Vitamins and minerals play important roles in all of your body functions. During pregnancy, you need more folic acid and iron than a woman who is not pregnant. Taking a prenatal vitamin supplement can ensure that you are getting these extra amounts. A well-rounded diet should supply all of the other vitamins and minerals you need during pregnancy.
Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B vitamin that is important for pregnant women. Before pregnancy and during pregnancy, you need 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine called neural tube defects. current dietary guidelines recommend that pregnant women get at least 600 micrograms of folic acid daily from all food sources. Many foods contain folic acids, such as fortified cereal, enriched bread, and pasta, peanuts, dark green leafy vegetables, orange juice and beans. It may be hard to get the recommended amount of folic acid from food alone. For this reason, all pregnant women and all women who may become pregnant should take a daily vitamin supplement that contains folic acid. If you have already had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect or if you are making an anti-seizure medication, you should take a higher daily dose of folic acid (4mg) as a separate supplement beginning 1 month before trying to become pregnant during the first 2 months of your pregnancy.
Iron is used by your body to make a substance in red blood cells that carry oxygen to your organs and tissues. During pregnancy, you need extra iron – about double the amount that a non-pregnant woman needs. This extra iron helps your body make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. The daily recommended dose of iron during pregnancy is 27 mg, which is found in most prenatal vitamin supplements. You can also eat food rich in a certain type of iron called heme iron. Heme iron is absorbed more easily by the body. It is found in animal foods, such as red meat, poultry, and legumes, such as soybeans, spinach, and lentils. Although it is not as easily absorbed as a heme iron, non-heme iron is a good way to get extra iron if you do not eat animal foods. Iron can also be absorbed more easily if iron-rich foods are eaten with vitamin C rich foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
Calcium is used to build your baby’s bones and teeth. All women, including pregnant women, aged 19 years and older should get 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Those aged 14-18 should get 1,300 mg daily. Milk and other dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, are the best sources of calcium. If you have trouble digesting milk products, you can get calcium from other sources, such as broccoli, dark leafy greens, sardines or a calcium supplement.
Vitamin D works with calcium to help the baby’s bones and teeth develop. It also is essential for healthy skin and eyesight. All women, including those who are pregnant, need 600 international units of vitamin D a day. Good sources are milk fortified with vitamin D and fatty fish such as salmon. Exposure to sunlight also converts a chemical in the skin to vitamin D. If your health care provider thinks you may have low levels of vitamin D, a test can be done to check the level in your blood. If it is below normal, you may need to take a vitamin D supplement.
Eating well during your pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. Start now on balancing healthy eating with maintaining a healthy weight to give your baby the best start in life. We are here to help you along the way! Contact us if you have any questions or schedule an appointment.