Pregnancy Supplements- What to Take & When
Pregnancy Supplements- What to Take & When

You’re expecting a little one and you want to do the best for your own health and the health of your baby. So should you be taking food supplements?  All women should take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily before pregnancy and throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to reduce the risk of defects in the baby’s spinal cord. But what about other vitamins and minerals? Dr Dan McCartney of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute says: “Obviously, it is ideal to get enough nutrients during pregnancy from food sources, but taking a supplement can be a pragmatic response to a lack of certain vitamins and minerals. “ Professor Cecily Begley, Chair of Nursing and Midwifery at Trinity College Dublin says: “There should be no need for pregnant women to take supplements if their diet is good with five or more fruit and veg [servings] a day, enough protein and carbohydrates and sufficient calcium.”

Supplements for Special groups
According to Dr McCartney, women who fall into a number of special groups might benefit from supplements. These include vegetarians and vegans; teenage mums; women with malabsorptive disorders such as Crohn’s disease; women with untreated coeliac disease or metabolic conditions such as diabetes, and those who have food intolerances. For women who do not eat much red meat, their GP may prescribe an iron supplement as anaemia can be a potential problem.

Calcium and vitamin D
According to Prof Begley: “Women whose diet contains less than 900mg of calcium per day should take a supplement of 1g calcium. He adds: “Vitamin D supplementation (10 micrograms per day) is recommended in the later stages of pregnancy for women who are vulnerable to low vitamin D levels. For example, dark-skinned women; those who wear total cover-up clothing; those with a diet low in vitamin D; and women with a BMI of more than 30. According to Dr McCartney, omega 3 fish oils can be beneficial as well, but supplements must not contain vitamin A. This is the one supplement to avoid as it can be especially harmful to your baby.  A new generation of combined pregnancy supplements are now also available, but Prof Begley says: “These are not a good idea as you maybe taking in more than you need of one vitamin, and this could actually be harmful to you or your baby.

Supplements and Multiple Pregnancies
According to Dr McCartney: “Logically, if you are mineralising two foetal skeletons rather than one, this will have implications for calcium and vitamin D levels in the mum’s body. Babies will always take what they need from mum, so it is more of a case of the woman making sure she doesn’t develop osteoporosis later in life.” In terms of pregnancy supplements being potentially harmful to women or their unborn babies, Dr Mary Flynn, Chief Specialist in Public Health Nutrition at the Food Safety Authority of Ireland advises: “Apart from folic acid, pregnant women in Ireland should not take anything else unless specifically directed to do so by their doctor.”