By Krisca Te
Even if you are already a bit of a health freak when it comes to food, taking prenatal vitamins before and during your pregnancy is crucial, both for your own health and the health of your baby. Prenatal or pregnancy vitamins are specially formulated to ensure that expectant mothers get all the nutrients they need, as even the most health conscious persons may have deficiencies in their diet that they aren’t aware of.
Of course no vitamin supplement can take the place of a healthy diet, but when you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, there are certain vitamins that your body needs in greater amounts. The main vitamins that are crucial to fetal development include folic acid, iron and calcium.
While it would be possible to get these things through the foods you eat, it would be a time-consuming process to balance out each meal and snack, and work out how many vitamins each specific food contains just to ensure that you were getting the required minimum amount of each essential nutrient. For this reason, prenatal and pregnancy vitamins have been developed.
Let’s take a brief look at each essential nutrient and why it is so important to mother and baby.
This is possibly one of the most important nutrients you need before and during your pregnancy, as it is necessary for the proper development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. If you aren’t getting sufficient folic acid in your diet, your baby could be at a higher risk of developing birth defects like spina bifida, a common neural tube defect.
Because neural tube defects tend to develop within the first month of pregnancy, it is important to ensure that you getting enough folic acid even before you become pregnant, as many women won’t even realize that they are pregnant until the second or third month. The recommended daily dose is 400 micrograms of folic acid if you are trying to become pregnant, so check your prenatal vitamins to ensure that they contain the right amount.
Calcium is vital during your pregnancy, as the baby will be using it to develop a healthy bone structure. If you don’t get enough of calcium during your pregnancy, the baby will simply take it from your bones, which could cause you to lose bone density and suffer from health problems like osteoarthritis later in life. Your prenatal vitamins should contain between 200 and 300 milligrams of calcium, especially if you aren’t a big fan of dairy products like milk and cheese.
While you are pregnant, the amount of blood present in your body increases by around 50% in order to support the growth of the baby and the placenta. Iron is necessary in order to make hemoglobin, the protein that is present in the red blood cells. The red blood cells play a crucial role in transporting oxygen to the cells, both throughout your body and your baby’s body. A deficiency of iron during pregnancy can cause anemia and even preterm labor. To avoid these problems, a pregnant mother should get at least 17 milligrams of iron each day.
Some women find that their prenatal vitamins cause them to feel nauseous, so it’s important to find the right type of vitamin to suit your body, i.e. chewable vitamins, vitamins in liquid form or tablets. Generally, taking prenatal vitamins with a meal or snack will help to reduce feelings of nausea.
Krisca Te works with Open Colleges, Australia’s leading provider of TAFE courses equivalent and nutrition courses. When not working, you can find her actively participating in local dog show events – in support of her husband.