IN RECENT years pregnant women have cut out alcohol, limited caffeine and taken folic acid to ensure their growing babies get all the nutrients they need.
However a recent report found that many mums-to-be are deficient in the trace mineral iodine.
The study of 1,000 families found lower IQs and reading scores in primary school pupils whose mothers had low iodine levels during pregnancy. Iodine is just one of a myriad nutrients pregnant women need during that crucial nine months.
Pregnancy requirement: At least 2.5mcg of B12
A spokesman for Vitabiotics, who recently received The Queen’s Award for Innovation for their Pregnacare supplement range said: “It is vital for women to ensure they are getting enough of these key nutrients in their diets both prior to conception and during pregnancy itself, in order to keep both mum and baby healthy.
“There are some nutrients where it is extremely hard or even impossible to get enough from diet every day, so a supplement including 400mcg folic acid and 10mcg vitamin D is recommended by the Department of Health for all mums to be. It is also important not to forget essential nutrients such as iodine and vitamin B12.
New research by Vitamin Research Unit at the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Trinity College in Dublin has found taking vitamin B12 alongside folic acid may be more effective in combatting Neural Tube Defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida and anencephaly than taking folic acid alone.
How to get it: Expectant mothers can obtain the vitamins through a daily supplement which should ideally be taken from at least 3 months prior to conception and for the first 3 months of pregnancy. Pregnacare had always pioneered the benefits of these specific micronutrients during pregnancy. All Pregnacare supplements include the recommended levels of folic acid and vitamin D, along with a careful balance of additional nutrients such as iodine, vitamin B12, iron, selenium and magnesium.
Pregnancy requirement: 250 micrograms (mcg)
Experts from the University of Surrey and the University of Bristol found that children of women who didn’t get enough iodine were more likely to have a lower verbal IQ, reading accuracy and reading comprehension at the age of eight. More troubling was the fact that two thirds of the pregnant women in the study were iodine deficient.
Iodine is essential for the development of the brain as it is needed to build some of the body’s hormones. A severe deficiency is the leading cause of preventable brain damage in the world.
How to get it: Two portions of fish a week and three helpings of dairy (a glass of milk, pot of yogurt or matchbox-size piece of cheese) a day will cover a pregnant woman’s needs.
If you’re treating yourself to fish and chips go for haddock as it has twice as much iodine as cod. Of the oily fish mackerel is the richest source.
Pregnancy requirement: 60mcg increasing to 75mcg if you breastfeed
A selenium deficiency can affect the immune system and some experts believe that it may be related to increased miscarriage risk although this is not proven.
The average woman gets 30 per cent less selenium than the recommended level according to the Government’s National Diet And Nutrition Survey.
How to get it: A simple way to ensure you’re topped up is to have some Brazil nuts every day. A 25g handful increases an average woman’s intake to a level that amply covers the requirements of both pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Pregnancy requirement: 270 milligrams (mg) rising to 320mg while breastfeeding
During pregnancy magnesium helps build and repair the body’s tissues.
A severe deficiency may be linked to poor foetal growth and pre-eclampsia, a condition in which a pregnant woman’s blood pressure rises dangerously.
How to get it: Brazil nuts are also the hero food for magnesium. A 25g handful provides around 100mg which both makes up the average shortfall in a woman’s diet and meets the increased demands of breastfeeding.
Pregnancy requirement: 600mcg
One of the B vitamins, folic acid is essential in helping prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.
How to get it: A normal varied diet that includes green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, eggs, potatoes and wholemeal bread covers the basic non-pregnant needs of 200mcg a day.
When trying for a baby and during the first three months of pregnancy it’s necessary to take an additional 400mcg folic acid supplement.
Pregnancy requirement: 10mcg
Expectant mothers need enough vitamin D to build a store in the baby for the first months of life. Not having enough can cause a young child’s bones to soften and lead to rickets.
How to get it: Food sources include oily fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines), eggs and some fortified cereals. The best way to get vitamin D is to expose skin to any summer sunlight for 15 minutes every day.
For a consistent intake the NHS advises all pregnant and breastfeeding women to get their daily vitamin D in the form of a 10mcg supplement.
Pregnancy requirement: 1.4mg increasing to 1.6mg while breastfeeding
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is required for cells to make energy so you’ll feel fatigued if you’re deficient.
Low levels of riboflavin could also exacerbate symptoms of pregnancy anaemia.
According to the Government’s National Diet And Nutrition Survey at least one in eight women has unacceptable intakes and as pregnant women need higher amounts they are at even more risk of being deficient.
How to get it: Dairy products make the greatest contribution of riboflavin in Western diets and consuming three portions a day is the easiest way to cover the increased needs of pregnancy.
Pregnancy requirement: 14.8mg
Women need to make extra blood during pregnancy which requires a good supply of iron.
An iron deficiency (anaemia) that is significant and untreated during pregnancy can increase the risk of serious complications including premature delivery.
How to get it: Eating a combination of red meat, nuts (especially cashews), green vegetables, sardines and pulses can help keep iron levels adequate.
However up to 30 per cent of teenage girls and 17 per cent of women are affected by a low iron status and if the iron level in blood becomes too low during pregnancy an iron supplement will be advised.