The Role of Vitamins & Healthy Diet during Pregnancy
Confusion about diet and vitamins during pregnancy leads to some of my most common questions. This question usually has three common themes, which we will answer here.
The first question is always about vitamin supplements being taken during pregnancy. I have no doubt that there are many things that help women on the way to becoming pregnant. The use of naturopathic assistance and Chinese medicine has helped many women become pregnant, however their role should finish once pregnant. The period when all the organs are made is so sensitive in a baby’s development that nothing that has not been well studied should be ingested.
The recommended common vitamins during pregnancy include folic acid, Iron, iodine and vitamin D. The importance of folic acid and iodine has been so well recognised that under the law in Australia bread has added these two vitamins.
Folic acid decreases the risk of Spina Bifida and should be used for three months pre-pregnancy. If there is a strong risk of Spina Bifida then the high dose megafol should be used.
Iodine deficiency has been recognised in Australia in the last decade and this vitamin is important in the development of the baby’s brain. Although iodine is now in bread it is suggested by the NHMRC that all women have a iodine supplement daily.
Vitamin D has recently become a hot subject. It is more difficult to discuss as the deficiency is almost non existent in Far North Queensland but it is becoming a significant problem in some southern states. We are all now sun conscious but the simple advice of 10 minutes sun exposure daily will decrease your risk of Vitamin D deficiency. A little more is required for dark skinned women. There is still a lot of discussion, but many Doctors are now recommending 40 mg oral supplementation daily.
Iron deficiency is common in childbearing women. While optimising diet with red meat, seafood, eggs, leafy green vegetables and lentils is appropriate, many will require an iron supplement. Don’t be afraid if bowel motions go black as this is normal. Constipation is a common side effect which may be helped by taking Iron second daily and increasing fibre and water consumption.
Many ask about other vitamins during pregnancy including Omega 3 supplements (fish oils). While I am a firm believer in their overall benefits, studies in pregnancy have not absolutely shown their safety and so I do not recommend this.
As far as I can see there are 4 multivitamin supplementations which broadly have many of the above they are: Elevit, Blackmores Conceive Well Gold, Fabfol 500 and Swisse Pregnancy Ultravite. I have no association with any of these products but from my point of view, I think the formulation best suited is to cover vitamins in pregnancy is Elevit . The other 3 have other variations not containing all of the requirements.
The second question is usually about diet when there is vomiting in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy can affect up to 70% of women, with only a few lasting beyond 14 weeks. If possible, I recommend still taking vitamin supplementation and concentrating on increasing high calorie fluid intake. Many of the sports drinks work well here. Do not be too concerned with some slight weight loss during this time.
The third common question is that of diet throughout pregnancy. Can I eat this or that? What is safe to eat? My common answer to this is fresh healthy foods that are prepared today, cooked today and eaten today will keep you safe. In addition to that, pasteurised is a prerequisite for dairy foods. Keep these simple guidelines in mind and you’ll find most questions are answered.
Our team at Dr Michael Flynn includes a registered nurse and a midwife and they can also help answer your questions. Call us on (07) 5564 8011
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