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Supplements and Lifestyle Advice for Pregnant Women

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Pregnant women require extra nutrition for the growth and development of their babies. Read this article to learn the pregnancy supplements and lifestyle tips.

Written by

Dr. Asha. C

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Natasha Bansal

Published At March 13, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 13, 2023

Introduction:

Pregnancy can be a very exciting period for most women. This is also a period where extra attention and care should be given to the health and well-being of pregnant women. It can also make some people feel anxious and perplexed about what is right to eat and what they should avoid. However, the nutritional requirement will be more during pregnancy, so it is necessary to take supplements.

Why Are Supplements Necessary During Pregnancy?

Healthy food to get the right nutrients is pivotal at every stage of life, and it is more critical during pregnancy, as a mother needs to nourish herself and her growing baby. During pregnancy, an increased intake of macronutrients is required. Macronutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. For instance, protein intake increased from 0.8 grams per kg (0.36 grams per pound) of body weight for non-pregnant women to 1.1 grams per kg (0.5 grams per pound) for pregnant women. So to meet the protein requirements, it is necessary to include protein in every snack and meal. This is the same for other micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. However, some pregnant women will not be able to meet their needs through a nutrient-dense, well-planned meal. So it is important to take vitamin and mineral supplements.

A gynecologist also recommends pregnant people prenatal folic acid and vitamin supplements. This is advised to prevent developmental abnormalities at birth and fill nutritional gaps. The various reasons for vitamin and mineral supplementation consumption are:

  • Nutrient Deficiencies - If a blood test reveals a deficiency in a vitamin or mineral, then to correct these shortages of nutrients like folate, vitamins, and other minerals, it is mandatory to consume supplements. Because nutritional deficiency has been linked to birth defects.

  • Dietary Restrictions - If a pregnant woman follows specific diets, including those with food intolerances, allergies, and vegans may need to supplement with minerals and vitamins to prevent micronutrient deficiencies.

  • Multiple Pregnancies - Women carrying more than one baby need higher micronutrients than women carrying one baby. In such cases, supplementing is crucial to ensure the best nutrition for both the mother and the babies.

  • Hyperemesis Gravidarum - Some pregnant women face severe nausea and vomiting that could lead to weight loss and nutrient deficiencies, so supplement plays a key role in restoring the deficiencies.

  • Smoking - It is essential to stop cigarettes during pregnancy; however, a woman who continues to smoke has an increased need for supplements like vitamin C and folate.

  • Poor Nutrition - Women who are picky eaters or choose foods that have low nutrients may need to take supplements with minerals and vitamins to avoid deficiencies.

  • Genetic Mutations Like MTHFR - Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is a gene that converts folate to a specific form as needed for our body. Pregnant women with this issue may need to supplement with folate to avoid complications.

1) Folate - Folate is a vitamin that plays a vital role in DNA synthesis, fetal growth and development, and red blood cell production. At least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid or folate per day is recommended to reduce the risk of congenital abnormalities and neural tube defects. However, adequate folate can be obtained by diet; many women do not eat enough folate-rich foods that require supplementation.

2) Iron - Iron is critical for the healthy growth and development of the baby and the placenta and also for oxygen transport. The need for iron increases during pregnancy as the mother's blood volume increases. The recommended intake of iron is 27 milligrams (mg) per day. Iron deficiency causes anemia during pregnancy and has been associated with maternal depression, preterm delivery, and infant anemia.

3) Vitamin D - Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is important for bone health, immune function, and cell division. The recommended intake of vitamin D during pregnancy is 15 mcg or 600 IU per day. Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of preeclampsia, cesarean section, gestational diabetes, and preterm birth.

4) Fish Oil - Fish oil contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two essential fatty acids that are necessary for a baby's brain development. Supplementing with fish oil protects against preterm delivery, boosts post-pregnancy brain development in the baby, decreases maternal depression, and may benefit fetal eye development.

