of your iron levels in routine antenatal blood tests.
 
Many women choose to supplement with iron throughout their pregnancy to support their baby’s growth and development, as well as their energy levels.
 
 
Taking a high-strength, comprehensive pregnancy multivitamin is a convenient way to ensure you’re getting enough folic acid, vitamin D3, iodine and iron, along with a range of other important nutrients. Although the first few weeks of pregnancy are the most important time for foetal health, you can safely take a prenatal multi throughout your entire pregnancy and even when you’re breastfeeding. (Link to article on breastfeeding).  
 
Alongside your multi, we also recommend supplementing with a high strength fish oil formula or vegan equivalent throughout pregnancy. Increasing your intake of EPA and DHA (Omega 3 fatty acids) at this time may support the visual and cognitive development of the baby.

If you want to find out more about prenatal vitamins, please get in touch with one of our expert Nutrition Advisors, who are always happy to offer free, confidential advice. Simply click here or at the chat button located at the bottom right-hand of our website.


 

References

  1. Werler. MM, Shapiro. S, Mitchell. AA. (1993) Periconceptional folic acid exposure and risk of occurrent neural tube defects. JAMA, 269:1257-1261.

  2. Werler. Periconceptional folic acid exposure, 269:1257-1261.

  3. Vitamins, minerals and supplements in pregnancy. (2021).  https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/vitamins-supplements-and-nutrition/

  4. Guideline: Vitamin D supplementation in pregnant women. World Health Organization 2012.ISBN: 978 92 4 150493 5. Available online: https://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/micronutrients/guidelines/vit_d_supp_pregnant_women/en/

  5. Vitamins, minerals and supplements in pregnancy. (2021). https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/vitamins-supplements-and-nutrition/


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Disclaimer: The information presented by Nature's Best is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.

 
 
Our Author - Keri Filtness

Keri

Keri Filtness has worked in the Nutrition Industry for 19 years. She is regularly called upon for her professional comments on health and nutrition related news. Her opinions have been featured by BBC3, Prima, Vitality, The Mirror, Woman’s Own and Cycling Weekly, amongst others. She has also worked one to one with journalists, analysing their diets and health concerns and recommending changes and additions, where appropriate.