Pregnancy Supplements – Why You Need It, What’s Safe and Unsafe
With advice on the right kind of nutrition and balanced diet spread everywhere, a pregnant mother can have a lot of confusion in understanding what the right decision to be taken is. Most of the things to avoid are well-known, such as seafood, or wine, and smoking and so on. But, there are certain options which can seem healthy at first but should definitely be avoided to be consumed. These are mostly related to the intake of iron supplement in pregnancy and other supplements. What is safe and what isn’t? Find out below.
Why You Need to Take Supplements in Pregnancy?
Here’s why supplements may be essential during pregnancy.
- Every woman has a unique dietary requirement and needs for nutritional elements that are specific to her. With all the variation that is possible, getting a good amount of vitamins and minerals on a daily basis is an absolute necessity for a pregnant woman.
- Proteins are extremely necessary throughout the entire duration of pregnancy since it’s a complete period of growth of another life form and that requires lots of protein. Most of it can be acquired from meat, eggs, and other sources. But if that consumption is not up to the mark, or if you are a vegetarian, then you may need to supplement your intake of protein with something else.
- Vegetables, on the other hand, have a lot of minerals in them. Green leafy vegetables, especially, come with tons of nutrients associated with them such as folate and iron that are integral to a healthy growth of the foetus. However, their percentage in the vegetables may not be as much as required for you and that might need an additional source of vitamins and minerals, too.
- Fat is not bad and moreover, pregnant mothers are advised to intake good amounts of healthy fats, not trans fats. Fats are the key to providing growth of organs in the baby, developing its brain, and breast milk production for the mother. Fats can be consumed from a bunch of sources, but if you are facing issues of milk production or your doctor doesn’t seem to be happy with the baby’s growth, you might be lacking in fat consumption.
Safe Pregnancy Supplements
If you are considering supplements during pregnancy, here are some safe options.
Folic acid supplementation in pregnancy is highly recommended, especially in the very early stages of pregnancy. In the initial weeks, your baby’s growth consists of the formation of the spinal cord. Folic acid has been known to be instrumental in the formation of the cord in a proper manner. This supplement could be a part of a multi-vitamin, too. It’s good to note that a consumption of max 1200 micrograms of folate is considered safe for pregnancy.
2. Prenatal Multivitamins
These supplements are generally recommended to all mothers by most doctors everywhere. It’s good to take prenatal multivitamins since they ensure the consumption of all the crucial nutrients required for both the pregnant mother and the foetus to grow healthily. These are supplements to an originally balanced and nutritious diet and cannot be the sole source of nutrition ever.
3. Omega 3
Omega 3 is one of the essential fatty acids that are vital in the journey of pregnancy. There are a number of supplement sources that can provide you with omega-3 nutrition, but the most popular and safe is cod liver oil. It has been observed scientifically that cod liver oil assists in brain development and growth right in the foetal stage and is known to make the baby smart in the life to come. The acids in the oil such as DHA and EPA are known to maintain low levels of mental stress in the mother and cope with post-pregnancy depression, too.
4. Vitamin D3
With the current indoor-oriented lifestyle, most of us are deficient in vitamin D3 due to reduced exposure to the morning sun and a diet that does not focus on vitamin D at all. Vitamin D3 is extremely important in having a good and healthy bone structure, which is formed only by absorbing calcium and phosphorous in the body. Beyond bones, it further improves immunity, cell growth, muscles, and a lot more. In pregnancy, vitamin D3 helps in avoiding premature labour, gestational diabetes and other infections. The child, too, gains a good bone mass making him healthier ahead in life. Consuming Vitamin D3 in the right quantities is essential too, without overdoing it.
Synonymous with bone growth and teeth strength, calcium is also responsible for improving blood clotting mechanisms and prevention of high blood pressure. The foetus requires a lot of calcium to develop the baby’s bones. In case the requirement falls short, it will start absorbing it from the mother’s bones causing further complications later on, such as leg cramps during pregnancy. It’s best to take a calcium supplement in pregnancy on an empty stomach since it absorbs into the body easily and quickly.
Magnesium is synonymous with one of the most important requirements during pregnancy Sleep. The right dose of magnesium helps reduce cramping of legs and provides a good amount of sleep, which is directly related to the production of breastmilk in the mother. Certain calcium supplements may or may not have magnesium present in them already.
