Published Mar 8, 2021
What are the best vitamins and minerals to take while pregnant – and why? Find out how to make sure your baby gets the best possible start in life.
Pregnancy is where it all begins. Every one of us began as a cluster of reduplicating cells within our mothers. It’s the proverbial miracle of life. But growing a whole new person inside you is quite an undertaking, one that can put a woman’s body under a lot of strain – and that goes double if you’re giving birth to twins.
Why vitamins are so important during pregnancy
We have evolved powerful biological processes to maximise the health of the developing embryo, even at the expense of the mother’s own health. If her diet does not contain enough calcium, for example, the body will simply divert this important mineral from her own bones in order to ensure an adequate supply for the embryo. A poor diet can also increase the risk of complications during birth.
So it makes a lot of sense to optimise your diet while pregnant and ensure you have all the vitamins and nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy.
How to stay healthy during pregnancy
A nutritious diet plays a central role of course: as the old maxim goes, you will be eating for two throughout those nine months, so make sure you eat well. But a perfect diet isn’t always easy. It takes time and carefully planned shopping lists and recipes. Supplements can be a great way to ensure that no corners are cut and your baby has – or babies have! – all the nutrients they will need to grow and be healthy.
Log onto your favourite health retailer or visit your local health food shop and you will find pregnancy supplements specifically formulated for customers who are expecting. These are called ‘prenatal’ vitamins. As you might expect, these provide a good supply of the most vitamins and minerals for pregnancy. It can be beneficial to take these even if you’re not actually pregnant yet but only planning to be in the family way sometime soon.
The right balance for you will depend to some degree on your current lifestyle. For example, if you are vegetarian or vegan it may be a good idea to take extra vitamin B12 because this particular nutrient is only found in animal products. Similarly, specialist supplements may be required if you have allergies and have to avoid certain foods altogether. Consult your nutritionist or doctor for guidance.
The best vitamins to take while pregnant
Here are the best vitamins and minerals to take while pregnant:
This element plays a vital role in the day-to-day functioning of our bodies – enabling our muscles to contract, our blood to clot and our digestive systems to work as they should. Calcium is a primary building block of bones and teeth. It is an essential nutrient, meaning it is vital to health but cannot be synthesized by our own bodies.
The most abundant element on earth plays an absolutely essential role in the metabolism of humans and other animals, transporting oxygen through our blood streams. Each of us has several grams of iron in our bodies and this is why blood is red in colour. Women are prone to anaemia (iron deficiency) due to the menstrual cycle.
Folic acid is also known as folate and vitamin B9. Vitamin B is in fact not one substance but a group of closely related ones. Folic acid is vital for the healthy development and the growth of cells and a deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to serious birth defects in the brain, spinal column and heart. We recommend at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day for at least the first three months of pregnancy.
Calcium, iron and folic acid are the three critical pregnancy nutrients. Make sure any supplements you take contain at least those three. But there are three others which play almost as important a role.
Like vitamin B, vitamin D is a group of nutrients rather than a single substance, of which D2 and D3 are the most important. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb nutrients like calcium.
Iodine is another essential nutrient. It is used by the body to produce hormones that control growth. Iodine deficiency can damage health and cause organ swelling.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, which like the others, plays an indispensable role in metabolism and the human body. DHA is the principal constituent of brain tissue so it’s no surprise that your body needs a plentiful supply during pregnancy as your body builds a new person.
If you’re unsure, talk to your doctor or nutritionist about the best pregnancy supplements for you.