THE MAGIC BULLETS... FOLATE, IRON AND OMEGA 3S
Supplementation is always a good idea during pregnancy and should include folic acid, iodine, vitamin D and iron to ensure adequate intake. In the third trimester, some women may need to add extra iron or vitamin B12, and a calcium supplement. Speak to your medical practitioner about your supplement needs. Folic acid: Folate is a B vitamin (B9) found in leafy green vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli, liver and kidney, nuts, lentils and seeds, and oranges. It’s critically important very early in pregnancy (in the first 28 days), when the brain and spine of the baby are developing. All the B vitamins are water-soluble, which means your body doesn’t store them – you have to top up your B9 levels every day. In South Africa, all bread and maize is fortified with vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, which is the synthetic form of folate. Dr Soha Said, a consultant obstetrician at Corniche Hospital in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, advises women to begin taking folic acid a month before they conceive and to continue for the first three months of pregnancy. Iron: “If you’re at high risk of iron deficiency, take supplementation from around 16 weeks of pregnancy, when the demands of the foetus for iron start to increase,” says Dr Kalian. Omega 3s: Dr Deborah Pufal, a senior lecturer in nutrition at Huddersfield University in the UK, notes that a woman’s diet during pregnancy is critical for the baby’s brain development. For this reason, she says, it’s important that you get enough omega 3 fatty acids, which are involved in brain development. Fish oils are the best and most easily available source, but because so many marine fish have high levels of contaminants, current advice is that we should eat no more than two to three portions a week. Alternatives are soya and linseed oils, walnuts and enriched eggs.