By Kinza Asghar Khan, PharmD

Up-Dated at 30-Jan-2024

Nutritional supplements are essential for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to ensure that they are getting enough nutrients for their health and the health of their developing fetus or newborn. 

Women’s bodies undergo significant changes during pregnancy and lactation, and their nutritional needs increase, necessitating a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Without proper nutrition, both the mother’s and her child’s health can suffer.

Taking dietary supplements can help fill any nutritional gaps in their diet, ensuring that both the mother and her child receive all of the nutrients required for optimal health.

In this article, we will cover the various important vitamins and minerals that women need during pregnancy and lactation. We will also discuss the recommended dosages and the best ways to incorporate these supplements into their daily routine.

By following these guidelines, women can provide their bodies and their child with the best possible nutritional support during this critical time.

What vitamins and minerals do pregnant women require?

Pregnancy is a special time for any woman as she nurtures and cares for a new life growing within her. During this time, it’s crucial for a woman to provide her developing baby with the essential nutrients. The baby in the womb relies on the mother for all its nutrients. This is why it’s important for her to eat a healthy diet. 

The following are the most important nutrients required by pregnant women for the proper nourishment of their baby.

  1. Folic Acid: Folic acid is a B vitamin that is important in the early stages of pregnancy. Folic acid promotes the growth of a baby’s brain and spinal cord. It is also required for the production of red and white blood cells. Pregnant women are recommended to take at least 400-800 micrograms of folic acid daily, either from their diet or from supplements.

  2. Iron: Iron is important for preventing anemia, which can cause fatigue and weakness, and it also supports the fetus’s oxygen needs. Pregnant women need more iron than non-pregnant women and are recommended to take at least 27 milligrams per day. Iron-rich foods include meat, poultry, seafood, beans, lentils, and iron-fortified cereals.

  3. Calcium: Calcium and vitamin D are essential for strong bones and teeth. Pregnant women need at least 1000-1300 milligrams of calcium per day. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy greens, tofu, and fortified orange juice.

  4. Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and is also important for maintaining healthy bones. Pregnant women are recommended to take at least 600-800 international units (IU) per day. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, mushrooms, and fortified foods like milk and orange juice.

  5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are important for fetal brain development. Pregnant women are recommended to consume at least 200 milligrams of DHA per day. Good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds.

  6. Iodine: Iodine is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in the development of the fetus and child. The thyroid gland uses iodine to produce hormones that aid in growth and brain development. If a woman doesn’t get enough iodine during pregnancy, her baby could be at risk of thyroid problems, developmental delays, and learning difficulties. Iodized salt and seafood are the best sources of iodine.

Best nutritional supplements for breastfeeding mothers

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and nutritious ways for a mother to provide her baby with the essential nutrients it needs to grow and develop. During this time, a mother’s body works hard to produce milk, which requires additional energy and nutrients. 

The baby’s growth and development are completely dependent on the mother’s feeding. Therefore, to ensure that the baby receives the best possible breast milk, mothers should meet their daily nutrient requirements through diet or supplements.

The following nutrients are crucial for breastfeeding women.

 

  1. Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for maintaining healthy bones in both the mother and the baby. It also helps the body absorb calcium, which is crucial for lactation. Vitamin D is also made when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Breastfeeding mothers are recommended to take at least 600-800 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day. 
  1. Calcium: Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth in both the mother and the baby. It plays an important role in the proper functioning of the circulatory, muscular, and nervous systems of babies. Breastfeeding mothers need at least 1000-1300 milligrams of calcium per day.

  2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the baby’s brain and eye development. Breastfeeding mothers are recommended to consume at least 200 milligrams of DHA per day.DHA has significant health benefits for pregnant and lactating mothers, and growing evidence suggests that infants fed DHA-rich breast milk have better vision and neurodevelopmental outcomes.

  3. Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is essential for the formation of red blood cells in a baby, as well as brain development and function. Vitamin B12 can be found in animal products such as meat, fish, milk, and eggs, as well as fortified foods such as cereal and non-dairy milk alternatives.

  4. Probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help maintain digestive health and boost the immune system. They can also support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the baby’s gut, which is important for overall health. Breastfeeding mothers can take probiotic supplements or consume probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kefir.

 

How to incorporate nutrients into your diet?

Incorporating the right nutritional supplements into your diet during pregnancy or breastfeeding is essential for optimal health and wellness. While a balanced diet is a great start, there may be some essential nutrients that are challenging to get enough of from food alone. 

Here are some tips on how to incorporate supplements into your diet.

  1. Foods high in essential nutrients: Eating a diet rich in whole foods is always the best way to get the nutrients you need. Some foods that are high in essential nutrients for pregnancy and breastfeeding include leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean protein sources. Try to include a variety of these foods in your diet to ensure you’re getting a wide range of nutrients.

  2. Supplements and prenatal vitamins: Supplements and prenatal vitamins can help fill in any gaps in your diet and ensure you’re getting enough of the essential nutrients you need.

    When choosing a supplement or prenatal vitamin, look for one that’s been tested for purity and potency, and that contains the recommended daily allowances for pregnancy or breastfeeding.

  3. Dosage recommendations: Dosage recommendations for supplements and prenatal vitamins can vary, so it’s essential to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen. They can help determine the right dose for you based on your individual needs and health status.

The best supplements for pregnancy and breastfeeding in Pakistan

Pregnancy and breastfeeding are important phases in a woman’s life and require proper nutrition to ensure the health of both mother and child. That’s why choosing the right supplements is necessary to fill any nutritional gaps and to ensure that both mother and child receive adequate nutrition.

There are a variety of supplements available in Pakistan for pregnant and breastfeeding women, such as Nowbegins Iso-lac-Mama, which contains a unique blend of all important nutrients in appropriate amounts. iso-lac-Mama contains folate, lactulose, and DHA choline, all of which promote the health and growth of the baby. These nutrients are completely safe to consume while pregnant or breastfeeding.

When choosing supplements for pregnancy and lactation, it is important to keep the following points in mind:

  1. Consult with your healthcare provider: Before starting any new supplement regimen, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to ensure that it’s safe and appropriate for you.

  2. Check the source: Choose supplements from a reputable source to ensure that they are of high quality and free from harmful contaminants.

  3. Be mindful of doses: Overdose of certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful, so be sure to follow the recommended doses specified on the label or as directed by your healthcare provider.

  4. Avoid excess: Some supplements can be harmful in large quantities, so be mindful of your overall intake from all sources, including food, drinks, and supplements.

  5. Watch out for interactions: Some supplements may interact with prescription medications, so be sure to inform your healthcare provider of any supplements you are taking.

By keeping these caution points in mind, you can ensure that the supplements you choose during pregnancy and lactation are safe and beneficial for both you and your baby.

Conclusion

In conclusion, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it is important to maintain adequate nutrient levels to ensure the health and development of both the mother and baby. Folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids are some of the key nutrients that are required in increased amounts during these stages.

The best way to meet these increased nutritional needs is by eating a balanced and varied diet, but for some women, additional supplements may be necessary to fill nutrient gaps.

It is essential to speak with a healthcare provider to determine the specific nutritional needs and recommended supplement dosages for each individual. 

Overdosing on certain vitamins can be harmful, so it’s crucial to take only the recommended amounts and to choose the right type of supplements that are suitable for your unique circumstances. With the right guidance, pregnant and breastfeeding women can ensure they and their babies receive the proper nutrition to support their health and development.

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