What are key nu­tri­ents for would-be mums?

Wairarapa News - - FARMING -

Q: I’m just won­der­ing if there is any­thing I should be do­ing nutri­tion wise if I’m try­ing to con­ceive? Many thanks, Josephine.

Many women don’t find out that they are preg­nant un­til a month or so into their preg­nancy, and op­ti­mal nutri­tion is needed from the get go. So tak­ing even bet­ter care of your­self in the lead up to a preg­nancy can re­ally help to en­sure that both you and your baby are as healthy as pos­si­ble.

It is vi­tal that you un­der­stand that ALL vi­ta­mins and min­er­als are needed for op­ti­mal fer­til­ity and a healthy preg­nancy, but there are a few nu­tri­ents that are ex­tra im­por­tant if you are plan­ning a preg­nancy.


Op­ti­mal lev­els of folate, a B group vi­ta­min, are needed right from the be­gin­ning of a preg­nancy. Ad­e­quate in­take sig­nif­i­cantly re­duces the risk of neu­ral tube de­fects, and the neu­ral tube is of­ten formed by the time a wo­man finds out she is preg­nant. Folate is found in green leafy veg­eta­bles,

Ask Dr Libby

Email your ques­tions for Dr Libby to askdr­libby@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz. Please note, only a se­lec­tion of ques­tions can be an­swered. cit­rus fruits, liver and legumes.

The Rec­om­mended Dietary In­take (RDI) for folate dur­ing preg­nancy is 150 per cent of the nor­mal daily re­quire­ment for adults, and it can be dif­fi­cult to meet these needs with­out a sup­ple­ment. When plan­ning a preg­nancy, the Min­istry of Health rec­om­mends tak­ing a folic acid sup­ple­ment for at least one month be­fore you might be­come preg­nant and through­out the first trimester to re­duce the risk of neu­ral tube de­fects.

Your doc­tor can ad­vise the op­ti­mal dose for you based on your cur­rent health pic­ture (some peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing health con­di­tions may re­quire more than oth­ers, or a form that is slightly dif­fer­ent in struc­ture). It is also im­por­tant to know that tak­ing sin­gle nu­tri­ents is not al­ways ideal as each nu­tri­ent feeds into par­tic­u­lar bio­chem­i­cal path­ways. Vi­ta­min B12 and folate rely on each other, for ex­am­ple, so a health pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­enced in pre-con­cep­tion care is best to guide you with what is right for you.


If a nu­tri­ent is not in the soil, it can­not be in the food. Un­for­tu­nately, New Zealand soils do not con­tain io­dine so lo­cally grown produce re­flects this, and stud­ies have shown ev­i­dence of io­dine de­fi­ciency re-emerg­ing in New Zealand. Io­dine is es­sen­tial for the pro­duc­tion of thy­roid hor­mones, which con­trol the ba­sic ac­tiv­ity of each cell in the body, in­clud­ing me­tab­o­lism, growth and de­vel­op­ment.

Thy­roid is­sues can af­fect fer­til­ity, so op­ti­mal io­dine in­take is im­por­tant when try­ing to con­ceive. Dur­ing preg­nancy, io­dine is needed for nor­mal brain de­vel­op­ment in the foe­tus, and even sub­clin­i­cal hy­pothy­roidism due to io­dine de­fi­ciency in the mother can lead to ir­re­versible brain dam­age.

Io­dine is found in seafood, sea­weed and iodised salt. Not all salt is iodised, so it’s im­por­tant to check the la­bel. Dur­ing preg­nancy, you need about 1.5 times the amount of io­dine an adult nor­mally re­quires, and the Min­istry of Health rec­om­mends tak­ing an io­dine sup­ple­ment daily. You only need a small amount of io­dine each day to meet your needs. If you have any pre­ex­ist­ing thy­roid con­di­tions, it’s es­sen­tial that you con­sult with your qual­i­fied med­i­cal pro­fes­sional be­fore sup­ple­ment­ing io­dine.

Dr Libby is a nu­tri­tional bio­chemist, best-sell­ing au­thor and speaker. The ad­vice con­tained in this col­umn is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for direct, per­son­alised ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional. See dr­libby.com


A few nu­tri­ents are very im­por­tant if you are plan­ning a preg­nancy.

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