To ensure and maintain good health during pregnancy, there are a number of key things you should do, these include;
- Maintaining healthy and hygienic habits
- Eat a nutrient rich, well-balanced diet
- Stay hydrated, drink plenty of water
- Take Doctor recommended Vitamin and Mineral supplements
Starting out your pregnancy at a healthy weight and in good health will also help to safeguard you from various difficulties on your journey.
How can I meet the dietary needs of my body during pregnancy?
Eating a healthy diet helps to protect against many conditions in pregnancy, including anaemia.
IRON – Iron is found in meats, iron-fortified breads and cereals, eggs, spinach and dried fruit. Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, shellfish, eggs and dairy products. Eating plenty of citrus fruit, and avoiding tea and coffee with or soon after meals, may help you absorb the iron in your food, and may help prevent anaemia.
FOLATE – High levels of folate are found in green leafy vegetables, beans, muesli, broccoli, beef, brussels sprouts and asparagus. Eating a diet rich in these foods will help prevent anaemia. Vegetarians can replace animal foods with lentils, beans, tofu, eggs and soy milk. Advice from a doctor or dietitian is suggested, and vitamin B12 supplements may be recommended.
What supplements should I be taking?
- FOLIC ACID – Women are advised to take a folic acid supplement for at least a month before becoming pregnant and continuing this for at least the first three months. This will help prevent anaemia, and will also decrease the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. The standard dose is 0.5mg of folic acid per day, but the dose may be higher for women who have diabetes, epilepsy, are overweight or have had a child with a neural tube defect.
- VITAMIN & MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS – pregnant women are advised to take folate supplements, as well as eat foods rich in folate. Many women will be advised to take iron supplements. Vegetarians may be advised to take vitamin B12 supplements. If you are advised to take supplements, talk to your doctor about the best ways to take them, and how to avoid any possible side effects.
You may also be advised to take other supplements, these can include;
- Vitamin D – Many women are deficient in Vitamin D particularly veiled women, those who use sunscreen on a regular basis and dark-skinned women. Obesity has also been identified as a risk factor. Vitamin D deficiency is known to be an important risk factor for the development of osteoporosis in later life.
- Vitamin K – You may be advised to take Vitamin K in late pregnancy if you have cholestasis of pregnancy. This is due to the fact that you will not absorb Vitamin K well.
- Iron – Pregnancy can deplete a mother’s iron stores. Therefore, it is important to have an appropriate intake of iron to help build and maintain these stores. Low iron levels in early pregnancy have been linked to premature birth and low birth weight. Iron supplementation is recommended for vegetarians and women with multiple pregnancies. The recommended daily intake is 30mg/day. See further information anaemia in pregnancy
- Calcium – Calcium is vital for making your baby’s bones and teeth. Dairy products and fish with edible bones (e.g. sardines) are rich in calcium. Breakfast cereals, dried fruit, bread, almonds, tofu and green leafy vegetables are other good sources of calcium.
The recommended dietary intake of calcium per day for pregnant women over 18 is 1000 mg, and 1300mg for teenagers aged 14-18 years. If you don’t eat enough calcium in your daily diet, you should take a calcium supplement of at least 1000mg per day. Calcium in combination with Vitamin D are complementary in maintaining bone health.
- Iodine – Iodine is needed in very small but essential amounts by the human body. Iodine is essential to the production of thyroid hormone, which regulates body temperature, metabolic rate, reproduction, growth, blood cell production and nerve and muscle function. Thyroid hormone is produced in the thyroid gland, which is in the neck.
Mild to moderate iodine deficiency can result in learning difficulties and affect development of motor skills and hearing.
While seafood is a good source of iodine, the amount of iodine in other food like milk and vegetables, depends on how much iodine is in the soil. Most women who get pregnant should have enough iodine, however, it may not be enough to meet the additional needs of pregnancy and during breastfeeding. Pregnant women should take an iodine supplement of 150 micrograms each day. Women with pre-existing thyroid conditions should talk to their doctor before taking a supplement.
Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or considering pregnancy should take an iodine supplement of 150 micrograms each day.
Natural Remedies & Therapies
While we often assume that herbal or ‘natural’ remedies are harmless, this is not always true. Herbal preparations are not required to have the same level of testing and supporting evidence as prescription medicines. As a result, we know less about their side effects during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Some remedies may contain components that can be harmful to your pregnancy. It’s a good idea to check with your doctor before you take any herbs, or non-Doctor prescribed remedies, especially if you are taking them at the same time as prescription medicines. As a rule, always check with your doctor first.