Food Supplements & Pregnancy: What Can You Take?

Pregnancy is an exciting time. Much changes – including the expectant mother’s nutritional needs. Certain micronutrients are then particularly important, while others in too large amounts can even be harmful to women and children. If you want to know what to look out for in order to provide the best possible care for you and your child, you will find all the important answers here.

In this article you will learn:

  • How nutritional needs change during pregnancy
  • How useful food supplements are during pregnancy
  • Which nutrients are important in pregnancy
  • How you, as a pregnant woman, take care of your well-being

This is how your nutritional needs change during pregnancy

Pregnancy is without question a special time. As the embryo develops into a fetus, not only does the excitement increase, but also the nutritional needs of the expectant mother, since from now on she no longer only nourishes herself but also a growing organism.

During the development of the baby, there is an immense growth of cells and the formation of tissues , for which both sufficient energy in the form of macronutrients and a good base of micronutrients are  required for all processes to run correctly.

Although certain micronutrients become more important during pregnancy, you should never be rash about dietary supplements grasp. Multipreparations with several vitamins, minerals and the like in particular require a detailed inspection by you or, even better, your doctor before taking them. The general rule is that dietary supplements can also have undesirable effects  if they are not adapted to individual needs.

With regard to the combination supplements, you should be particularly careful not to consume too much of the pure vitamin As. You and your baby need this vitamin. However, if too high a dose can be teratogenic. It is better if you consume beta-carotene and other carotenes. Your body converts these into this vitamin itself as needed – without the risk of an overdose.

So that you can get the most out of a dietary supplement, you should know exactly what to look out for.

Diet and Supplements in Pregnancy

The German Nutrition Society (DGE) published the so-called “ Uniform Recommendations for Action for Pregnancy ” in December 2018 on the basis of the current scientific data . This includes general recommendations for the period during pregnancy as well as for women who want to have children.

In this publication, the DGE emphasizes that pregnant women should pay particular attention to the quality of their diet. The reason for this is that the need for certain micronutrients in relation to the energy needs increases significantly more during pregnancy. The supposed wisdom that a pregnant woman eats for two is therefore not true.To meet the increased need for micronutrients, it does not make sense to simply eat twice a normal serving . It is more important to eat the right thing.

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A balanced diet, which mainly contains foods with a high density of micronutrients, is the basis for a good supply of nutrients. In particular, the following are recommended in large

quantities:

  • vegetables
  • fruit
  • legumes
  • whole grain products

Moderate consumption is recommended for:

  • milk and milkproducts
  • Low-fat meat and low-fat sausages
  • Oily marine fish
  • Owner

On the other hand, thrift is the order of the day:

  • Sweets
  • Sugary drinks
  • The snack product
  • Fats with a lot of saturated fatty acids (especially animal fats) and oils (rapeseed and olive oil are preferable)

Of course, alcohol is also taboo . Dietary supplements in liquid form to which alcohol has been added are therefore not suitable for pregnant women. The DGE also recommends a significantly increased intake of folic acid and iodine at least four weeks before and from the start of pregnancy. Among other things,

folic acid supports cell division and growth processes, which is essential for a developing fetus. A diet high in folic acid consists mainly of lots of green vegetables, especially leafy greens like spinach and salads . Here you should access it three times a day.

Spinach and lettuce should be eaten particularly often during pregnancy.

Ideally, you should only wash the vegetables briefly, without chopping them up beforehand, and prefer steaming to cooking , because this preserves more nutrients, because folic acid is a sensitive one. It is sensitive to both light and heat. Since it is water-soluble, it is also washed out of the food if it is soaked for a long time. In addition to green vegetables, tomatoes, legumes, nuts, oranges, sprouts, wheat germ, whole grain products and dairy products are rich in folic acid.

Supplementation with folic acid:
The salts of folic acid are called folates. There are different compounds that meet the folic acid requirement. Based on scientific findings, we now know that folic acid supplementation of 400 micrograms (µg) per day can reduce the risk of neural tube defects four weeks before and from the start of pregnancy.

If you have not started this dose at least four weeks before the start of pregnancy, a daily amount of 800 µg folic acid is recommended.

Almost 100% of folic acid is used by the body on an empty stomach. If folic acid is consumed together with food, this bioavailability decreases and the body absorbs less of it in total. Therefore, make sure to take it with sufficient distance from meals.

