The 4 Most Important Vitamins and Minerals for Pregnant Women
Vitamins are essential nutrients for healthy bodies of both mums-to-be and their babies. They are helping your body perform hundreds of roles all the time, but you can’t produce vitamins in adequate quantities on your own. This is where diet comes in! During your pregnancy, particular vitamins and minerals are extra important to eat for you and the healthy development of your baby.
1. Folic Acid
Folate (Vitamin B9) is required by the body in higher quantities during pregnancy to help development of your baby’s neural system and for decreasing the chance of birth defects of the brain, spine and spinal cord (neural tube defects) such as spina bifida. So, when pregnant or planning to conceive, it is important to ensure folate requirements are being met. The best way to ensure you are getting enough folic acid (a form of folate) while pregnant or planning on pregnancy, is to incorporate a daily supplement of 400 µg from one month prior, to 3 months post conception. Foods rich in folate to incorporate into your diet include:
- Leafy greens eg. kale, spinach and broccoli
- Legumes eg. chickpeas and beans
- Foods fortified with folic acid eg. breakfast cereals and bread
Another nutrient in the top 4 for pregnancy is iodine. Unborn babies are at risk of iodine deficiency, resulting in decreased learning ability, hearing impairment and physical development issues. Because of this and the body’s increased requirement of iodine while pregnant, Australian Health authorities recommend an iodine daily supplement for the entire duration of your pregnancy and breastfeeding. Look for one with 150 micrograms per dose! Some rich sources of iodine for your diet include:
- Iodised salt
- Bread made with iodised salt
Iron is vital for blood production! So it makes sense that your body is asking for more while growing your little one. At present, routine iron supplements for pregnant women is not required in Australia. A well-balanced diet should provide enough iron for a healthy pregnancy! Although, if you were already taking an iron supplement due to a history of low iron stores before pregnancy, it is likely this should continue if your doctor recommends you do so. Some foods rich in iron include:
- Red meat
- Fish or shellfish
- Iron-fortified bread and breakfast cereal
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet it is extra important to make sure you're getting enough iron from plant-based sources.
4. Vitamin D
And finally, vitamin D. Vitamin D aids the body in calcium absorption, immune function and muscle health. The vastly superior source of vitamin D is sunlight exposure so soak up some sun when you can! Vitamin D can be sourced from some foods including:
- Oily fish
- Egg yolk
- MushroomsVitamin D deficiency during pregnancy include increased chances of food allergies in babies. Testing should be considered for women at higher risk of suboptimal vitamin D levels (eg. women of a darker skin tone, office workers), and supplementation advised for women with low levels. It is important to note that folic acid, iodine, iron and vitamin D supplements are not substitutes for a well-balanced healthy diet. Pregnancy supplements should be taken to compliment a well-balanced diet, not replace it. Here are the Recommended Daily Intake increases for women when Pregnant compared with non-pregnant women.
|Not Pregnant RDI (19-50 yr)||Pregnant RDI(19-50 yr)|
|Folic Acid||400 µg/day||600 µg/day|
|Iodine||150 µg/day||220 µg/day|
|Vitamin D||5 µg/day||5 µg/day|
This is general information only. For detailed personal advice, you should see a qualified medical practitioner who knows your medical history.
1. " Folic Acid/Folate And Pregnancy ". Gov.Au, 2021, https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/generalissues/pregnancy/folic/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed 23 June 2021.
2. "Folate: Crucial For Women Under 50 » Dietitians Australia". Org.Au, 2021, https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/smart-eating-for-you/smart-eating-fast-facts/nourishing-nutrients/folate-a-crucial-nutrient-for-most-women-under-50/. Accessed 23 June 2021.
3. “Iodine Facts | Nutrition Australia". Nutrition Australia, 2010, https://nutritionaustralia.org/fact-sheets/iodine-facts/. Accessed 23 June 2021.
4. "Iron | Nutrition Australia". Nutrition Australia, 2014, https://nutritionaustralia.org/fact-sheets/iron/. Accessed 23 June 2021.
5. "Low Vitamin D Linked To Food Allergies - Murdoch Children's Research Institute". Edu.Au, 2021, https://www.mcri.edu.au/news/low-vitamin-d-linked-food-allergies. Accessed 23 June 2021.
6. “Vitamin D Status – Department of Health” May 2019, https://www.health.gov.au/resources/pregnancy-care-guidelines/part-g-targeted-maternal-health-tests/vitamin-d-status