Written by Jackie Arbuckle, Naturopath.
“Congratulations – you are expecting a baby!” is what I say to my pregnant patients. What I usually think is “Congratulations – you are growing another human!” Nutritional requirements increase throughout pregnancy, and are especially important in the 2nd and 3rd trimester. You are the only source of nutrition for your growing baby, which forms its whole body from your body! If supplementation and a healthy diet start early, then you will be better prepared for later in the pregnancy when your unborn baby uses up your stores of various vitamins and minerals. The baby takes all it needs from you and whatever is left over, you get. It takes TWO YEARS to nutritionally recover from a pregnancy!
Below is a list of vitamins and minerals that are essential during pregnancy, and in my naturopathic opinion, should be supplemented. Different supplements are needed at different stages of pregnancy, so if in doubt – consult your local naturopath.
Calcium (1300-2000mg per day)
Good sources of calcium: fish with bones (sardines, salmon). These are also low mercury fish (see Omega-3 below for more information).
Supplements: the amount of calcium that is absorbed depends on what it is bound too.
- • Well absorbed: Calcium citrate, Calcium orotate, Calcium phosphate. It is also better absorbed if the supplement has magnesium in it.
- • Not well absorbed: Calcium carbonate, Calcium lactate (dairy)
Good sources of magnesium: nuts (especially almonds and cashews), whole grains and seeds, legumes, bananas, avocado, leafy green vegetables, and seafood.
Supplements: the amount of magnesium that is absorbed depends on what it is bound too.
- • Well absorbed: Magnesium amino acid chelate (aspartate, citrate), Magnesium orotate, Magnesium phosphate
- • Not well absorbed: Magnesium gluconate, Magnesium chloride, Magnesium oxide, Magnesium sulphate, Magnesium carbonate. Poorly absorbed Magnesium can have a laxative effect.
Good sources of iron: red meat, chicken thighs, eggs, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
Supplements: Iron from animal meat is best absorbed as it is already in the form we use in our bodies.
- • Well absorbed: Ferrous fumarate, Ferrous succinate, Ferrous gluconate
- • Not well absorbed: Ferrous phosphate, Ferrous sulphate, Ferrous citrate. Poorly absorbed iron can lead to constipation.
Good sources of zinc: oysters (but they must be cooked in pregnancy), red meat, shellfish.
Supplements: zinc is not harnessed very well from the body during pregnancy so adequate intakes are important.
- • Well absorbed: Zinc gluconate, Zinc chelate
- • Not well absorbed: Zinc oxide
Vitamin B’s (Approximately 50mg of all major B’s and at least 400µg of folic acid, and 50µg of B12)
Good sources of Vitamin B’s: whole grains, nuts seeds, legumes, dairy, green leafy vegetables, eggs, avocado, meat (B12)
Supplements: Always take B vitamins in a B multivitamin, as they do similar things in the body, so people tend to need all in combination. They are found in similar foods, so if you are deficient in one, you are likely to be deficient in all of them. Folic acid is very fragile and is only found in really fresh food. This needs to be supplemented in pregnant women to ensure the foetus gets enough for spinal cord development. This needs to be a pregnancy specific supplement.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Approximately 2g per day, in particular approximately 800mg of DHA)
Good sources of Omega 3: Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, blue grenadier, anchovies, trout, perch, and herring. One or two meals of these fish per week is fine as they have low levels of mercury
Avoid due to high mercury levels: swordfish, flake, marlin, tuna, King mackerel, tilefish, orange roughy. These fish should not be eaten at all during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
Supplements: The main part of omega 3 fatty acids, which is beneficial during pregnancy, is DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which forms the majority of the human brain. In fact the common symptom of “baby/pregnancy brain” is actually not a “normal” part of pregnancy, but instead, it is the baby depleting the mother’s stores of DHA in her brain, leading her brain to function inadequately. It is difficult to get high enough levels of DHA in the diet so a supplement specifically concentrated with high levels of DHA is beneficial.
In pregnancy, a healthy balanced diet along with a good pregnancy specific multivitamin and fish oil (DHA omega 3), and plus separate supplements of the minerals listed above when required, is all that is usually needed.
Jackie Arbuckle is a naturopath who practices in North Fitzroy. Amongst other things, she specialises in helping pregnant women and new mums feel amazing during pregnancy and post birth. She writes a regular blog, so please subscribe on her website at www.alchemybodyandsoul.com.au If you like this information, you will also get regular updates on facebook at www.facebook.com/Alchemybodyandsoul