Is it okay to skip vitamins and supplements?
First of all, we need to understand the importance of vitamins and supplements to know whether or not we can skip on them during pregnancy and if we do have to take them, then which ones to take and which to avoid.
During pregnancy, your baby gets all the essential nutrients through you so, you may need a bit more nourishment. Sometimes when the nutrients provided through food aren’t enough for the baby if a woman has poor nutrition, has or may get any conditions such as anaemia during the pregnancy will likely be advised to have intake vitamins to support such deficiency.
Your body needs to produce more blood to promote the growth of the baby. For this, your body needs to increase the number of red blood cells (RBCs); if you do not have the required amounts of iron and folic acid, your body might not produce the requisite amount of red blood cells, thereby reducing blood flow. This increase in (RBCs) and blood flow is vital for carrying oxygen to the baby.
Even if you may not have anaemia, you may develop it when entering into pregnancy. Anaemia can not only leave you weak and tired but can also lead you to a path to complications if untreated. Similarly, if you have poor nutrition, your pregnancy may not be a piece of cake because poor nutrition leads to low birth weight, poor growth and development of the baby during pregnancy, and the future and even develops health issues as diabetes.
Always visit a health care specialist as soon as you get pregnant. Your doctor will run several tests and monitor your health and suggest to you the diet and vitamins that your body needs to complete your pregnancy requirements. He/she will tell you if your body lacks any nutrients or if it does lack, then what are those, then what to take and in what quantities.
Taking prenatal vitamins and eating healthy food will meet the requirements. Your doctor may advise you to take folic acid and iron supplements to prevent anaemia, calcium from helping bones maintain their density, etc., necessary vitamins and supplements.
Some women believe that taking abundant vitamins and supplements will make them healthier and enhance brain development, making their babies more intelligent. This belief might not be true entirely. Vitamins and supplements may or may not make your baby healthier, but they absolutely won’t make your baby more intelligent.
Studies show there is no relation between IQ, general intelligence and intake of supplements and vitamins. Intelligence may be inherited from the bloodline, but even that is not always the case.
So vitamins and supplements are only when your body needs them and not increase the efficiency of health or IQ. No evidence supports the fact that vitamins enhance the health of mothers or babies. So, you need to take vitamins only if you require and are advised by your doctor.
Taking vitamins at your discretion will only add to your expenses. Iron supplements must be taken only on the condition if doctors recommend you. So in that way, you may skip unnecessary vitamins that are not required.
So if you are planning to skip on vitamins, go ahead and do so but make sure you consult your doctor if you have any deficiencies.
Good nourishment is the stepping stone towards a healthy pregnancy, and a healthy diet is perfectly capable of doing that, given that you don’t have any health complexities. Switching to nutritious meals from processed ones is all you need to skip the vitamins and supplements.
Pregnancy requirements and their alternative sources.
1. Folic acid
Folic acid is a ‘B’ vitamin found in food as well as supplements. Foods containing folate, i.e., a natural form of folic acids such as green leafy vegetables, spinach, brown rice, and breakfast cereals, should be consumed regularly. Natural folate can also be found in lentils and oranges; however, it is difficult to get the required amount of folate from food alone, so that’s why it is crucial to take a folic acid supplement during pregnancy.
Still, studies show that folate in natural form is known to be much healthier than the manufactured supplement, so don’t skip on folate from food thinking to make it up by taking supplements. If you enough folic acid, then the risk of your baby being born with neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Women who may get pregnant and have a low amount of folic acid are usually advised to supplement 400 micrograms of folic acid each day.
Even after they get pregnant, they are advised to take a supplement each day for 12 weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid supplement are readily available in pharmacies, supermarkets and online with prescription. Ensure your vitamin supplement contains 400 micrograms of folic acid and does not contain vitamin A which may harm your baby.
You require extra doses of iron when you are pregnant so that your body can make new blood cells for your developing baby. Many women are low levels of iron even before they get pregnant, so make sure to include iron-rich foods in your diet regularly throughout the pregnancy. Lean red meat is one of the best sources of iron.
Other good sources are chicken, turkey and fish, and iron, including peas, beans, lentils, eggs, whole grain bread, dried fruit, green vegetables, and some breakfast cereals with abundant iron in them, so make sure you include them in your diet. The liver has lots of iron, but avoid eating it while you are pregnant as it has very high levels of vitamin A.
Having citrus fruits or their juice will boost iron absorption. If you have a history of heavy periods or anaemia, your doctor will advise you to take iron supplements during pregnancy.
3. Vitamin D
“Vitamin D supplementation is also essential, especially if you are from a place where sun exposure is minimal. Vitamin D is something that cannot absorb enough from our diet.
So low vitamin D levels are associated with an increase in complications in pregnant women. Breastfeeding mothers with low vitamin D levels are advised to take ten micrograms of vitamin D each day, and pregnant women are advised to take five micrograms of the vitamin every day.
Since we get most of the vitamin D from sunlight so make sure you get appropriate sunlight. Sunlight in the morning before, i.e., mid-day when the sun not too strong, improves vitamin D levels as well as your mood. It also makes you feel less sluggish and provides you with good energy.
They usually considered safe to take during pregnancy. Due to stress in daily life and by consuming processed foods, our gut bacteria isn’t always as healthy as it should be. Probiotics improve gut health and the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body, and probiotics are available both in natural form in food sources and supplements.
Studies suggest that taking probiotics may reduce the risk of “pre-eclampsia”, a severe complication in pregnant women and their babies. Some studies even show a that it has a positive effect on anxiety and depression.
Calcium is essential in your diet, especially if you are pregnant. Calcium enhances the growth and development of your baby, and it looks after your bones as well. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are vital sources of calcium. Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, soft mould-ripened cheeses as they may put you to risk of listeria food poisoning, which is dangerous for pregnant women.
Other foods that contain calcium include green leafy vegetables (such as broccoli or cabbage), nuts, soy products, baked beans, and calcium-enriched juice drinks, bread and some breakfast cereals.
6. Fish and omega fats
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are pretty essential for the development of a baby’s brain and eyes. These fatty acids are found in oily fish (such as herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon, trout), white fish (cod, plaice, whiting), and some vegetable oils (rapeseed, canola, flaxseed, linseed, walnut).
When you are pregnant, eat atleast two portions of fish every week. Some fish may contain high levels of mercury that may be too high for your unborn baby. So, during pregnancy, you should keep only two portions of oily fish per week. Avoid shark, swordfish and marlin, and tuna. Fishes other than from oceans and seas can be consumed more often.
Therefore, if you plan to skip vitamins, you can do so, but only if your doctor approves of it. If your doctor advises otherwise, positively take the necessary vitamins. You can even take other vitamin and supplements to enhance your health but make sure your doctors know about it.
Even though there is no evidence to prove that vitamins and supplements negatively affect expectant mothers or their babies, it is always the best option to consult your health care specialist before taking any such externals. And if you plan to skip, make sure you eat healthy foods that help you meet your pregnancy requirements as your baby needs that extra nourishment for its growth.
Into the first few weeks, things may be a bit hard with morning sickness and vomiting etc.; when you may find that food intake is becoming a task, vitamins and supplements come to play. So ‘eat’ when you can, but you can’t and are advised to take vitamins and supplements without fail.
Antara Chowdhury is a Content Marketer and Strategist with 6 years of experience. She is Master degree holder in Journalism and wants to explore everything she can write on.