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Pregnant woman taking vitamins

Do I need extra vitamins when I am pregnant?

What extra Vitamins should I take when pregnant? 


There are many essential vitamins to consider during pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding. Ensuring your body receives the right nutrients at each stage of this incredible journey is crucial for both your health and the development of your baby.

Let's dive into the world of vitamins, starting with:

Vitamin D

We make Vitamin D via direct of sunlight on to the skin. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and muscles and supports the growth and development of your baby in their first year of life. It also reduces the risk of Rickets.

There isn’t enough Vitamin D in our diet to meet our daily requirements and pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to take a daily supplement of 10 micrograms a day.

 

You will be at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency if any of the following applies to you:

  • If your BMI >30
  • If you do not go outdoors much
  • If you cover your skin outdoors or wear high protection sunscreen
  • If you are from a South Asian, African, Caribbean or Middle Eastern family

Folic Acid

It is advised to start taking folic acid before conceiving and up until the 12th week of pregnancy. Folic acid is one of the B vitamins and helps to reduce the risk neural tube defects and spina bifida. The recommended daily dose is 400 micrograms. Folic acid can also be found in green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals and some fat spreads but it’s difficult to meet requirements from diet alone.

 

A higher dose of folic acid may be recommended if there is a higher risk of spina bifida, this includes:

  • Where you or your partner have spina bifida or if there is a family history
  • If you have a had a previous child with spina bifida
  • If you take anti-epileptic or HIV medication
  • If you have diabetes
  • If you have a BMI >30

Vitamin C

Vitamin C Is found in the diet in fruit and vegetables and most women do not need to take an additional supplement. Vitamin C is required for a healthy immune system.  In occasions where women need extra iron in pregnancy such as anaemic, Vitamin C can help with the absorption of iron.

Calcium

Calcium is important for the development of the baby’s bones and teeth. Pregnancy and breast feeding cause a temporary decrease in bone mass that is regained upon stopping breast feeding.

 

It is important to make sure your diet contains enough sources of calcium, including milk and other dairy products (such as cheese and yoghurts), calcium-fortified foods (non-diary milk, tofu) and green vegetables. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, women should consume a minimum of 1000 mg of calcium a day prior to pregnancy as well as during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

 

The primary sources of calcium in the diet are milk and other dairy products (such as hard cheese, cottage cheese, or yoghurt) as well as calcium-fortified foods (such as orange juice, non-dairy milk, fortified flours or tofu) and green vegetables. If you do not have enough calcium-containing foods, it is reasonable to take an additional calcium supplement.


Vitamin K

Vitamin K helps our blood to clot normally. Newborn babies have low levels of Vitamin K and will be offered an injection of Vitamin K at birth to help prevent bleeding.

 

Vitamin K supplements are not normally recommended in pregnancy unless your baby is at a greater risk of bleeding, e.g. if you have liver disease or take anti-epileptic medication.

Iron

Most of us do not need extra iron during pregnancy. During your antenatal check-ups, you will be routinely screened for anaemia in pregnancy. If found to be anaemic, you will then be recommended to take an iron supplement.

What Vitamin’s do I postpartum and when breast feeding?

Nutrition is really important postpartum, not only to support recovery but also to ensure that breast milk contains all the essential vitamins and minerals needed for your baby’s growth and development. You should consume a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes dairy, meat and fish and other vitamin and mineral-rich foods. Taking a multivitamin isn’t normally necessary, but some women choose to continue any pre-natal vitamins postnatally.

 

If you are breastfeeding, several nutritional requirements increase including:

  • A higher intake of calories – between 300- 500kcal
  • Increased protein intake – an extra 11g of protein per day for the first 6 months
  • Increased calcium intake to 1000mg a day
  • Iodine requires an increase to 200mg
  • Omega 3 daily DHA (at least 200mg a day)

Breastfeeding mothers should take a daily Vitamin D supplement containing 10mcg of Vitamin D.

 

Some women may be advised to take iron supplements if they were anaemic after their delivery or had blood loss during the birth.

If your diet has any dietary restrictions putting you at risk of nutritional gaps, you may need to take additional vitamins. For example, vegans and vegetarians may need additional Vitamin B12 or Omega 3.

 

If you are uncertain about whether your diet meets your postpartum and breastfeeding nutritional needs, please speak to your GP or dietician for advice

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. For The Creators has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

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