High levels of some forms of vitamin A can harm the baby’s development if taken in too high amounts during pregnancy.
Pregnant Mumma’s should avoid vitamin A supplements and food rich in animal forms of vitamin A, for example liver – such a paté, throughout their pregnancy.
It’s important for the mother to consume good amounts of iron rich foods during pregnancy. Iron from both animal food sources and plant sources are encouraged.
This is important for healthy bones. Eat plenty of calcium rich foods and aim for 1,000mg per day. Baby will source calcium from your stores if you do not provide additional calcium in your diet.
Although protein requirements are higher during pregnancy, most women in Australia eat generous amounts, so they don’t need to increase their intake further.
Protein requirements can be met by having 1 to 2 serves of protein-containing foods daily. These foods include meat, fish, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt and vegetarian choices such as legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds.
The vegetarian choices are good alternatives for women who go off meat, chicken and fish during pregnancy due to nausea or taste changes.
Folic Acid (Folate)
Folic acid is a B vitamin and it has been shown that mothers need higher than normal amounts in order to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (e.g. spina bifida) in the infant.
Pregnant Mumma’s or those planning a pregnancy should supplement with 0.4mg (400mcg) of folic acid every day, and continue to do so for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to reduce risks dramatically.
Women who have previously had a baby with a neural tube defect or who are on drug therapy for epilepsy are often prescribed higher doses of 5mg per day (consult your doctor).
In addition, expectant mothers are encouraged to ensure their diet includes foods which are rich in folate, including citrus fruits and juices, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb and use calcium.
Vitamin D is mostly made in the skin by the action of sunlight, but a small amount comes from the diet (oily fish, egg yolks, margarine, fortified milk). Women who have darker skin or tend to cover up more or spend a large portion of time indoors are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency can cause bone weakness and muscle pain in women and skeletal abnormalities (called rickets) in their babies.
Women who are at risk should have their vitamin D levels checked and if low, will be prescribed a vitamin D supplement.
Whilst a good intake of essential fatty acids are of the utmost importance during pregnancy, too much fish that may contain high levels of mercury is not advised.
It is therefore suggested that an expectant mother limits herself to two servings of oily fish per week.