It’s tempting to think you can tackle all your body’s extra dietary needs with a pill. But are multivitamins the answer for you and your baby?
it’s a question most pregnant women will ask themselves at some point. Should I be taking a multivitamin?” It especially comes up when that exhausted feeling sets in. Surely one tiny capsule will offer a neat little pick-me-up, not to mention help the baby you’re growing? The short answer for many pregnant is: no, you probably don’t need a multivitamin With the exception of the hugely important and very clever folic acid, most women are able to meet all the additional vitamin and mineral requirements through a healthy diet.
This is the advice that Dr Sharyn Wilkins, guided by the protocols at the Royal Hospital I a r for Women in Randwick, she’s conﬁdent that it’s the right answer in most cases. There are exceptions, of course, and these are the women who, for different reasons, can’t eat a regular diet. They might be vegetarians, so nauseous they can’t eat, or they may have a condition which means they don’t absorb nutrients properly, such as coeliac disease.
“There are women out there who don’t eat well, they eat so little. Others throw up. Those are the ones who are needing a supplement, because they just don’t eat well enough,” says Dr Wilkins. For everyone else though, their diet should be able to provide enough vitamins. “By eating something from the major food groups every day – grains, fruit and vegetable, meat and dairy – you’ve covered nearly every every major nutrient that you need,” says Dr Wilkins.
Getting your added nutritional from food is better than from a multivitamin, as whole foods have all sorts of other goodies such as fiber and antioxidants. Dr Wilkins also notes that you can never be sure your body is absorbing the vitamin from a capsule, whereas it will from the whole foods. If you feel you’re just not getting enough of the right foods and you really need the extra boost, have a chat to your pharmacist about the right pregnancy supplement for you It’s important you have a multivitamin especially for pregnant women – the regular supplements may contain too much vitamin A, which could be harmful to baby.
So which additional nutritional requirements does your body have during pregnancy? Here are a few key ones you’ll need:
This is the only supplement recommended for all pregnant women, and it’s been shown to have a big impact on reducing the numbers of babies born with neural tube defects. It’s crucial you take it before you conceive so there will already be lots of the stuff on board. The baby’s neural tube, brain and spinal cord start developing from scratch. You usually don’t realize you’re pregnant until six weeks into the pregnancy, and that’s when all those major things are happening,” says Dr Wilkins.
“It’s better to have a large amount of folic acid when you fall pregnant because, by the time you realize you’re carrying a baby, you may have missed the first half of the first trimester.” The recommended dose is between O.4mg to O.5mg a day.
Calcium and iron
Since the baby is building bones and blood, you’re going to need more calcium and iron. Iron tablets are one option but these can sometimes make you feel constipated and sick Dr Wilkins says you can get the additional iron from food sources such as red meat, lentils or apricots. A pregnant woman’s additional calcium needs are about 300mg a day more than non-pregnant women, which can be met through an extra serve of dairy a day.
Australians are traditionally low in iodine. In the past we happily sprinkled a little bit of iodized salt onto our food but now that so many of our foods are prepackaged, the salt is already added and usually not iodized. Pregnant women do need more iodine, and this can be done by adding iodized salt to your food. There’s also iodine in kelp, seafood, milk, yoghurt and mozzarella cheese. But Dr Wilkins warns you can go overboard, so try to choose a supplement with only a little added iodine.