Another thing that you might have noticed about your mom or another woman in your family if she is pregnant is that she might be taking a lot more pills than she used to. Many of these pills are actually supplements — vitamins, minerals and even herbs that can help keep women and their unborn babies safe during pregnancy. Read on to find out more about the most common supplements that pregnant women use.
Vitamins and Minerals for Pregnancy
While there are many vitamins and minerals that are healthy for moms-to-be and their babies, some are extra important in order to have a healthy pregnancy. These include:
- Folate. Folate is probably one of the nutrients that you hear pregnant women talk about the most often. It is part of the B-vitamin complex, and B-vitamins are needed for healthy development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. Folate can help prevent serious birth defects to the neural tube (which will later become the baby’s spinal cord. Interestingly, folate can also help prevent other kinds of birth defects as well, such as heart defects and a cleft lip or palate.
- Iron. Iron is an important mineral for anyone to be healthy: it is the main component of hemoglobin, the compound in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all the other cells of the body. But it is especially important for pregnant women, because they need twice as much iron as usual in order to get the baby the oxygen that he needs and to let the baby make his own blood as he develops. Not enough iron can lead to anemia and fatigue in mom — and preterm birth and/or low birth weight for baby.
- Calcium. A growing baby needs calcium for the same reason that his mom needs it – not only for strong bones and teeth but for muscle and nerve development as well. However, if a woman does not have enough calcium in her diet while she is pregnant, her baby will take calcium out of her own bones while it is developing. This can lead to an increased risk in the mother developing a bone disease called osteoporosis later in life.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important because it makes it easier for the body to absorb the calcium it needs for healthy bones and teeth. Unfortunately, there are not many foods which naturally contain vitamin D and though it can be absorbed through the skin when you go out into the sunlight, overexposure to the sun can increase the risk for skin cancer. This is why supplements for vitamin D can really come in handy, especially during pregnancy.
Herbs and other Natural Supplements for Pregnancy
Apart from the minerals and vitamins listed above, there are other herbs and natural supplements which can also help support a healthy pregnancy. These include:
- Ginger. The best part about ginger is that is offers women a natural, safe way to treat morning sickness, the nausea that can plague moms-to-be, especially in the first trimester (three months) of their pregnancy. It is often taken as a tea, eaten crystallized like candy — and is even available as a lollipop if a woman is really sick to her stomach!
- Echinacea. Colds and other viruses are not only difficult for women when they are pregnant — they can also be dangerous for the baby. Using echinacea can help to prevent colds or make them less severe if they are contracted; this is because echinacea boosts the immune system and makes it easier for the body to fight off illness and infection.
- DHA. DHA is a king of omega-3 fatty acid, which are found in foods like salmon and other fatty fish as well as nuts like walnuts. It is especially great for the healthy development of a baby’s brain and central nervous system and is included in many prenatal vitamins.
- Red Raspberry. Teas or supplements made from red raspberry leaves are also good for supporting a healthy pregnancy. It is considered to be a good general tonic for expecting moms and traditionally was used to help reduce bleeding after labor.
- Chamomile. Chamomile is another great herb for pregnant women. It can help to relieve tension and relax the body (since stress is not good for the baby) and is also a great way to get a good night’s sleep.
A Word of Caution
While some vitamins, minerals and herbs are healthy for pregnancy, some are NOT. They can actually hurt a mom and her baby if she takes them. For example, a woman who takes too much vitamin A during her pregnancy can have a baby with birth defects. Herbs like pennyroyal can cause contractions and even a miscarriage. This is why it is really important for a pregnant woman to talk to her doctor before taking ANY supplement, even the ones listed above.
As long as they are taken under a doctor’s supervision, however, supplements can be an important part of a healthy pregnancy and support the wellbeing of mom and baby both