To take or not to take

Women are advised to take folic acid supplements if trying to get pregnant and throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, as this reduces the risk of defects in the baby’s spinal cord.

However, not all experts agree about other supplements.

Professor Cecily Begley, Chair of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin says: “There should be no need for pregnant women to take supplements if their diet is good with five or more fruit and veg a day, enough protein and carbohydrates and sufficient calcium. All the studies done in this area show no real difference in outcomes.”

However, Sarah Leather, a natural fertility consultant based in Cork, says supplements have a role to play because “many pregnant women find it hard to eat what they know they need due to morning sickness. They just can’t stomach anything besides starchy carbohydrates and may be lacking in the correct nutrient mix.”

British fertility expert Zita West, who has developed a range of pregnancy supplements for each stage from pre-conception to postnatal, says: “Your baby doesn’t rely on what you have on any one day; it relies on reserves. Today’s diet and lifestyle leaves you depleted of vital nutrients such as B vitamins and other essential minerals needed for reproductive health.”

West also believes growing babies have changing needs. “Whilst a baby is growing, there are specific windows of opportunity for optimum development. The first trimester lays down the foundation of all the organs the fetus is developing. In the second trimester, calcium, magnesium and vitamin D is needed for strong bone development and the third trimester is really about building up omega 3 as you get a rapid development of the fetal brain from 28-40 weeks.”

For women who do not eat much red meat anaemia can be a problem and their GP may prescribe an iron supplement. All pregnant women have a blood test at their booking-in appointment in hospital and this will reveal if they need an iron supplement.;;

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