Most women know that folic acid is an essential vitamin to take when planning a pregnancy. However, there are a few other less known vitamins and supplements that are also recommended before and during pregnancy.
One of these is iodine, particularly if you live in a place where iodine is deficient in the soil, such as in remote inland areas or semi-arid equatorial climates where no marine foods are eaten. However, it is now recommended that all prenatal supplements contain iodine, with the Public Health Committee of the American Thyroid Association (ATA) publishing a statement, in early 2015, reiterating the ATA recommendation that women take a daily multivitamin containing 150 micrograms before and during pregnancy and during lactation. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, intellectual impairment, cretinism, maternal and fetal goiter, and neonatal hypothyroidism.
Calcium is also an important antenatal vitamin. As well as being necessary for your baby’s developing bones, calcium supplementation has many other benefits, such as preventing preeclampsia and hypertension. Calcium supplementation at a daily dose between 1.5 and 2 grams per day has been shown to reduce the risk of preterm birth. This is also the dose recommended for pregnant women by the World Health Organization.
It is important to take vitamin D alongside calcium, as it regulates absorption and metabolism of calcium in your body and your baby’s body.
Iron is also essential during pregnancy and the amount of iron that you need increases from 18 milligrams per day to 27 milligrams per day. Anemia caused by iron deficiency during pregnancy can result in a weakened immune system and, consequently, increased risk of infection for the mother. Low birth weight has also been associated with low levels of iron.
Omega-3 fatty acids may be worth taking while pregnant. Although the evidence is not as strong as the other vitamins and minerals listed above, there do seem to be some benefits in taking omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to be important for the developing fetal brain and also for the timing of gestation and birth weight as well.
Dietary sources of these essential vitamins and minerals:
In addition to making sure that your antenatal supplement contains the above vitamins and minerals, it is also important to eat a diet that provides these nutrients. For example, sources of iodine include iodized salt, seaweed and seafood, dairy products, and eggs. Calcium can be found in milk and other dairy products, breakfast cereals, tofu, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.
Foods that contain vitamin D include fatty fish (such as mackerel or salmon) and fish liver oils. Smaller amounts are found in egg yolk, cheese, and beef liver. Food sources of iron include meat, especially liver. Iron from non-meat sources is harder to absorb. However, some plants are good sources of iron, such as whole grain cereals and legumes (ie, beans and lentils). Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.