Should I Supplement Whilst Pregnant?
As part of our expert series, we bring back nutritionist Liz Cooper to take a look at why supplementation during pregnancy is so important
Pregnancy can be a magical and extraordinary time. Those nine months can bring feelings of excitement, anticipation and intense love as you bond with the new life growing inside you, and it can be the best time of your life. However, it can also be stressful, not least for your body, which undergoes many changes. So supporting your health with optimum nutrition is vital. According to the World Health Organisation malnutrition affects two billion people worldwide and pregnant and lactating women are particularly vulnerable to it, as they have a greater need for vitamins and minerals and are more susceptible to the consequences of suboptimal nutrition.
Throughout the pregnancy journey, certain vitamins and minerals are particularly important, such as:
- Vitamin C - essential for normal pregnancy and foetal development. Low intake before and during pregnancy can contribute to pre-term delivery and pre-eclampsia.
- Folate - known to lower the risk of neural tube defects in the foetus and recent findings suggest that continuing to take folate throughout the second and third trimester of pregnancy can influence the cognitive performance of children up to 7 years of age. Folate as opposed to folic acid is suspected of being safer as unmetabolized folic acid, i.e. folic acid which hasn’t been converted to its active form, may cause immune dysfunction and other adverse effects, although more research is warranted.
- Magnesium - excreted rapidly in times of stress and during pregnancy, magnesium can help to reduce tiredness and fatigue in pregnant and new mums as well as being a requirement for many bodily functions such as body temperature and protein synthesis.
- Zinc - deficiency of zinc affects 80% of pregnant women and while low levels are linked to complications such as prolonged labour zinc is also vital for fertility and reproduction itself.
- Vitamin D3 - commonly deficient in pregnant women, vitamin D3 can reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and low birthweight as well as being essential for the infant’s bone growth and development of their immune system, brain and nervous system.
Stores of many of these nutrients can become depleted during pregnancy so greater quantities are often required during lactation. In fact, some nutrients such as zinc can improve milk production so continuing to supplement throughout breastfeeding can be extremely beneficial for both mum and baby.
And it’s not just vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can be an issue for pregnant and lactating women, additionally an unhealthy gut microbiome can cause problems for both mum and baby pre and post birth. It’s well known that many complex physiological changes take place during pregnancy and post-pregnancy, due to such things as hormones, immunity and the cardiovascular system. What is less well known is that the gut microbiome also undergoes change and can impact weight and inflammation during pregnancy.
The gut microbiome has many functions such as improving digestion and nutrient absorption, production of vitamins such as folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin K, removing toxins and heavy metals from the body, supporting the immune system and even reducing the risk of anxiety and depression during and post-pregnancy. So keeping the gut in good shape is paramount for a healthy pregnancy. Not only that, there is some evidence to suggest that the vaginal microbiome can serve as a starter culture for the baby’s developing microbiome during vaginal birth. Research also speculates that taking probiotics (beneficial bacteria) during pregnancy and in the neonatal period may reduce some adverse outcomes in the mother and baby such as preventing preterm birth and infant mortality, reducing eczema and allergy and lowering rates of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, genitourinary infections and mastitis. In addition, the effect of probiotics on the mother’s microbiome may have long-term benefits for her baby.
Following pregnancy breastfeeding has long been recommended as an important step in promoting health benefits in young children. Studies have shown that more than 200 species of bacteria reside in human breast milk and these are predominantly lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. These bacteria affect the composition of the gut microbiota in infants, and they could protect against infectious diseases and promote a healthy immune system. Research has also shown a higher mineral content including zinc, copper, iron, magnesium and calcium in the breast milk of women taking a probiotic compared to those who did not. Studies using doses of probiotics as little as 10 million CFUs showed an improvement in the metabolic health of pregnant women, particularly in the case of a combination of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.
Bio-Kult Pregnea combines both probiotics and micronutrients including the active form of vitamin D3 and folate for better absorption, zinc and magnesium in citrate form, which again increases absorption whilst also being gentle on the gut, and vitamin C. It also contains 6 strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria with a CFU of 4 billion per recommended dose. As with all Bio-Kult probiotics, it is research based and all ingredients have been carefully and therapeutically selected to support mum and her baby at all stages of preconception, pregnancy and postpartum.
Bio-Kult Pregnea is now available in-store.
Registered Nutrition Practitioner