a mother's need for several vitamins increases to support growth
of both maternal and fetal tissues. Vitamins are substances that
are required in very small amounts for specific metabolic tasks.
Since vitamins cannot be made by the body, they must be acquired
from the diet and/or supplements. Vitamin needs during pregnancy
are usually met by a well-balanced and varied diet, but a few of
these nutrients require special attention.
Vitamins that require extra attention during pregnancy include folate,
D, and vitamin
A. Here is a summary of what's currently known about these nutrients,
along with a few good food sources. The best way to maximize your
intake of vitamins is to get them from foods. High doses of vitamin
supplements can interfere with absorption of other nutrients
and, in extremely high doses, some nutrients increase risks of birth
Vitamins in Pregnancy
pregnancy, folate plays a primary role helping cells to multiply
in the developing fetus and protecting against maternal anemia.
A deficiency of folate can result in neural tube defects. During
early fetal development the tube that will encase your baby's
brain and spinal cord closes. A neural tube defect occurs when
this tube does not close properly. Adequate folate intake both
before and during pregnancy is important for this process to
occur correctly. As it occurs in the early weeks of pregnancy,
often before a women knows she is pregnant, folate supplementation
while preparing for pregnancy can reduce the risk of giving
birth to a child with neural tube defects by 70%. For women
who had a previous child with a known neural tube defect (NTD),
the recommendation for folic acid intake is significantly higher
and should be discussed with your doctor. Once pregnant, experts
recommend all women consume 600 micrograms (mcg) of folate daily,
through dietary sources, supplement or combination of both.
vitamin, like folate, is required for cellular growth and nervous
system development and is an important component to protect
against maternal anemia. Deficiency of vitamin B12 is rare with
a varied and well-balanced diet easily meeting the RDA of 2.2
mcg. However, women consuming a strict vegetarian diet may be
at risk for inadequacy.
C is necessary for proper wound healing, aiding iron absorption and
development of connective tissue. As this vitamin is plentiful in
the diet, it can be easily obtained through a varied diet rich in
fruits and vegetables. The minimum Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
is 70 mg during pregnancy. Large intakes of vitamin C may adversely
affect fetal metabolism and are not recommended.
D is well established as an essential component to good calcium
absorption and homeostasis. As fetal bones and teeth are developing
during pregnancy, good vitamin D intake is important for adequate
calcium absorption. The
RDA for vitamin D during pregnancy is 400 I.U. and can be obtained
from a diet rich in fortified dairy. Further, the body can produce
its own vitamin D in the skin when there is adequate exposure
to the sun's rays.
pregnancy, vitamin A needs increase as it is required for normal
growth and development of the fetus. Vitamin A is found in two
main forms in the diet including retinol and beta-carotene.
Retinol is found in dietary supplements, fortified foods and
is particularly high in animal products containing liver or
fish liver oils. Beta-carotene is one of the substances responsible
for the bright orange and yellow colors in many fruits and vegetables
and is also found in fortified foods. The current RDA for pregnant
women is set at 800 REs (2,700 I.U.). Excess intakes of vitamin
A in the retinol form, greater than 3,000 REs (10,000 I.U.),
have been shown to cause birth defects and should be avoided.
By consuming a diet plentiful in fruits and vegetables with
a wide variety of nutritious foods and limiting liver products
and retinol containing supplements, you can safely achieve adequate
intakes of this vitamin.