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Pregnancy and the nutrients you need

Pregnancy and the nutrients you need

At this important time, start by eating a healthy and varied diet. It is best to get nutrients from the food you eat and keeping your diet healthy will help you to get most of the vitamins and minerals you need.
Below, a range of vitamins and nutrients will be explained from Folic Acid to Calcium. It is important to note now however, that Vitamin A is not included. Vitamin A supplements or any supplements containing Vitamin A (retinol) are not advised as too much could harm your baby.

Folic Acid

Folic Acid is essential in pregnancy as it is aids prevention of birth defects called, neural tube defects.

Folate, the natural form of folic acid, can be found is several foods that you should include in your diet. Green leafy vegetables, brown rice, some breakfast cereals and some margarines all contain folate but struggle to provide enough folic acid on their own.

Alongside this, you should take a 400mcg folic acid tablet every day while you are trying to get pregnant and until you are 12 weeks pregnant. Even if you were unaware you were pregnant, begin taking folic acid as soon as you find out.

A higher dosage is required if you have an increased risk of being affected by a neural tube defect. If you have diabetes, or if you or your partner have any history with neural tube defects (either with yourselves or in previous pregnancies) you are advised to take a higher dose of 5 milligrams (mg) of folic acid a day until you are 12 weeks pregnant.

Those taking anti-epileptic medication may also require a higher dosage and should consult their GP for advice.

Vitamin D

There are several ways we consume vitamin D. Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is out in summer sunlight from the months of April to September. The majority of people over five years old in the UK will most likely, get enough vitamin D in the summer. However, when the sun is gone there are other ways to ensure you get this essential nutrient.

Vitamin D is in some foods. Oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, eggs, red meat and some breakfast cereals can offer vitamin D but, amounts can vary. And so, everyone over five years old should try to take a 10 mcg of vitamin D daily, including pregnant and breastfeeding women. At least, until the sun returns.

Iron

Iron will be the culprit if you feel very tired and there are lots of natural ways to replenish this nutrient. Iron can be found in a lot of foods – lean meat, green leafy vegetables, dried fruits and nuts. However, if you suffer from anaemia or your iron level in your blood becomes too low, medical professionals will advise you to take supplements as well.

Vitamin C

This should be a vitamin you can ensure a plentiful supply of through your diet. Vitamin C protects cells, keeping them healthy and can be found in plenty of fruits and vegetables from broccoli and bell peppers to citrus fruits and blackcurrants.

Calcium

Finally, calcium can also be an easy essential to secure through conscious eating habits. Calcium is very important as it helps make your baby’s bones and teeth. There is plenty of food that contains this key nutrient. Dairy products, fish with edible bones (such as sardines), tofu, breakfast cereals, dried fruit, bread, almonds and once again - green leafy vegetables, are all choices to provide natural calcium.

Vegans and Vegetarians

If you are vegetarian, a varied and balanced diet should provide enough nutrients for both you and your baby. Alongside this, you may want to consider supplements for iron and vitamin B12 as you may find it more difficult to get enough of these.

Those who are vegan or on a restricted diet from food intolerances or for religious reasons, should consider being referred to a dietitian for guidance. This step will help ensure all the nutrients that are needed are available for you and your baby.

In all of the above cases, it is important to talk to your midwife or GP to make sure you are getting everything you need nutritionally.

Healthy Start Scheme

This scheme is designed to provide vouchers to pregnant women and families who meet the terms of eligibility. The vouchers given can be used to purchase milk, plain fresh and frozen vegetables and vitamins, all at local shops.

In particular, for pregnant women, the Healthy Start vitamins are vitamins C and D and folic acid.

You qualify for Healthy Start if you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old, and you or your family get:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit unless your family is receiving Working Tax Credit run-on only*) and has an annual family income of £16,190 or less (2014/15)
  • If you are pregnant and under 18 years old, you qualify for Healthy Start vouchers regardless of your income.

    *Working Tax Credit run-on is the Working Tax Credit you receive in the four weeks immediately after you have stopped working for 16 hours per week (single adults) or 24 hours per week (couples).

    You can download a Healthy Start application form at the Healthy Start website, or call the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 and order a copy.

    If you are claiming Universal Credit and are pregnant or have a child under four years old, call the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 for information about any discretionary support that may be available.

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