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Vitamins-Mineral Supplements


 

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Pregnancy and lactation will increase a woman's need for many vitamins and minerals. The most important thing for women who are preparing for pregnancy or between pregnancies to do is eat a well-selected diet with a rich supply of fruit, vegetables, calcium-rich food and adequate sources of zinc and iron. During pregnancy, a prenatal vitamin-mineral supplement is usually prescribed by the doctor.

If you are already taking vitamin or mineral supplements be sure to discuss this right away with your physician as too much can be harmful. For example, excess intake of vitamin A has been shown to increase the risks of certain birth defects. All other dietary supplements should be discontinued, unless approved by your obstetrician.

First Trimester
During the first trimester of pregnancy, folic acid (folate) and zinc are important nutrients to promote cell division and early embryo development. An adequate amount of maternal folic acid reduces the risk of having a baby with a birth defect of the spine (neural tube defect) or spina bifida. Ideally, all girls and women who are in their childbearing years should consume at least 400 micrograms of folate daily. Once pregnant, 600 micrograms per day is needed. Folic acid is naturally high in many foods, and it is now added to fortify many grain products in the United States. If you are not eating enough folic acid, a multivitamin-mineral supplement with folic acid is recommended.

In early pregnancy, zinc supplementation is not usually recommended, however, adequate consumption of zinc in foods and conditions for optimum absorption are urged. During pregnancy, zinc requirements increase from 12 mg to 15 mg per day.

Second and Third Trimester
During the second and third trimester of pregnancy, iron and calcium requirements significantly increase as the fetus begins to draw more from the mother to meet its own demands. The dietary recommendation for iron doubles at this time (from 15 to 30 mg). The iron content of prenatal vitamin-mineral formulas is generally 30 mg. It is also contained in several key foods such as fortified grain products, red meats and legumes. Your health care provider may prescribe extra iron if lab tests indicate you are anemic. Some women find supplemental iron difficult to tolerate because of its effect on their digestive tract. Be sure to discuss your concerns about this with your physician. Dietary adjustments, supplement adjustments or a combination of both can help.

It is best to take your prenatal vitamin on an empty stomach with water or juice. If it upsets your stomach take with a small amount of food. For best absorption, do not take your supplement with milk, dairy products, coffee, tea, other vitamins or minerals, or antacids.

Prenatal supplements are not highly fortified with calcium. It is generally recommended that calcium be consumed in food. In addition to milk, cheese and yogurt, there are several good calcium-fortified foods from which to choose. If you don't have enough calcium rich foods in your diet, you may need an additional calcium supplement. Iron and calcium supplements should not be taken together as calcium will interfere with the absorption of iron.

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