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Pregnancy Pregnancy Nutrition Ė The Need for Vitamin Supplements

There are few times in our lives when nutrition is more important than when weíre pregnant. The choices you make now can make a difference in your child's life, not just in infancy but, in some cases, for the entire rest of their lives. Taking a vitamin supplement is one action you can take to be sure youíre providing your baby with everything she needs for optimum health and well-being.

Vitamin supplements are especially important for women who are limited in their food intake, either by choice Ė such as being a vegetarian or vegan Ė or by necessity, in the case of being lactose intolerant or having food allergies. Itís also a good idea to begin supplementing your diet with prenatal vitamins for a period of at least one month before you begin trying to conceive so that your body will have stores of these important nutrients on hand.

One of the most important things youíll get from a vitamin supplement is folic acid. There are very few natural sources of folic acid in food, and the folic acid in food isnít easily absorbed by our bodies. Folic acid is an essential vitamin, however, because adequate levels can prevent a specific type of birth defect known as a neural tube defect. Research has shown getting enough folic acid means a 70 percent lower chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect. Your prenatal vitamin should contain a minimum of 600 mcg of folic acid, and you should begin supplementing with this important vitamin before you conceive. If youíve previously had a child with a neural tube defect, your health care provider may want you to take a higher dose of this important vitamin.

While youíre pregnant, youíll also have an increased need for iron. Your blood volume will increase while youíre pregnant, so your body has a hard time getting enough iron to go around. The amount of iron you need while pregnant is twice as much as when you arenít pregnant Ė about 27 mg each day. However, the higher amounts of iron in prescription prenatal vitamins can cause some women to become constipated or have other digestive problems Ė if you experience this, talk with your doctor. Also, be sure to keep your prenatal supplements out of the reach of children, as products containing iron can be fatal to them. Getting enough vitamin C will also help your body absorb the iron it needs.

Your need for calcium also increases while youíre pregnant. You need about 1,000 mg each day to make sure your baby gets what she needs and to decrease your chances of developing osteoporosis later in life. The best way to get the additional calcium you need, however, isnít in a supplement, but from adding additional servings to your diet. If you have trouble getting the calcium you need in your diet, add a separate calcium supplement. Many expectant moms find one of the new chewable chocolate calcium supplements to be a fun choice.

Essential fatty acids are another important nutrient for both you and your baby, but they arenít typically included in prenatal vitamins. You need 300 mg of DHA, a specific essential fatty acid, every day throughout pregnancy and unless you include salmon or trout in your diet on a weekly basis, youíll probably need to take a separate supplement to get the DHA you need.

Whatever prenatal vitamin supplement you choose, remember that itís no substitute for eating an overall healthy diet. Focus on making healthy choices and eliminating junk food and youíll do a great service to yourself and to your unborn baby.

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