5) Magnesium - Magnesium plays a critical role in muscle and nerve function and immunity development. Magnesium deficiency during pregnancy may increase the risk of premature labor and chronic hypertension. Some studies suggest that magnesium supplements may reduce the risk of complications like preterm birth and fetal growth restriction.

6) Choline - It plays a vital role in a baby's brain development and prevents abnormalities of the spine and the brain. A daily intake closer to 930 mg is recommended during pregnancy.

Which Supplements Are Considered Unsafe During Pregnancy?

Micronutrients and herbs are safe for pregnant women, although many of them should be avoided completely or in high amounts. Therefore, always take a professional's advice before taking any drug or supplement during pregnancy. The vitamins that should be avoided are:

  • Vitamin A.

  • Vitamin E.

  • Goldenseal.

  • Black cohosh.

  • Dong quai.

  • Yohimbe.

  • Herb supplements like saw palmetto, red clover, tansy, yarrow, wormwood, mugwort, angelica, blue cohosh, ephedra, and pennyroyal.

What Are the Lifestyle Changes Needed to Make for a Healthy Pregnancy?

A pregnant woman needs to make the healthiest lifestyle choices and commit to high-quality nourishment for the body, her baby, as well as for her mind.

1) Eat Nutritious Food - Throughout the pregnancy, a pregnant woman's nutritional requirements change to meet the demands of her body and babies. Sufficient intake of macronutrients like protein, fat, and carbohydrates and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are crucial for a healthy pregnancy. Eating fruits, green leafy vegetables, brown rice, oats, quinoa, nuts, eggs, fish, and meat regularly is beneficial for getting a daily dose of minerals and vitamins. Try to avoid processed and sugary foods such as cookies, cakes, pastries, white bread, etc.

2) Control Weight - Maintaining a healthy weight gain for the height before and during the pregnancy is important to have a smooth pregnancy. At the same time, uncontrolled weight during pregnancy may later lead to many complications. Being underweight is also not good; having an ideal weight from the beginning of conception could reduce many pregnancy-related challenges.

3) Adequate Exercise - Being fit and healthy during pregnancy increases the chances of giving birth to a healthy baby. It is not necessary to go to a gym to keep fit and healthy; just 30 to 40 minutes of regular exercise like walking, swimming, aerobics, Zumba, or practicing yoga would be enough.

4) Adequate Rest - Adequate sleep is another vital factor to look for. Proper rest is important for a healthy lifestyle. Restful sleep supports the immunity and development of the fetus and enhances resilience to daily stressors.

5) Limit Toxin Exposure - If a woman has habits like smoking, alcohol, and drugs, pregnancy is the right time to leave them as the body needs to nurture another life. Also, these habits can cause serious complications to both mother's and child's health.

6) Stress - Stress could adversely affect the baby's health. Increases in stress may cause high blood pressure during pregnancy. This puts the mother at serious risk of preeclampsia, having a low-birthweight infant, and premature birth.

7) Animals - Avoid contact with animals like sheep, lambs, and dogs. This is because some lambs carry germs that cause chlamydia, listeriosis, and toxoplasmosis that can be passed on to the mother and the unborn baby. Toxoplasma is also found in cat litter. So it is advisable to wash hands after handling cats and kittens or ask someone else to wash the cat litter trays.

8) Travel - It is generally safe to travel during pregnancy. When in a car, wear the seat belt so that it goes above and below the bump, not across it. Flying is also not known to be harmful, but most airlines will not allow pregnant women to fly in the late stages of pregnancy. Make sure not to travel anywhere too remote and far from medical assistance, particularly during the later stages of pregnancy. If possible, avoid traveling where malaria and Zika virus are circulating.

Conclusion:

Pregnancy is a period that makes health and nutrition a top priority. So taking care of health by consuming nutritious food and making lifestyle changes is necessary. To reach the dose of daily nutrition requirements, healthcare professionals recommend supplements. And it is advisable to take any supplements after confirming with healthcare professionals because some supplements can cause adverse effects to both mother and the baby.

Dr. Natasha Bansal
Dr. Natasha Bansal

Obstetrics and Gynecology

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pregnancynutritional supplements
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