Prenatal Vitamins and daily multivitamin supplements are routinely recommended by health care physicians for pregnant women. Typically, prenatal vitamins contain greater amounts of folate, calcium, and iron than standard vitamin-mineral supplements. Prenatal vitamins are particularly beneficial for women in high risk groups and for women who do not eat sufficiently. Also at risk, are cigarette smokers and alcohol and drug abusers. Because nutritional requirements are specific to the individual, it is important to evaluate nutritional values before using supplements during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is such a critical time, and it is important to take all the necessary precautions to insure the baby’s safe and healthy delivery. Nutrition is a key factor, and eating a variety of healthy foods will enhance the pregnancy. Because the optimum amount of vitamins and minerals are essential for the growth of the baby’s bones, muscle tissues, organs, and overall body requirements, a woman needs to make proper nutritional choices for food and supplements.
Energy requirements during pregnancy should increase in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy. Some nutritional choices are:
- whole grain breads
- citrus fruits
- dark green vegetables
- low fat milk
- lean meats
Protein RDA Requirements
Protein requirements are 25 grams per day higher for pregnant women. The protein increase can be met by selecting meats, milk products, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. The use of high protein supplements during pregnancy is highly discouraged and may have harmful effects.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids are necessary for fetus growth development. They include nuts (butternuts, flaxseed, walnuts, soybean kernels, vegetable-soybeans), oils (olive, flaxseed, wheat germ, soybean), meat, fish (salmon, oysters, mackerel, shellfish, anchovy, herring, lake trout, sardines, tuna), poultry, eggs, and milk.
Nutrients for blood production and cell growth are important because new cells are produced at a tremendous rate during the growth and development of the fetus. During this time, the red blood cells of the mother expand. All nutrients are valued at this time, but the most critical are folate, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc because of their function in synthesis of DNA and new cells.
Nutrients for bone development, including vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and fluoride are needed during pregnancy to insure adequate bone and tooth development.
Exposure to sunlight and vitamin D-fortified milk is sufficient for the vitamin D requirement. Supplementation is not recommended because of the toxicity risk factor. Calcium intake for pregnant women usually falls below recommended levels and may require a daily supplement of 600 milligrams.
Since prenatal vitamins are readily available and differ in chemical make up from one brand to another, it is highly advisable for a pregnant woman to choose supplements carefully and to seek the advice of her physician before taking any supplement. The use of prenatal vitamins may help reduce the risks of low infant birthrates and birth defects. Certain prenatal vitamins will help provide nutrients to meet the required levels of nutritional value needed during pregnancy.