Importance of food supplements during pregnancy
Why are dietary supplements an ally during pregnancy?
Pregnancy and welcoming a baby into the home are rich in emotions. At the level of the woman’s body, many changes take place, because yes, conceiving a baby is magical and trying! Thus, a healthy, varied, and balanced diet is necessary to have a good nutritional balance. This allows the mother to feel less tired and to limit the drop in energy.
For the fetus to develop and grow properly, the mother’s nutritional reserves must be at their best! Indeed, in case of insufficient nutrient supply to the baby, the latter will draw directly from the maternal reserves. Therefore, food supplements specifically dedicated to pregnancy are allies: they provide all the necessary nutrients (vitamins, minerals, specific active ingredients), in optimal doses, and reinforce the synergies between the ingredients.
Overview of key nutrients for a healthy pregnancy
Selection of nutrients involved in the proper development of the fetal nervous system
Vitamin B9 is of vital importance from the earliest stages of fetal development until the end of the main trimester of pregnancy. Indeed, it allows the growth of maternal tissues such as the placenta. It is also essential for the formation of the baby’s brain, blood, and nervous system.
From the fourth week after fertilization, the neural tube is established. From this point on, the entire nervous system will be able to develop. If the vitamin B9 intake is not sufficient, there may be an anomaly in the closure of the neural tube. In France, the incidence of this anomaly is about 1 in 1000 births. It is therefore essential to have good reserves of vitamin B9 before becoming pregnant, ideally 2 to 3 months before the pregnancy.
Omega-3s, particularly DHA, play a major role in the development of the fetus’ brain and eyes. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. However, during pregnancy, vigilance is required. Indeed, seas and oceans are more and more polluted by heavy metals and micro-plastics. These pollutants will accumulate in fish at the end of the food chain. It is therefore preferable during pregnancy to select omega-3 from plant sources such as certain algae that are naturally rich in DHA.
Iodine is a mineral that contributes to normal cognitive function. This nutrient is present in minimal concentrations in the body but is essential for thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are produced from iodine and are involved in many metabolic reactions. It is therefore important to ensure a regular intake of iodine. Note that salty food is not necessarily iodized. Check the label to make sure it is iodized salt!
Choline is a nutrient that is essential to the proper functioning of the body. During pregnancy, low choline levels will also pose a risk of neural tube defects in the infant. Choline can indeed cross the placental barrier and allow the good development of the brain.
Selection of nutrients involved in the formation of the fetal skeleton
Calcium is a mineral whose needs increase by 30% during pregnancy. Calcium is necessary for the formation of the fetal skeleton. If the mother’s reserves are not sufficient, the baby can get what it needs directly from the mother’s bones by remobilizing calcium. A good calcium intake also reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia (a pregnancy condition characterized by an increase in blood pressure occurring in the middle of the second trimester).
Vitamin D acts in synergy with calcium by increasing its absorption. This vitamin is also important for the immune system and the mechanisms of cell division. Despite its obvious importance for the body, it is important to note that about 80% of pregnant women in Belgium have low vitamin D levels. However, this vitamin is easily found in salmon, sardines, or egg yolks. And don’t forget, sunlight is the main source of vitamin D. It is therefore recommended to spend at least half an hour a day outdoors to allow your body to synthesize the vitamin D you need.
Two important bonus nutrients for mother and fetus
Iron is necessary for the normal formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin, which is needed to transport oxygen across the placenta. During pregnancy, pregnant women have more blood and therefore need more iron. This will also help the baby build up its iron stores. To ensure better assimilation of iron, it is important to take vitamin C. Eating an orange at the end of a meal will help you absorb the iron and provide fiber, killing two birds with one stone!
Vitamin A is often controversial when associated with pregnancy. Indeed, some people talk about the risk of congenital malformation for the fetus in case of excess vitamin A. This risk excites, but for dosages of more than 10 000 IU more than 6 mg per daily portion. About the dosages authorized in Europe for the products of pregnancy, there is thus no risk. The limits are well below! So don’t skip out on vitamin A, because both the mother and the fetus must ensure normal vision and normal functioning of the immune system.
Pregnancy is a period that requires special attention to the quality and diversity of the diet. The latter is essential for the mother’s nutritional reserves to be optimal to satisfy the development of the fetus. During the main trimester, the brain and nervous system of the fetus are being established. Nutrients such as vitamin B9 or omega-3 are particularly key. However, other nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D will also play an important role in the development of the baby’s skeleton. Also, iron and vitamin A should not be neglected. So, vary your diet as much as possible to take care of yourself and your baby, this is the key to a nutritionally fulfilled pregnancy.