Vitamin C in Pregnancy: Importance and Side Effects

Vitamin C tablets and and an orange

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Vitamin C is vital to the human body as it helps build the immune system and the connective tissues. There are many whose intake of this essential vitamin is limited and hence they suffer from poor health and bleeding gums. Pregnant women are already at risk as parts of their immune system are suppressed by hormones and need collagen for the baby’s growth. Vitamin C then comes as a saving grace that can help boost the immunity of pregnant women.





Why is Vitamin C Important during Pregnancy?

Being a mother is one of the most beautiful feelings in the world and a huge change in the body. It indeed is important to heed these changes and take good care of the woman’s health which in turn takes care of the baby’s health. It is amazing that certain vitamins and minerals can prove to be beneficial during pregnancy. Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is one such vitamin. This water-soluble vitamin is not produced by the body and needs to be consumed in certain amounts. It is naturally available in abundance to us in many vegetables and citrus fruits.

  • Vitamin C benefits range from boosting the immune system to even combating cancer.
  • It is well known for fighting against cold and flu viruses.
  • It improves the absorption of iron and other minerals from food.
  • It lowers the risk of cataract.
  • It helps improve the process of wound healing.
  • The role of vitamin C in pregnancy is mainly to promote the formation of collagen which is the primary component of connective tissues. This helps in healthy growth and development of the baby’s organs.
  • Vitamin C and pregnancy are in accord as it is necessary for maintaining healthy skin, proper growth of bones and fight against infections.

How much Vitamin C do you require during Pregnancy?

Regulating one’s vitamin C intake is important. For women, the per-day intake as per National Institutes of Health (NIH) is 65-75 milligrams. During pregnancy, it is recommended to consume about 80-85 milligrams per day. This range increases to 115-120 milligrams per day for breastfeeding mothers.




Signs of Vitamin C Deficiency

Signs of vitamin C deficiency can be vague but do exist. Slow or delayed wound healing and swollen or bleeding gums are two signs that indicate the inadequacy of vitamin c. Besides this, a weak immune system, inflamed joints and increased bruising can also be symptoms of ascorbic acid deficiency. Although rare, severe vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy.

Best Food Sources of Vitamin C

Natural sources of vitamin C (fruits and vegetables)

Listed below are natural foods which have a high Vitamin C content:





1. Vegetables:

Tomato, pepper (red, yellow and green), cabbage, kale, broccoli, sweet potato, cauliflower.

2. Fruits:

Fruits rich in vitamin C include orange, lemon, and tangerine. Berries, apples, grapes, apricots, persimmons, peaches, strawberries and mango also have good vitamin C content. They can be consumed directly or consumed as juices.




3. Animal Sources:

Meat, fish and milk have sufficient ascorbic acid content. Lamb liver/heart(11-12mg    /100g), calf(11mg/100g), human milk(4mg/100g), cow milk(2mg/100g)

4. Briar (Thorny Bush):

Usually brewed and can be had as tea, it is a good source of vitamin C.





5. Green leaves:

Parsley is rich in vitamin C

Vitamin Rich Food Sources with Quantity

Food Serving Size Vitamin C (mg)
Vegetables and Fruit
Vegetables
Peppers (red, yellow) raw 125 mL (½ cup) 101-144
Peppers (red, green), cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 121-132
Peppers, green, raw 125 mL (½ cup) 63
Broccoli, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 54
Cabbage, red, raw 250 mL (1 cup) 42
Brussels sprouts, cooked 125 mL (4 sprouts) 38-52
Kohlrabi, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 47
Broccoli, raw 125 mL (½ cup) 42
Snow peas, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 41
Cabbage, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 30
Cauliflower, raw or cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 27-29
Kale, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 28
Rapini, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 24
Potato, with skin, cooked One medium 14-31
Bok Choy, cooked 125 mL (1/2 cup) 23
Sweet potato, with skin, cooked One medium 22
Asparagus, frozen, cooked six spears 22
Balsam-pear/bitter melon 125 mL (½ cup) 22
Turnip greens, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 21
Snow peas, raw 125 mL (½ cup) 20
Collards, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 18
Tomato, raw one medium 14
Tomato sauce, canned 125 mL (½ cup) 8-9
Tomatoes, canned, stewed 125 mL (½ cup) 11-12
Fruit
Guava 1 fruit 206
Papaya ½ fruit 94
Kiwifruit 1 large 84
Orange one medium 59-83
Lychee 10 fruits 69
Strawberries 125 mL (½ cup) 52
Pineapple 125 mL (½ cup) 42-49
Grapefruit, pink or red ½ fruit 38-47
Clementine one fruit 36
Cantaloupe 125 mL (½ cup) 31
Mango ½ fruit 38
Avocado, Florida ½ fruit 26
Soursop 125 mL (½ cup) 25
Tangerine or mandarin one medium 24
Persimmon 125 mL (½ cup) 17
Berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) 125 mL (½ cup) 14-17
Juice
Juice (orange, grapefruit, apple, pineapple, grape) , Vitamin C added 125 mL (½ cup) 23 – 66
Fruit and vegetable cocktail 125 mL (½ cup) 35 – 73
Guava nectar 125 mL (½ cup) 26
Grain Products This food group contains very little of this nutrient.
Milk and Alternatives This food group contains very little of this nutrient.
Meats and Alternatives This food group contains very little of this nutrient.

Source: “Canadian Nutrient File 2015”
www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/fiche-nutri-data/index-eng.php
[Accessed October 17, 2016].




Are Vitamin C Supplements Safe to Consume during Pregnancy?

A glass of orange juice and vitamin C tablets

Consuming them during daily meals in a well-balanced diet is the safest way and is sufficient to meet the required needs. Some studies have shown that high vitamin C supplement consumption can increase the risk of premature birth. There are also some reports of babies developing scurvy due to mothers taking vitamin C supplements. Therefore, you should consult a physician before taking any supplements.

Side Effects Of having Excessive Vitamin C

Since vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, it is not stored in our body and any excess is excreted. Still, it is important to keep in mind not to consume extremely high dosage (>2000 milligrams). Here are a few effects of vitamin C overdose in pregnancy:





Another concern for pregnant women is, can too much vitamin C cause miscarriage? Although there have been instances of women suffering from miscarriages, there is no scientific proof that this is caused by Vitamin C. Pregnancy is a time when women need to protect their bodies and a healthy amount of this nutrient can help keep problems like low immunity at bay.

Vitamin C plays a crucial role in forming collagen and is required for healthy development of the baby. The healthiest way to intake vitamin C is by including vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables in the daily diet.




Also Read:

Taking Vitamin E during Pregnancy
Vitamins Intake during Pregnancy
Vitamin A during Pregnancy