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A healthy well balanced diet prior to falling pregnant is essential. This will give you most of the vitamins and nutrients your baby will need. You need to limit alcohol whilst trying to conceive and totally abstain once pregnant. It is important to cease smoking as it harms your unborn baby. Regular exercise is also important.
There are some supplements that are needed in pregnancy.
For three months prior to starting to conceive it is recommended to take daily folic acid daily. This reduces the chance of a skull or spine abnormality, such as spina bifida, occurring in your baby. These abnormalities are called neural tube defects. The dose needs to be at least 500 micrograms (mcg) a day. People with a past history of a neural tube defect pregnancy may need to take a higher dose of folic acid and need to consult with their doctor prior to conceiving. The skull and spine is formed during the first three months of the baby’s development, the first trimester, so the supplement is usually not needed after this time.
Vitamin D is also very important for you and your baby’s health. It is obtained from sun exposure, where it is absorbed into your skin. Bare skin, e.g .face, arms and shoulders need approximately 12 minutes of sun exposure every day. A blood test can be performed to check your vitamin D level. In cooler seasons and climates both men and women often have low in vitamin D levels which may increase the risk of development of some diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Your unborn baby also needs vitamin D so if your blood level is low a supplement should be taken prior to conceiving and during your pregnancy.
The baby needs iodine to help its thyroid function, a gland that helps control the body’s metabolism. If added salt is used in cooking then iodised salt is preferred as it will provide some iodine however it is more reliable to have an iodine supplement in the second and third trimester. It is hard to find iodine alone as a supplement however it is often combined with other minerals such as folic acid, or part of a multi vitamin.
If leg cramps occur during the pregnancy then magnesium supplements can help. The dose is approximately 150mg, taken prior to bed as the cramps usually occur at night.
You can buy the individual supplements from a pharmacy or supermarket. Some people take a pregnancy multivitamin prior to conceiving and during the pregnancy however generally if you have a well-balanced healthy diet you do not need a multivitamin during the pregnancy.