Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting and happy experiences in a woman’s life. It can however also be a confusing and overwhelming time for some mothers-to-be. The internet, magazines, and advertisements flood women with advice on how to stay healthy during pregnancy. Many women are overloaded with advice on which supplements you should be taking. Wondering what supplement to take while pregnant? I’ll give you the top 3 in this post.
It is generally recommended that healthy pregnant women get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, most days of the week. With your exercise regime now firmly in place; – see my “growing a baby and staying fit” program. Let me simplify the supplementation you need to ensure a happy and healthy pregnancy.
While most women know that high mercury seafood, alcohol, and cigarettes are off-limits during pregnancy, many are unaware that some vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements should be avoided as well.
Information on which supplements are safe and which aren’t often varies between sources, making things more complicated.
Let me start at the beginning:
Why take supplements during pregnancy?
Consuming the right nutrients is important at every stage of life, but it’s especially critical during pregnancy, as pregnant women need to nourish both themselves and their growing babies. Pregnancy increases the need for nutrients. During pregnancy, a woman’s macronutrient intake needs grow significantly. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
However, the requirement for micronutrients, which include vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, increases even more than the need for macronutrients. Vitamins and minerals support maternal and foetal growth at every stage of pregnancy and are required to support critical functions like cell growth.
Herbal supplements during pregnancy
In addition to micronutrients, herbal supplements are popular. Women often don’t inform their doctor they are taking them which make them a definite health risk. While some herbal supplements may be safe to take during pregnancy, there are far more that might not be. Although some herbs can help with common pregnancy complications like nausea and upset stomach, some may be harmful to both the mother and baby. Unfortunately, there isn’t much research regarding the use of herbal supplements by pregnant women, and much is unknown about how the supplements can affect expectant mothers.
Just as with medications, your doctor should approve and supervise all micronutrient and herbal supplements to ensure that they’re necessary and taken in safe amounts.
Always purchase vitamins from a reputable brand that is approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) to oversee the country’s medical device and drug markets. SAHPRA is based on elements of South Africa’s Medicines Control Council (MCC). This ensures that the vitamins live up to specific standards and are generally safe to take.
1. Prenatal vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are multivitamins that are specially formulated to meet the increased demand for micronutrients during pregnancy. They’re intended to be taken before conception and during pregnancy and lactation. Observational studies have shown that supplementing with prenatal vitamins reduces the risk of preterm birth and preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous complication characterized by high blood pressure and possibly protein in the urine. While prenatal vitamins are not meant to replace a healthy diet, they may help prevent nutritional gaps by providing extra micronutrients that are in high demand during pregnancy. Since prenatal vitamins contain the vitamins and minerals that pregnant women need, taking additional vitamin or mineral supplements may not be necessary unless suggested by your doctor. Prenatal vitamins are often prescribed by doctors and available over-the-counter.
Folate is a B vitamin that plays an integral role in DNA synthesis, red blood cell production, and foetal growth and development. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate found in many supplements. It gets converted into the active form of folate L-methylfolate- in the body. It’s recommended that pregnant women take 600 ug = milligram of folate or folic acid per day to reduce the risk of neural tube defects and congenital abnormalities like cleft palate and heart defects.
The need for iron increases significantly during pregnancy, as maternal blood volume increases by nearly 50%. Iron is critical for oxygen transport and healthy growth and development of the foetus and placenta. The recommended intake of 27 mg iron per day can be met through most prenatal vitamins. However, pregnant women with iron deficiency or anaemia need higher doses of iron, managed by their doctor. Pregnant women who are not iron deficient should not take more than the recommended intake of iron to avoid adverse side effects. These may include constipation, vomiting, and abnormally high haemoglobin levels.
The bottom line
Pregnancy is a time of growth and development, making health and nutrition a top priority. While some supplements can be helpful during pregnancy, many can cause dangerous side effects in both pregnant women and their babies. Importantly, while supplementing with certain vitamins and minerals may help fill nutritional gaps, supplements are not meant to replace a healthy diet and lifestyle. Nourishing your body with nutrient-dense foods, as well as getting enough exercise and sleep and minimizing stress, is the best way to ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby. Contact me for your personalised mealplan!
Although supplements can be necessary and helpful in certain circumstances, always check with your doctor regarding doses, safety, and potential risks and benefits.
Stay fit, active, take your preggie vites and – always remember “Don’t stop until you’re proud”