There is plenty of conflicting advice on what to eat and drink while expecting a baby, and deciding which ideas to take onboard can be confusing. Fads come and go, but there are five nutrients which are widely considered to be important for every developing baby:
Both in the months leading up to a pregnancy and throughout the first trimester, folic acid is recommended to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects - birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord. The Department of Health suggests all women take a 400mg supplement daily during the initial 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Vitamin D aids calcium and phosphorous absorption, vital for the development of healthy bones in a growing baby. Vitamin D is naturally found in oily dish and eggs, and small amounts in butter and margarine. The human body’s main source of vitamin D is that which is created by skin it is exposed to sunshine, but that can be a problem in the UK!
Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to the brain and eye development of your baby, as well as helping to protect you from heart disease in the long-term. There is no official recommendation that pregnant women take omega-3 supplements, but if you eat oily fish once a week you are not likely to need to.
When you are first carrying a baby, you may have low iron stores or be slight anaemic, which is when the bloods ability to carry oxygen is lowered. You may be advised to take iron supplements as iron is needed to make healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body - including to your baby. However, supplements can cause constipation and interfere with the absorption of other nutrients, so increase the amount of iron in your diet - red meat, baked beans and bread are all good sources - instead if possible.
Even when you are not pregnant, you need iodine so your body can make thyroid hormones that regulate your metabolism. When you are expecting, thyroid hormones are needed to develop the baby’s brain and bones. People with a balanced diet including milk, other dairy products and fish will get enough iodine, but if you gain weight, begin to get very tired, or your thyroid gland swells, speaking to your GP or midwife about a supplement, as these are symptoms of iodine deficiency.
What nutrients would you recommend to expectant mums?