Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to work properly. Here, The Portland Hospital’s Specialist Dietitian, Ghazala Yousuf, tells us how vitamin and mineral supplements can work alongside a healthy diet to boost your health during pregnancy.
Do I need to take vitamin supplements during my pregnancy?
Whilst many mums choose to take supplements during their pregnancy you can get all your vitamins and minerals from food alone.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends taking supplements for Vitamin D and folic acid during pregnancy but expectant mothers should be careful to stick to the recommended amounts as taking them for too long or taking too much can be harmful to the developing baby.
How soon into my pregnancy should I begin taking supplements?
You should take a 400-microgram folic acid tablet every day while you are trying to get pregnant and until you are 12 weeks pregnant. If you didn't take folic acid before you conceived, you should start as soon as you find out that you are pregnant.
In addition, try to eat foods that contain folate (the natural form of folic acid), such as green leafy vegetables and brown rice. Some breakfast cereals, breads and margarines also have folic acid added to them.
Why might I need to take iron supplements throughout my pregnancy?
Iron has several important roles in your body and is particularly important in the making of red blood cells. Due to the high iron needs of the foetus, some pregnant women find that the iron levels in their blood drop and cause them to develop iron deficiency anaemia.
If the iron level in your blood becomes low, your doctor or midwife will advise you to take iron supplements. Iron supplements are only required for iron deficient women and are necessary as iron deficiency anaemia is associated with low birth weight and preterm births.
How will I know if I need to increase my iron intake and how can I do this without supplements?
If you are short of iron, you can get very tired and may suffer from shortness of breath and a pale complexion. Iron deficient pregnant women should consider taking iron supplements but lean meat, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, nuts and even some breakfast cereals contain iron and can also help to increase the amount of iron in the blood.
Do pregnant women need to increase their calcium intake?
Calcium is vital for making your baby's bones and teeth, and during pregnancy it is recommended that you consume 2-3 portions of dairy a day.
If you are intolerant to dairy there are a host of non-dairy products you can eat that are great sources of calcium. These include breakfast cereals, dried fruit, such as figs and apricots, as well as bread, almonds, tofu and green leafy vegetables, such as watercress, broccoli and curly kale. Pulses, fortified soya milk and canned fish such as sardines and pilchards with soft edible bones are also rich in calcium.
Where can I go for more information about nutrition in pregnancy?
If you are worried about your pregnancy nutrition there will be a team of Dietitians and Midwives to answer all these questions plus any more you may have at The Portland Hospital on Wednesday 17th July.
This event is open to all with no need to pre-register and it will be held from 10 am – 3pm at the Midwifery Clinic, The Portland Hospital, 2nd Floor 212 Great Portland Street, London W1N 5H.
For more information about this event or to book an appointment with a nutritionist at The Portland Hospital contact our Maternity Services Enquiry Line on 020 7390 6068.