What supplements do you need in pregnancy?

A guest post by Umm Aasiya.

Image by Anna Pelzer from Unsplash

Bismillah

Pregnancy is a time where every mum wants to optimize her health. The well-being of baby is every mum’s concern.

Generally, people think that taking a supplement containing all essential vitamins and minerals would be beneficial for us.

However, there are only a few supplements which are recommended to be taken in pregnancy.

The nutrition needs in pregnancy

Nutritional needs are increased in pregnancy as you have to meet the demands of your growing body and your baby, through your diet.

The best way to meet this demand is to have a varied, balanced diet.

Calories

The need for calories increases in pregnancy and during breast-feeding:

  • By 70 kcal/day in the 1st trimester.
  • By 260 kcal/day in the 2nd trimester.
  • By 500 kcal/day in the 3rd trimester.
  • By 500 kcal/day for 6 months after childbirth, if exclusively breastfeeding.

Proteins

  • Increase by 1g/day in the first trimester. 
  • Increase by 8 g/day in the second trimester.
  • Increase by 26 g/day in the third trimester.

Fats

The need for overall quantity of fats remains the same. 

However, aim to consume more unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are a great source.

2 servings of fish a week will meet the demands.

Farmed fish contain micro-contaminants like mercury. If you exceed 2 servings of fish a week, you may ingest more contaminants.

To keep the balance and get nutrients, while limiting contaminants, it is best to go for 2 servings of fish a week.

Minerals

The minerals that are needed in pregnancy:

  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D 
  • Folic acid

Iron – Your doctor would check your iron level in pregnancy. If levels are found to be low, you would need to take iron supplements.

Most iron supplements cause tummy upsets, constipation in some and diarrhoea in others. You may feel sick.

A study showed that slow-release ferrous sulphate caused least tummy upset.

Iron protein succinylate is also known to be kind to the tummy. 

Iodine – It is extremely unlikely that you would be deficient in iodine as we consume iodized salt. 

However, in countries where this is not so, mums need to make sure that their diet contains enough iodine.

 Fish and shellfish are a good source of iodine.

CalciumIf you consume 3 portions of dairy a day, you would meet your calcium requirements.

I portion is provided by any of these:

  • 180ml (1/3 pint) milk.
  • 150g yoghurt.
  • 25g cheese.

All of the above nutrients should ideally be consumed through a balanced, varied and nutritious diet. 

Most people outside of pregnancy only need to eat a balanced diet to meet their daily need of nutrients, as detailed in this article.

Healthcare practitioners do not recommend taking a supplement for healthy adults. 

The supplements recommended in pregnancy

In normal pregnancy, with no underlying problems, there are only 2 supplements that are recommended to be taken.

  1. Folic acid – 400 mcg to be taken preconception till the 12th week of pregnancy.

If you are experiencing difficulty in conceiving, and in the process of seeing your doctor for it, carry on taking folic acid.

You want to make sure you become pregnant while taking folic acid.

Folic acid prevents birth defects in the baby; neural tube defects. The neural tube defects are:

  • Anencephaly- parts of the baby’s brain does not develop. These babies either die in the womb or soon after.
  • Spina bifida –There are problems in the development of the baby’s spine.

Folate is found in beans, peas, lentils, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, and dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach and mustard greens.

However, it is very difficult to get the required amount of folate through diet alone. A supplement is recommended for all women who are contemplating pregnancy.

  1. Vitamin D – 10 mcg/day of vitamin D is needed to keep your bones and muscles healthy.

Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D. However, most of us spend a lot of time indoors, especially in this COVID era.

Food sources rich in vitamin D are oily fish, eggs and red meat. Some foods contain fortified vitamin D like spreads and breakfast cereals.

However a supplement is recommended in pregnancy, as sunlight and food are unlikely to provide the required amount of Vitamin D that your body needs.

So these are the only 2 supplements you need.

What about the many pregnancy specific supplements that are marketed?

Well, you don’t really need them.

Are they harmful?

Probably not.

Nutrients to avoid in pregnancy

High doses of Vitamin A can cause harm to the baby.

Most over the counter pregnancy supplements do not contain Vitamin A.

But make sure you check that before you take any multivitamin supplements.

Avoid liver and liver products, as well as fish liver oil, as they contain large amounts of vitamin A.

To sum it up

All you need in pregnancy is folic acid and vitamin D.

Eat a healthy, varied, balanced diet.

The general tendency in the medical field is to drift away from unnecessary supplements towards good quality, wholesome food.

As mums, we need to embrace this change, and pass it on to our children.


Umm Aasiya is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. She gave up clinical practice due to health and family issues in 2020.  

She uses her years of experience to share authentic medical knowledge. 

Her aim is to empower sisters through credible information, enabling them to make informed choices about their health.

Her main focus is to connect with her Creator, learn and reflect upon the Quran as much as she can.

The rest of her time is spent looking after her husband, 3 lovely children and their cat, Lulu.

To read more of her articles, visit https://muslimahhealthmatters.com/

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