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Nutritional Needs at the Start of Pregnancy

Are you pregnant or planning to be? You’ll need antenatal vitamins; the same goes if you’re breastfeeding.

Antenatal vitamins are specially formulated vitamins that include supplements like vitamin D and folic acid. Unfortunately, healthy eating is not enough to achieve the daily recommended requirements for antenatal vitamins in pregnant, pregnant-to-be or nursing women.

Folic acid is an essential nutrient that aids in proper development of the baby, particularly in the areas of the spinal cord and brain. Deficiency may result in birth defects like spina bifida.

For women planning to get pregnant, it is highly recommended that they take 400 mg of folic acid every day prior to conception. This should continue through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Women who have not started taking folic acid should do so as soon as possible before they get started on the pregnancy.

There are certain women whose babies are at a higher risk of spina bifida and similar birth defects. A higher dose of folic acid is advisable. Wondering who is at risk for neural tube defects?

  • Women who previously had a baby with this birth defect
  • Women with male partners with a family history of neural tube defects
  • Diabetic or obese women (or those with a BMI over 30)

 

Women under epilepsy medication will need to consult their doctor if they need a higher dose of folic acid. For those expecting twins, the same folic acid dose may be taken as those expecting a single child, unless otherwise advised by their doctor.

Vitamin D is also an essential nutrient prior to or during pregnancy or while nursing. It is crucial for the development of healthy bones and teeth. Deficiency can lead to complications like pregnancy diabetes, preeclampsia and low birth weight.

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