Pregnancy is an exciting time where nutrient demands are very high. All pregnant women require nutritional supplementation to some extent, due to the lack of essential nutrients in our soil and food supply. You may feel you have a healthy, balanced diet, however, the high nutritional demands of pregnancy, the effects of morning sickness, undiagnosed allergies, heartburn, constipation, long term deficiencies, stress or other pre-existing conditions may mean your intake of essential nutrients is inadequate to cope with the needs of both you and your growing baby. Please note that it is important not to self medicate – especially during pregnancy.
Many women are aware of the importance of folate (B9) supplementation during pregnancy and for at least three months prior to conception. This important vitamin can help reduce neural tube defects, miscarriage, autism, depression and preeclampsia to name a few. The problem is that around 40% of the population have difficulties in breaking down or metabolising the folate or folic acid found in many over-the-counter pregnancy multivitamins. A broken down form of folate known as folinic acid or 5-MTHF is recommended to ensure that these women are able to utilise this super important vitamin.
Folinic acid or 5-MTHF is usually given within a fertility multivitamin which also contains all the B-group vitamins and supplemental levels of many other vitamins and minerals. It is important to note that these multivitamins do not contain therapeutic doses and are not enough to correct any deficiencies you may have.
Omega 3 fatty acids (or fish oils) are also essential in pregnancy. Omega 3’s improve baby’s brain development, reduce the risk of pre-term birth and also reduce the baby’s risk of developing allergies, intolerances, eczema and asthma. A good quality supplement of 3-6 grams per day is a must!
Studies have shown that about half of all pregnant women in NSW are iodine deficient. Iodine is essential for your baby’s thyroid hormone and nervous system development. A simple urine test can determine if you are one of these women who require extra supplementation.
Probiotics are great for keeping your digestive system moving while also supporting babies’ developing immune system. We used to think that the gestational sac as a sterile environment but we now know that it has its own microflora and probiotics can help to keep this environment healthy and reduce the chance of allergies in the baby.
Calcium should be calculated in the diet and considered as a supplement if dietary intake is inadequate. Calcium foods include dairy, fortified-nut milks, un-hulled tahini, sardines, leafy greens, parsley, dried figs, almonds and chia seeds.
Pregnant women should also be regularly tested for iron and vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy can affect bone development and immune function from birth to adulthood. Increase your intake by spending time in the sun daily and increase your intake of eggs and fatty fish. Iron levels often drop during the second and third trimester of pregnancy when blood volume can increase by at least one-third and many women will require an additional iron supplement. Boost your iron levels by including red meat 2-3 x per week and increase your intake of asparagus, spinach, thyme, turmeric and cumin seeds.
Whether you’re planning a pregnancy or are currently pregnant, ensuring your physical health is as good as it can be, will certainly go some way to giving your new baby the best start in life.
Belinda Kirkpatrick is an expert nutritionist and naturopath with over 15 years clinical experience. Besides running a busy clinic in Double Bay, Sydney, Belinda lectures in nutrition and naturopathy and is a regular television and media presenter on health and dietary topics. Belinda is the author of Healthy Hormones which features expert naturopathic advice, 50 recipes plus tips on lifestyle and nutrition. (Available for purchase at all good bookstores or at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Healthy-Hormones-practical-balancing-hormones/dp/1743369387)
Connect with Belinda at @bknaturopathy or www.belindakirkpatrick.com.au
You are also welcome to join Belinda’s private FB group, “Healthy Hormones with Belinda Kirkpatrick” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/438834833295825)