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Iodine supplementation:

Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormones, which are increasingly produced during pregnancy. At the same time, the excretion of iodine in the urine increases during this time. Since a basic supply of iodine is also necessary for the baby’s development , the DGE recommends a diet rich in iodine (iodized table salt, milk and dairy products, fish) as well as a diet of 100 (to 150) micrograms (µg) per day.

It is not advisable to consume seaweed during pregnancy. They usually contain a lot of iodine, but its content fluctuates greatly and, in addition, algae can be contaminated with harmful substances such as arsenic.

Green leafy vegetables are particularly rich in folic acid. If you eat too little of it, you should cover your needs with a dietary supplement.

Other food supplements and vitamins for pregnant women

The following food supplements and vitamins can also be taken by pregnant women under certain circumstances and after consultation with a doctor :

If necessary, iron:
Many women supplement with iron. However, you should be careful with this during pregnancy. Targeted iron supplementation ordered by the doctor only makes sense after a doctor has diagnosed an undersupply.

If necessary magnesium:
The DGE recommends a daily magnesium intake of 310 milligrams (mg) per day for pregnant women (ideally through food). Expectant mothers under the age of 19 should ingest 350 mg. Foods that are particularly rich in magnesium include wheat bran, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, dark chocolate, cashews, and peanuts. If you are not sure whether you are getting enough magnesium, consult a doctor who will recommend a supplement if necessary.

If applicable, vitamin D:

If you are not regularly exposed to sunlight during your pregnancy, an intake of 20 micrograms (µg) of vitamin D per day is recommended. This is equivalent to 800 International Units (IU) per day.

If applicable, omega-3 fatty acids:

Do you eat little or no high-fat sea fish? Since a daily dose of 200 milligrams (mg) DHA per day is recommended, dietary supplementation can also make sense in this case. (DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid and is one of the omega-3 fatty acids.)

Vitamin B12 – applies especially to vegans:
Pregnant and breastfeeding women have an increased need for vitamin B12. Since this occurs only in foods of animal origin, a dietary supplement is recommended for expectant mothers who are vegan or mostly plant-based. If you think this might apply to you, you should have your vitamin B12 status checked by a doctor. If necessary, your doctor will prescribe an appropriate preparation for you. A supply of a dietary supplement may also make sense here.

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This is how you, as a pregnant woman, take care of your well-being

As always, a conscious lifestyle is the basis for health and well-being – even during pregnancy. So provide yourself and your baby with everything that is good for you during this exciting time.

Take the nutrition tips above to heart to help you meet your micronutrient supply every day. These foods also contain enough fiber, which is good for your intestinal flora and digestion .

If you are vegetarian or vegan , make sure you are getting enough protein. Good sources are dairy products (for vegetarians) as well as legumes, tofu, chia and hemp seeds, broccoli, nuts, kernels, oatmeal and potatoes.

In general, you should make sure that you do not stress yourself or allow yourself to be stressed. Rather, it is worth striving to enjoy your pregnancy to the fullest. Relaxation, structured daily routines and routines will help you with this.

Meditation is a tried and tested means of finding yourself back to yourself every day. In this article  we explain five effective meditation techniques that you can use to leave the stress of everyday life behind you. Meditate as often as you feel like it. Once a day would be a good start.

A stress-free everyday life is easy on the body during pregnancy. Meditation can help with this.

Exercise is also a fundamental building block for a healthy lifestyle and should not be neglected even before pregnancy. While you can usually still do most sports (albeit with caution) at the beginning of the pregnancy, it becomes more and more difficult towards the end because the belly becomes larger and mobility often decreases. In this case, we recommend the article Yoga during pregnancy: What should be considered? .

Which dietary supplements are useful for pregnant women?

During the exciting period of pregnancy, the need for micronutrients increases . A balanced diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, legumes, dairy products and fish is all the more important. In addition, every pregnant woman is normally recommended to take folic acid and iodine supplements.

In certain cases (after a medical examination), preparations with folic acid, iodine, iron, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and, especially for vegans, vitamin B12 make sense.

In addition to the supply of enough nutrients, a stress-free everyday life with sufficient exercise is an important component in order to be able to enjoy your pregnancy to the fullest.

Unfortunately, minor complaints such as nausea during pregnancy are often included. If you feel sick a lot, this article may help. Are you constipated during pregnancy? Then check out our article Constipation During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding .

Despite everything, if you have the feeling that something is wrong, don’t hesitate and see a doctor. After all, not only is your health at stake, but that of your child as well

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