As expected, there are several nutrients you need more of during pregnancy for both you and your baby, but in most cases the best source of these extra vitamins and minerals is a good balanced diet. The reason you need to eat a variety of foods each day from the four food groups, is to make sure you are getting the full spectrum of nutrients required. Each food group provides it's own unique array of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and carbohydrates.
The two notable exceptions are folic acid and iodine- you need to take these nutrients in tablet form to make sure you get enough during pregnancy. Folic acid (a B-vitamin) and iodine (a mineral) are both essential nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy and are critical for your baby's normal growth and development. It's difficult to get enough from food, so it's recommended that pregnant women in NZ take a folic acid tablet as well as an iodine tablet.
In fact, a folic acid tablet should be started when you're planning pregnancy (at least 4 weeks before you might become pregnant) and right through until you're 12 weeks pregnant as it reduces the risk of Neural Tube Defects such as spina bifida. Take an iodine tablet right from when you first find out you are pregnant, and during breastfeeding as iodine is essential for baby's normal brain development. Your GP or LMC can give you a script for both tablets so you can get them more cheaply at the pharmacy. Otherwise talk to a pharmacist about which folic acid and iodine tablets are best for pregnancy.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin which is made when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Small amounts are also found in certain foods, but not enough to meet our requirements. If you don’t expose your skin to any sunlight, or keep yourself fully covered in clothing for most of the year, you may need to discuss a Vitamin D supplement with your doctor or LMC. Always follow the recommendations for safe sun exposure during pregnancy.
Iron can also be an issue for you during pregnancy. If your iron levels are found to be low after a blood test, your doctor may prescribe an iron tablet. Low iron can especially be a problem in the 2nd or 3rd trimester, because it's difficult to get enough iron from food to keep up with the demands from your growing baby.
If you feel you may be missing out on an important nutrient and may need to take a pregnancy vitamin or mineral supplement, talk to your doctor or LMC for advice.
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