Essential Vitamin Intake During Pregnancy
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Having a healthy diet is paramount to keeping yourself and your growing baby healthy and strong throughout pregnancy. It is essential to ensure that your diet includes some certain nutrients that are in higher demand throughout this time. Having a balanced diet that include healthy foods from all of the five food groups should ensure that your body receives the right amount of each essential vitamin and mineral every day, but it is also common for pregnant women to also take supplements for particular vitamins and minerals.
It is generally recommended that a folic acid supplement is taken for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy and before conception if possible. If you are planning on having a child, then it is beneficial to start taking prenatal vitamins containing folic acid to ensure the best start for your growing fetus. Folic acid is important during pregnancy as it can aid in preventing neural tube defects. A common neural tube defect is spina bifida, which is when the spine does not completely close as the baby grows. Supplements should contain 400 micrograms of folic acid and should be taken once a day. As well as taking a folic acid supplement, it’s a good idea to eat food that is rich in folate, which is the natural form of folic acid. A good source of folate is green, leafy vegetables.
Sometimes we may not get enough vitamins that are needed daily, which is why it is important to have a diet that contains fat-soluble vitamins, which are vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins are stored in your liver and fat tissue and the body is able to take what it needs from these stores up to months later when our body isn’t getting as much as it should. During pregnancy, the need for these and other vitamins and minerals are higher, so it is helpful to have these stores available. Although having the ability to store these vitamins to ensure the body has them when needed, it can also mean that over time they can rise to a level which becomes toxic, which is more common when supplements are taken. When taking supplements of any kind, it is important to read the label or follow your doctor’s instructions to minimize the risk of overdosing, especially during pregnancy.
Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, water soluble vitamins are not accumulated and stored in the body. Water-soluble vitamins are vitamin C and the B group vitamins, and these dissolve in water. This means that foods containing these vitamins can lose their nutritional value by being cooked or soaked in water. When the body has more than enough of these vitamins, the kidneys excrete the excess through urine, therefore it is essential to eat water-soluble foods every day. Taking high doses of supplements for these vitamins for long periods of time can become harmful, especially during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Minerals are also important in our diets, and can be classified as being either ‘major’ or ‘trace’. Minerals that are classified as major are needed in larger quantities that trace minerals. Major minerals include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and magnesium. Calcium is particularly important for pregnant women as it prevents the loss of bone density and assists in bone growth. Trace minerals include iodine, iron, selenium and zinc. Iron is also important during pregnancy as it helps blood carry oxygen to the growing fetus.
It is important to ensure that you have a healthy mineral and vitamin intake during pregnancy and while breastfeeding to provide the best start for your baby. Seeing a doctor to discuss your diet and supplements is a great way to ensure that you are getting the right nutrition during this time.