Should I start taking vitamins before I conceive?
If you're planning on trying for a baby, it makes sense to be as fit and healthy as you can be. Taking prenatal vitamins may help to aid your fertility—although it's never a guarantee. The best thing you can do is find a good supplement to take pre-conception that contains folic acid.
What is Folic Acid and why should I take it?
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, or vitamin B9. It assists with the development of your baby's neural tube. This goes on to form their brain and spine. Taking folic acid before and during pregnancy reduces the risk of your baby experiencing a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida.
The usual dosage of folic acid required is 400ug (micrograms) a day. Combined prenatal or pregnancy supplements should contain this, but you may also choose to take it separately. If you're planning for a baby, aim to take this for three months before conception, and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Your midwife may recommend you take folic acid for the duration of your pregnancy if you have or are at risk of having anaemia. Similarly, you may be advised to take a higher dose if your chances of having a baby with neural tube problems are heightened.
Can I get all the vitamins I need during pregnancy from my diet?
In theory, it’s possible to get all of the vitamins and nutrients needed during pregnancy without having to supplement. But, the demands of pregnancy can take a toll on your body. Morning sickness may mean you eat less nutrient-rich food, and environmental pressures such as stress can make it difficult for you to absorb vitamins. Food restrictions can also limit the nutrients you receive whilst pregnant. Taking a supplement allows you to rest assured you’re getting all you need.
Why are Iron and Vitamin B levels important in pregnancy?
Low levels of vitamin B12 and iron are causes of anaemia. Iron deficiency anaemia is where your body can’t produce enough healthy red blood cells to carry the oxygen you need around your body. During pregnancy, the volume of blood in your body increases significantly, and so does the demand for iron.
You need at least 14.8 milligrams of iron supplements each day in pregnancy. It’s best taken with orange juice, as vitamin C aids iron absorption. Some liquid irons are more easily absorbed than tablets and cause fewer side effects.
B vitamins are important for the neurological and cognitive development of your baby. These are found in the correct dosage in most combination pregnancy supplements.
Do I need to take Vitamin D during pregnancy?
Vitamin D helps regulate calcium and phosphate, both important for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. In the summer, exposing skin to sunlight assists our bodies’ vitamin D production. But, in October through to March it is advised to take a supplement.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says all pregnant and breastfeeding women should take Vitamin D in pregnancy to help your baby’s skeleton grow properly. It may also help avoid the risk of some allergies. The recommended vitamin d dose for during pregnancy is 10mg.
There is research that suggests vitamin D may also protect against Covid-19, although there is not yet enough evidence to support this.
What about calcium supplements?
Similarly to vitamin D, calcium helps to build strong teeth and bones. It also helps muscles such as the heart contract, and aids normal blood clotting. You need 700mg per day.
Why do I need Vitamin C?
Vitamin C helps protect your immune system and cells, and those of your baby. It also supports collagen creation, helps wounds to heal, and maintains connective tissue. Being water soluble, your body can’t store vitamin C, so 50mg a day is recommended during pregnancy. It’s also very important in aiding iron absorption.
How does Iodine help?
Iodine helps you produce hormones, including thyroid, that regulate your baby’s brain and nervous system development. Your needs increase during pregnancy to ensure you get enough for your baby too. You should aim for 140mcg per day.
Are there any vitamins to be cautious of during pregnancy?
Is it safe to take Vitamin A while pregnant?
Vitamin A helps strengthen yours and your baby’s immune systems, keeps the skin healthy, and aids eyesight. But be aware that large amounts of vitamin A can be harmful to your unborn baby. You should never have more than the recommended daily dose (100mgc per day), and try to avoid liver products such as pâté, as these contain high levels of vitamin A.
Should I take Omega 3 while pregnant?
Omega 3 is found in cod liver oil, oily fish or flax oils and is a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which helps with eye and brain development. Your baby’s brain develops particularly rapidly from 28 to 40 weeks, so you should be taking Omega 3 whilst pregnant.
However, many omega 3 supplements also contain vitamin A. Always be cautious of taking multiple combination supplements, so as not to take too much of what you don’t need. Choose omega 3 sourced from oily fishes such as salmon and mackerel, rather than cod liver oil.
Having questions about pregnancy are one thing. But where can you find the answers?
We know that as parents-to-be you have tons of questions, and it’s difficult to know where to look for the advice you’re after. Save yourself the overwhelm and check out our parenting advice on pregnancy and planning for your newborn.