Although all vitamins and minerals contribute to the proper functioning of the human body, it is now known that 4 micronutrients have priority for the pregnant woman: folic acid, iron, calcium and vitamin D. They are called micronutrients because the body only uses very small amounts. They play a prominent role in all stages of embryo and fetal growth .
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
- Folic acid (vitamin B9)
- Vitamin D
- And omega-3?
Vitamin and mineral supplements
Daily prenatal supplementation with vitamins and minerals is recommended for pregnant women. Sometimes, the diet does not provide enough of certain nutrients whose role is crucial during pregnancy. Multivitamin helps to fill the gaps that may occur during the 9 months of pregnancy. Having a healthy diet is important, however. Multivitamin is not nearly as beneficial as food. Multivitamin should contain 0.4 mg to 1 mg folic acid, as well as iron (16 mg to 20 mg). Quantities may vary, depending on your doctor’s recommendation. It is recommended that women planning to become pregnant start taking folic acid before they become pregnant. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada notes that it is possible for a pregnant woman to take supplements of calcium, vitamin D or iron in addition to prenatal multivitamins, depending on her diet and condition. Discuss with your doctor.
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Folic acid (vitamin B9)
This vitamin is important, especially in early pregnancy. Nowadays, doctors even recommend that women planning a pregnancy take a multivitamin containing folic acid two to three months before conceiving. Folic acid is especially useful when new tissues need to be formed. That is why the embryo needs it from day one. It contributes, among other things, to the formation of blood cells, the brain and the nervous system. Folic acid deficiency can cause growth retardation, congenital malformation, or neural tube defect (eg, spina bifida ). The daily requirement for folic acid in pregnant women ranges from 0.4 mg to 1.0 mg per day. In Canada and the United States, folic acid is added to white flour, cornmeal and pasta.
Foods that rich in folic acid
- Dark green vegetables (spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, romaine lettuce, etc.).
- Legumes (red beans, soy beans, chickpeas and lentils).
- Enriched flours and pasta (those made in Canada or the United States only, pasta made in Italy are not fortified).
- Orange fruits (oranges and orange juice, mandarins, cantaloupe).
Iron is found in red blood cells. It allows red blood cells to capture oxygen in the lungs and transport it throughout the body, and the fetus through the placenta . Pregnant women need more iron because their blood volume increases. In addition, they must provide it to their future baby. The baby’s iron stores at birth last for the first 6 months of life. Iron deficiency can cause anemia. It can cause fatigue and shortness of breath faster with the effort. Deficiency can be detected by a blood test. Vegetarian women and those with close or multiple pregnancies are more likely to miss iron.
Foods that are rich in Iron
- Red meats (beef, veal, lamb, game)
- Poultry (chicken, turkey)
- Fish and seafood (eg canned clams, cooked oysters).
Vegetable foods (vegetables, legumes, fortified breakfast cereals and nuts) also contain iron, but in smaller quantities. The body also absorbs it less easily than iron of animal origin.
Iron, Nausea and Vomiting
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recommends that pregnant women suffering from nausea and vomiting should stop taking their prenatal multivitamins if they contain iron because this substance sometimes increases nausea. These multivitamins can be safely replaced with a folic acid supplement or prenatal vitamins with a low iron content. In fact, the iron requirements of the pregnant woman do not generally increase during the first trimester.
The fetus needs calcium to make its skeleton. It is used to build bones and teeth. If the pregnant woman’s diet is not rich enough in calcium, the future baby will take it directly from the mother’s supply. Calcium would also help maintain good blood pressure during pregnancy.
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Foods that rich in calcium
- Dairy products (milks, yogurts, cheeses, etc.).
- Drink 2 cups of milk or an enriched soy beverage each day. Eat calcium enriched tofu, cheese, enriched yogurt, orange juice enriched with calcium.
- Green vegetables (spinach, green cabbage and Chinese cabbage, watercress, fennel, etc.), legumes such as white and black-eyed beans, and some fruits (eg orange, rhubarb, figs and blackberries) contain also but in less quantity.
- Vitamin D works in tandem with calcium. It helps to assimilate calcium and fix it on the bones. It also participates in the growth of cells and the functioning of the immune system. Adequate vitamin D levels during pregnancy provide benefits for the pregnant woman and her child for life. Although many foods contain or are enriched, it is the sun that is the main source. As a result, people living in northern countries, such as Canada, often have low levels of vitamin D during the winter months. Therefore, even if you eat foods that contain vitamin “sun”, you should take supplements.
Foods that are rich in vitamin D
- Many foods are fortified with vitamin D: cow’s milk (0% to 3.25% MF), some soy beverages, some yogurt, margarine, goat’s milk, and some calcium fortified orange juice. The cheese is not enriched with vitamin D.
- Salmon, bluefin tuna or canned fish, canned sardines and other fish.
- Beef liver.
- The egg yolk.
The benefits of omega-3 in pregnant women are better and better demonstrated. These good fats contribute to both the health of the pregnant woman and that of the fetus. Indeed, they participate in the development of the brain and eyes of the future baby. In addition, it has been shown that they help the mother maintain good morale throughout pregnancy and after birth. In general, it is said that people do not eat enough omega-3 fats. This is why pregnant women are advised to eat 1 or 2 meals of fatty fish per week (at least 150 g of cooked fish in total).
However, no studies have shown that taking omega-3 supplements during pregnancy has any health benefits for the fetus or the mother. However, taking omega-3 supplements during pregnancy is not risky.
Foods that rich in Omega-3
- Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines. Canned fish also contain them.
- Other foods can be omega-3s, such as walnuts, canola oil and flaxseed. In contrast, these plant foods provide less omega-3 than fatty fish because they are less well assimilated by the body.