7. Coconut Oil
Combining good saturated fat with lauric acid, this is a double whopper that provides nutrients to both the mother and the baby simultaneously. On one hand, it helps develop the fat stores in your body necessary for pregnancy and breastfeeding, while maintaining good energy levels. On the other hand, it also builds antiviral and antibacterial properties in the mother’s milk that are extremely crucial in building immunity in the baby.
Not all bacteria is bad. There are some good bacteria that need to be present in your gut in the right amount. These bacteria are essential in fighting off illnesses and keeping the digestive process going well. Babies do not have any bacteria when they are born and their first exposure to it is while they are emerging from the birth canal. Therefore, it is essential to have these good bacteria present in the right quantity, in the gut as well as in the breastmilk. As with all supplements, choose probiotics carefully by reading their genus and strains.
Which Supplements to Avoid When Pregnant?
Apart from the list of supplements that are beneficial for pregnancy, there are certain that should definitely be avoided. Many unsafe herbal supplements during pregnancy need to be avoided completely since they may cause complications further.
1. Vitamin A
Yes, vitamin A is one of the vital nutrients that are necessary during pregnancy. The development of the baby’s eyes and their immunity function relies heavily on it. However, vitamin A consumed in excess can be more harmful than useful. The solubility of vitamin A in the fat results in the liver storing large amounts of it within itself. This storage starts getting toxic and can damage the liver. It could also be the reason for various birth defects in the baby. Most multivitamins and healthy diets have a good quantity of vitamin A in them. Therefore, using supplements for it is generally not advised.
2. Vitamin E
This vitamin too is extremely important in ensuring that many bodily processes function smoothly. Moreover, some crucial ones such as the functioning of the immunity and gene expression rely on it, too. But supplementing it additionally with external sources is ill-advised. Such supplementation barely has any positive effects on the mother or her baby but is known to aggravate pain in the abdomen as well as rupture the amniotic sack inside the mother prematurely.
3. Black Cohosh
Many people advise using the black cohosh plant for a large variety of reasons. Most of them revolve around control of hot flashes as well as relief from menstrual cramps. But, black cohosh is a known factor in causing liver damage in people. Moreover, in case of pregnant women, there is a possibility of black cohosh resulting in contractions of the uterus that could trigger premature labour.
This plant is rather well known to be a part of people’s diets as a supplement that takes care of infections in the respiratory tract, as well as relief from diarrhoea. However, there are doubts about its side effects on pregnancy. The goldenseal plant is known to have a substance called berberine. This has been single-handedly responsible for causing extreme cases of jaundice in babies, as well as causing a rare brain-damaging condition termed kernicterus which is known to be fatal.
5. Dong Quai
Dong Quai is one of those exotic roots that has been used by people since a thousand years ago. It is quite popular in China with their traditional medicinal treatments. This, too, has been known to bring relief from menstrual cramps as well as control high blood pressure to a great degree, although conclusive proof for the same has not been obtained. However, taking this herbal supplement during pregnancy may cause stimulation in the uterus resulting in contractions, that could lead to an unfortunate miscarriage.
This supplement hails from the far away land of Africa. It is said to be derived from the bark of a tree that is native to the continent. A popular constituent in a number of herbal remedies of the area, it is rumoured to treat conditions of erectile dysfunction as well as reduce obesity in people. However, for pregnant women, this is absolutely a strict no-no since this herb is highly known to have adverse effects on the body such as increasing blood pressure, triggering heart attacks and even seizures.
7. Multiple Others
Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are many other herbal supplements that are termed as being extremely helpful during pregnancy but are not completely safe for consumption. Some of them are – saw palmetto, tansy, red clover, angelica, yarrow, wormwood, blue cohosh, pennyroyal, ephedra, mugwort, and many more.
A healthy life and a nutritional diet have to be at the apex of all factors during pregnancy without a doubt. Certain supplements are absolutely necessary and beneficial for good growth, but every supplement is not. These are meant as a support system to the existing diet and should not be completely relied on. A good lifestyle, exercise, meditation, relaxation, deep sleep, and healthy food cannot be beaten by consumption of a few supplements. As with anything out of the ordinary, it is good to run them by your doctor and get their professional opinion specific to your case so that you always stay safe and healthy no matter what.
Also read: Guide To Prenatal Vitamins During Pregnancy