There is probably no health insurance company that could offer you a better protection then what just a daily multivitamin tablet can do. Most couples often forget how important it is to prepare their bodies for having a baby. Micro-nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals are crucial, both in order to become pregnant, but also for ensuring a healthy pregnancy, delivery and baby. Most parents to be, are not aware that their diet and adequate nutrition, actually can prevent problems that might affect them and their baby later on in life.
Experts around the globe agree that the best way to ensure that you and your baby gets all the nutrients needed while you are pregnant is to eat a varied and well balanced diet. This should include plenty of vegetables, a variety of fresh fruits, whole grains, oily fish (such as mackerel & salmon) and beans. Foods containing high amounts of refined sugars, processed foods, hydrogenated trans fats, should be limited. Some women, especially those who consume the standard traditional western diet during their pregnancy and breast-feeding period, may not always get adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. Also, in some circumstances it may be difficult to get all the nutrients you need through your diet alone, especially if you are suffering badly with nausea (morning sickness). This can occasionally result in several different nutritional deficiencies, which may cause several health problems both for the mother or the baby. It has been shown (Hösli et al., 2007) that a decreased intake of omega 3 fatty acids and micronutrient deficiencies is a global health problem. Preston-Martin et al. (1998) also highlighted that the use of prenatal vitamin supplementation varies enormously amongst women around the world (Israel & France 3%, 21% Italy, 33% Canada, 52% Spain and up to 86-92% and in the US).
What Research has shown:
Already in year 2000, Dr Lorenzo Botto of the National Centre on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities in the USA, discovered that pregnant women who take multivitamins can help reduce the risk of their child having heart defects. Dr Lorenzo’s team studied more than 2,000 pregnant women between 1968 and 1980. Women who suffer from a fever while pregnant have a higher risk of giving birth to a child with a major heart defect, but women who take multivitamins prior to conception and during the first three months of pregnancy can significantly reduce this risk. They also discovered that prenatal multivitamins could reduce the incidence of neural tube defects, cleft lip and palate, limb defects and a rare condition called omphalocele, where part of the intestine protrudes through the navel.
The more common and familiar findings are those studies which have demonstrated that folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy can reduce the risk of the child being born with neural tube defects (defects of the brain and spinal cord) or cleft palate (Wilcox et al., 2007). Just by taking a 400 microgram (400mcg) folic acid supplement each day, during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (ideally starting at least one month before you start trying to conceive) can lower your risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida. Spina bifida is a serious congenital condition, which occurs when the tube around the central nervous system fails to close completely. Also, more recent studies have also shown that prenatal supplementation is associated with a decreased incidence of other congenital anomalies also, such as both hydrocephalus and cardiovascular defects (Goh et al., 2006).
A study in 2009 (Gill et al.) showed that women taking prenatal multivitamins may experience less severe nausea and vomiting during the early stages of pregnancy. Vitamin E contained in many prenatal multivitamin supplements, has also been shown to promote healthy fetal growth (Sholl et al., 2006).
A medical condition called preeclampsia, which sometimes can occur during pregnancy, can in some situations become a life-threatening condition for the mother. A study done by the University of Ottawa, Canada in 2008 with 2951 pregnant women, showed that supplementation with multivitamins containing folic acid in the second trimester, was associated with a reduced risk of developing preeclampsia.
Some studies (Goy & Koren, 2008) even suggest that prenatal multivitamin consumption may be associated with the prevention of paediatric cancers. Although it has not exactly become known which constituent among the multivitamins confers the protective effect, Bollano & Einarson (2007) demonstrated in their systematic review, that maternal ingestion of prenatal multivitamins was associated with a significantly decreased risk for those children to develop leukaemia, neuroblastoma and brain tumours.
Offspring of mothers with diabetes generally have an increased risk for giving birth to babies with birth defects. However, prenatal multivitamin supplementation seems to help prevent this from occurring. A study done by Correa et al. (2003) indicated that mothers who regularly took multivitamin supplements, seemed to have a reduced risk for birth defects amongst their babies.
What should a good prenatal multivitamin contain?
Before buying prenatal multivitamin supplements, make sure you have read the label, and that you understand what each supplement contains. There are no simple rules as to what has to be in a multivitamin in order for it to be called an prenatal multivitamins supplement. However, a good supplement for pregnant woman generally contains more folic acid, iron, magnesium and calcium than a general multivitamin supplement. Folic acid is a B vitamin, which is also found in various foods, including beans, leafy greens and fortified breakfast cereals. Iron is needed to make the extra blood required to support the growing baby. Woman generally needs twice as much calcium when they are pregnant.
The best suggestion is to look for a supplement that provides 100 per cent of the recommended daily allowance of all the essential vitamins and minerals, and never take more than the recommended daily allowance (usually one multivitamin a day). Taking mega doses of certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful to the women and their baby. Strict vegetarians and women with medical conditions, such as diabetes, gestational diabetes or anemia should always talk with their doctor or midwife about any special supplements they might need.
Where do I get them?
You can buy prenatal multivitamins supplements at almost any health food store or pharmacist. Also, in some cases your doctor may prescribe them for you if you have a medical need.
All women who are planning on becoming pregnant will benefit from good nutritional intake, both prior to, during pregnancy and after. Women with certain health issues, dietary restrictions, or previous pregnancy complications, definitely should consider taking prenatal multivitamins supplements. This includes vegetarians and vegans, women who are lactose-intolerant or have certain other food intolerances, smokers and women who abuse other substances, women who are having twins, and women with certain blood disorders and certain chronic diseases.
By taking action on your nutritional health issues before pregnancy, you can prevent many future problems for yourself and your baby. Think of it as an insurance policy to make sure you and your baby is getting the right amount of all the important nutrients during pregnancy.
Finally, enjoy a very happy and healthy pregnancy and childbirth. A healthy baby will always need a healthy mother and father. So start as soon as possible to prepare your body for the nutritional demands of pregnancy and motherhood. Always remember, how you look after your body now, may shape your children’s future.