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If you’re pregnant, you know that eating nutritious food is important for the healthy development of your baby. A diet rich in minerals and vitamins plays a significant role in supporting a healthy pregnancy. Vitamin B12, for instance, is crucial as it promotes the development of the nervous system and the brain in unborn babies. A deficiency of it can cause severe complications such as neural tube defects or early miscarriage.
Learn more about Vitamin B12, how it benefits during pregnancy, and more!
What Is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is water-soluble that your body can’t make it on your own. It performs many essential functions in the body. And since your body can’t make it, you have to get it from animal-based sources or supplements. Vitamin B12 foods should be consumed often as our bodies can’t store it for a long time.
How Much Vitamin B12 is Recommended in Pregnancy?
The dietary requirement of this nutrient can increase manifold during pregnancy as the growing unborn baby may require it for its optimal development. Doctors generally recommend a supply of 3.5 ugs per day when pregnant to prevent deficiency of Vitamin B12. Therefore, a pregnant woman may need a dosage of 250 to 500 ug per day to meet her daily requirement. It is sensible to keep the dosage level on a slightly higher side to cater for the rate of absorption by the human body.
Vitamin B12 Supplements During Pregnancy
There are primarily two ways of obtaining vitamin B12. One is by consuming food items rich in the Vitamin and the second is by taking additional supplements.
Are They Safe?
It may be necessary to take supplements during pregnancy if a deficiency is assumed, to avoid any probable harm to the mother and the growing foetus. But the supplements should be taken in moderation. Therefore before taking any supplements, it is wise to consult a doctor who can suggest the right dosage for you. Your doctor may suggest injections or nasal gels for Vitamin B12 deficiency in pregnancy.
In any case, being careful while pregnant should be the norm. Overdosage may not be a desirable thing. Being a water-soluble nutrient, it may get excreted out of the body by way of urine in case of excess. It may be safe to state that suitable supplementation is protective and side effects of taking vitamin B12 supplements is highly unlikely.
When to Take
Most pregnant women may get their required supply from a nutritious diet and their prenatal vitamins. However, pregnant women following restrictive diets like vegan or vegetarians may need supplements. Also, if a deficiency already exists, the doctor may suggest Vitamin B12 injections during pregnancy.
Benefits of Vitamin B12 During Pregnancy
Here’s how Vitamin B12 benefits during pregnancy!
- It helps in the absorption and digestion of food, and proper metabolism thereby preventing gastric troubles during pregnancy.
- It helps in the smooth functioning of the nervous system during pregnancy.
- It promotes healthy nerve, spine and brain development in the growing foetus.
- It can prevent the risk of anaemia in pregnant women.
- It helps boost the immune system during pregnancy.
- It can help effectively combat the various pregnancy symptoms like fatigue, weakness, mood swings, constipation.
- It also helps in the production of DNA (the molecule that holds the genetic code for every cell in our body).
How to Check for Vitamin B12 Deficiency During Pregnancy
In case you experience weakness, have rapid breathing and heart rate, or have pale skin during pregnancy, you should check with a doctor. Your doctor may suggest that you test for Vitamin B12 deficiency. The doctor may recommend some blood tests to determine the count of red blood cells and the presence of methylmalonic acid. The higher levels of methylmalonic acid may indicate lower levels of vitamin B12 in the body. In case a deficiency is diagnosed, the doctor may conduct additional tests, such as antibodies test, Schilling test to establish the type and causes of the same.
Risks and Complications
Vitamin B12 deficiency during pregnancy can pose many risks and complications for both the mom and her baby.
For the Mother
- Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause megaloblastic anaemia which can result in greater weakness or tiredness in pregnant women.
- Insufficient levels of Vitamin B12 during pregnancy can trigger gastric troubles like constipation, acidity.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency when pregnant may increase the risk of premature delivery.
- Low levels of Vitamin B12 during pregnancy can lead to the development of diabetes later on.
For the Foetus
- Neural Tube Defects
Vitamin B12 deficiency during pregnancy can trigger neural tube defects in the unborn baby, which may affect his spinal cord and brain. Neural tube defects can lead to partial paralysis and anencephaly (skull and brain are underdeveloped) which is a fatal condition.
- It May Affect the DNA Process
Low vitamin b12 in pregnancy can negatively impact the DNA synthesis process for the unborn baby.
- Low Birth Weight
Inadequate levels of Vitamin B12 during pregnancy can result in the baby being born with low birth weight.
Vitamin B12 deficiency during pregnancy may prompt certain metabolic disorders in the baby like Type 2 diabetes.
Foods Rich in Vitamin B12
Here are foods that are rich in Vitamin B12:
- Cottage cheese
- Swiss/Emmental cheese
- Fish like salmon
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Nutritional yeast
- Fortified soy milk
- Fortified foods made of soybeans or wheat gluten
- Rice beverages
- Fortified oat or almond beverage
- Feta, gruyere, gouda, brie cheese
- Soy burger
Pregnant women must ensure that their pregnancy diet consists of foods high in vitamin B12 content. Include the foods (which are safe to consume during pregnancy) from the above list and ensure that you get enough Vitamin B12. You can even opt for supplements upon consultation with your doctor if you are vegan and lower the risks of deficiency-related complications.