The value of vitamins  during pregnancy

The value of vitamins during pregnancy

It is a common belief that tablets given to pregnant women at the hospital during their routine clinic visits make the unborn child big, increasing the risk in natural labour, with a high possibility of C-section. Majority of women, especial in the rural areas tend to believe this misconception, and avoid taking the prescribed vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. Little do they know that this act could be detrimental to the general health and development of the unborn infant

What is the value of these vitamins during this period?

Your body uses vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in food to help it stay strong and healthy. During pregnancy, your baby gets all the nutrients she needs from you. So you need more during pregnancy than you did before pregnancy. Taking prenatal vitamins and eating healthy foods can help give you all the nutrients you and your baby need during pregnancy. Your prenatal vitamin contains the right amount of nutrients you need during pregnancy.

Which nutrients are most important during pregnancy?

All nutrients are important, but these six play a key role in your baby’s growth and development during pregnancy: Folic acid, Iron, Calcium, Vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acid, and Iodine.

Folic acid – Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called NEURAL TUBE DEFECTS. Some studies show that taking folic acid may help prevent HEART DEFECTS and birth defects in your baby’s mouth called CLEFT LIP AND PALATE. Folic acid only works to prevent Neural tube defects if taken a month before and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
You can get folic acid from some fruits and vegetables including but not limited to: Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and broccoli, lentils and beans, orange juice.

Iron – Iron is a mineral. You need twice as much iron during pregnancy than you did before pregnancy. When you’re pregnant, your body needs this iron to make more blood so it can carry oxygen to your baby. Your baby needs iron to make its own blood.

Good sources of iron include:

  • Lean meat, poultry and seafood
  • Cereal, bread and pasta that has iron added to it (check the package label)
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Beans, nuts, raisins and dried fruit

If you do not get enough iron during pregnancy, you may be more likely to: Get infections, have anaemia, (this means you have too little iron in your blood), be fatigued, that is, you feel really tired or exhausted, Have a premature baby, meaning your baby is born too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Calcium– Calcium is a mineral that helps your baby’s bones, teeth, heart, muscles and nerves develop. Good sources of calcium include:  Milk, cheese and yogurt, Broccoli and kale.
If you do not get enough calcium during pregnancy, your body takes it from your bones and gives it to your baby. This can cause health conditions like osteoporosis later in life. In this condition, your bones become thin and break easily/ brittle.

Vitamin D– Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. It also helps your body’s nerves, muscles and immune system work. Your immune system protects your body from infection. Your baby needs vitamin D to help his bones and teeth grow.

Good sources of vitamin D include: Fatty fish, like salmon, Milk and cereal that has vitamin D added to it (check the package label).
Your body also makes vitamin D when your skin comes in contact with sunlight. But too much sun can lead to skin aging and cancer, so it’s a good idea to get your vitamin D from food or your prenatal vitamin.

NB: Don’t take any supplements without your doctor’s approval!
If you’re planning to get pregnant, you can start taking prenatal vitamins before you get pregnant.

Retsélisitsoe Nkhahle

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