Why supplements pre-conception and pregnancy?

How supplements can help during Pre-conception and Pregnancy

It is not hard to understand why we need extra nutrients to make a baby; babies are rather sizable things, and they are made solely from what their mother eats and what already exists in her body. This may seem simplistic, but it is actually quite profound. It is important that we see nutrients; protein, carbs, fats (macro-nutrients) and minerals, vitamins (micro-nutrients), as building blocks that enable the growth and development of healthy babies and healthy adults.

 

Specific Nutrients and their use in pregnancy: 

  •  B Vitamins are necessary co-factors for energy production in the body. B vitamins are also vital in the metabolism of fats and proteins and the conversion of carbohydrates in glucose.
  • Thiamine B1 and Riboflavin B2 depletion is common during pregnancy. Supplementation of thiamine and riboflavin early in pregnancy has been shown to increase infant birth size and weight.

  • Niacin B3 supplementation is also associated with improving birth measurements.

  • Pyridoxine B6 deficiency is very common during pregnancy.

  • B6 supplementation can improve the symptoms of morning sickness and supplementation may prevent toxaemia of pregnancy (pre-eclampsia).

  • Cyanocobalamin B12 is essential in nervous system function, helps to build healthy red blood cells, may increase energy levels.

  • Folic Acid is very important during pregnancy since it is needed for the division of cells in the body such as those in a growing foetus.

  • Folic acid deficiency causes neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the neonate.

  • Vitamin E is a major lipid antioxidant in the body. Lower plasma vitamin E levels may be associated with increased risk of pre-eclampsia as well as premature and low-birth-weight infants.

  • Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that protects cells. Vitamin C is also important in proper immune function and in the absorption of iron and calcium. It may also be as effective as calcium for leg cramps during pregnancy.

  • Vitamin D3 is essential in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from food or supplemental sources. Vitamin D absorption is increased during pregnancy.

  • Biotin is an important nutrient for healthy hair, skin and nails.

  • Inositol is recognised as part of the B-complex vitamins. It works closely with choline as one of the primary components of the cell membrane. It is also needed for growth of the cells of the bone marrow, eyes, and intestines.

  • Choline is required for healthy development of the neurological system of the growing baby. Beta-carotene works in areas of low oxygen tension, making it an excellent antioxidant for the lungs and blood.

  • Vitamin A is necessary for the growth and repair of epithelial (skin and organ linings) and mucous surfaces (lungs and gastrointestinal tract). Vitamin A is also important to build red blood cells and healthy immune function.

  • Zinc is required for proper foetal growth and immune function. Maternal deficiency of zinc is associated with many complications including pre-eclampsia.

  • Calcium is vital to the health of bones and teeth in both the foetus and the mother. It also aids in the development of healthy nerves, heart, and muscles, and is needed for the secretion of hormones such as insulin. A low intake of calcium is associated with pre-eclampsia.

  • Magnesium helps to build strong bones and teeth, relaxes muscles as well as aiding in the function of hundreds of enzymes. Magnesium also helps to regulate insulin and blood sugar levels.

  • Selenium deficiency can increase risks of pre-eclampsia by up to four fold. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant.

  • Other Minerals - potassium, manganese, molybdenum are involved in muscle activity, energy metabolism and the synthesis of fats and carbohydrates.

  • Chromium regulates blood sugar levels.

  • Iodine is important for the normal healthy functioning of the thyroid gland, as well as healthy growth and development. Adequate levels of iodine are necessary for a normal healthy pregnancy.

  • Vitamin K is necessary for the formation of thrombin, which is critical to blood clotting. Insufficient vitamin K can contribute to postpartum hemorrhaging.

  • Coenzyme Q10 helps the body's energy reserves and supports energy production. Iron requirements double in pregnancy chiefly to keep up with the production of haemoglobin (the compound that carries oxygen in red blood cells) in mother and foetus.

 

A good diet alone is simply not enough.

Many people feel that if they are eating a reasonable varied diet there is simply no need to supplement, and that supplements are unnecessary and expensive. Although a good diet is the absolute foundation of good health and nutrition, and we always give clients extensive counselling about what constitutes a “good” diet, there are many compelling reasons to supplement even the most fabulous diet.

 

Nutritional Needs Can Double During Pregnancy.

While food needs for a pregnant woman can increase 15-20%, the need for some specific nutrients can actually double. While an adult may show no specific signs of any given nutrient deficiency, the lack of it can have much more detrimental consequences to a developing foetus.

 

Food Just Ain’t What It Used To Be.

The farming practices of the modern world mean that the nutrient levels of our soils are very depleted. If the nutrients are not present in the soils, they cannot be transferred to the foods that are grown there. This is particularly true of minerals that are lost due to over-farming; zinc, selenium, iron, magnesium, chromium etc. Fertilisers are then used to boost production and make for increased size and speed of growth, but compromise the nutritional value of crops. Then the food is further assaulted with pesticides, herbicides and sprays, picked in an often unripe state and transported many miles, sometimes even half way around the world, further depleting vitamin stores.

 

The refining processes that many foods go through is extensive and strips many more of the nutrients from the food. Wheat is a perfect example of this, where the outside germ and husks are removed, leaving only the starchy interior, which is then milled to become white flour.

Not only are the most nutritional parts of the plant removed, but this means that when we eat white flour, essential nutrients from our own bodies must be used up in order to metabolise and process the flour.

 

Everyone Is Different.

We are all different and have differing nutritional needs. Medical conditions such as chronic digestive disturbances can impair absorption of nutrients, chronic immune problems use up stores of zinc and selenium, and there are many more examples.

Those parents of older age will need greater nutrients than younger parents due to increased exposure to environmental pollutants and more years ingesting refined foods and others that deplete nutrients such as coffee, and alcohol.

 

Environment and Lifestyle Factors Deplete Nutrients.

We all live in a polluted environment. This is not something to get freaked out about. We all do what we can to minimse exposures to chemicals and pollutants, but it must still be accounted for, as it increases our need for specific nutrients, particularly antioxidants.

 

Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, Coffee Drinking, Junk Food, Sugar, Recreational Drugs, Hair Dyes, Contraceptive Use, Mercury Amalgam Fillings… all the decisions we have made in our lives have an impact on our nutritional status and nutritional needs. They therefore all also effect our fertility and the development of our babies.