A healthy, varied diet is important for ensuring both the mother and her developing baby receive adequate nutrition. Although its best to get vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, when pregnant or breastfeeding, some specific vitamins are recommended to ensure you get adequate amounts. Below are 5 key messages from an article I wrote that discussed important vitamins required around the time of pregnancy and during breastfeeding.
Several key vitamins are needed during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Wherever possible, these should be provided by a good diet. However some supplements are recommended.
Since the early 1990s, it was evident that consumption of folic acid around the time of conception could reduce the risk of neural tube defects. The UK Government advises women who may become pregnant to take a daily folic acid supplement of 400 micrograms, continuing up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
Poor maternal vitamin D status can have an impact on the infant’s vitamin D status and their long-term bone health. Many women in the UK have a low vitamin D status which, if severe, puts them at risk of osteomalacia, the adult form of rickets.
Vitamin A is essential for normal structure and function of the skin and it’s also vital for vision, growth and a healthy immune system. Large amounts of vitamin A can harm the unborn baby, causing malformations.
Vegetarian diets that contain only small amounts of dairy products and eggs, and particularly vegan diets where no animal products are consumed, are likely to be lacking in vitamin B12 (and may also be low in calcium, vitamin B2, iron and vitamin D).
Wyness L (2015) Vitamin supplementation and nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding. British Journal of Midwifery 23(10): 695-701.