Study finds most expectant mothers miss out on vitamins vital to their and their babies’ health

Our body needs many important vitamins and minerals to function well. B vitamins, for example, are particularly important for many of our everyday functions, including energy levels, cell health, and nerve function.

These vitamins become even more important when the mother is pregnant, as low levels of certain vitamins (such as folic acid, also known as vitamin B9) are linked to poor health outcomes for the baby during pregnancy and after birth. .

Since our body makes many of these micronutrients only in small amounts (if at all), we get most of them from our diet. But our recent study has shown that most expectant mothers are not getting several important vitamins, which can have an impact not only on their health, but also on that of their babies.

We conducted a large study of over 1,700 women aged 18-38 in the UK, Singapore and New Zealand. We studied their health before, during and after pregnancy.

Before pregnancy, we found that nine out of ten women had low blood levels of several important vitamins, including folic acid, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. These vitamins are needed to support the mother’s health during pregnancy, and they are important for the development of the unborn baby.

For the next part of the study, we randomly placed participants into two different groups. One group received a standard pregnancy vitamin supplement, which included folic acid. The second group received an enhanced supplement, which included folic acid, as well as riboflavin, vitamins B6, B12 and D. The amount of vitamins in the advanced supplements was the same as those you can buy from pharmacies and supermarkets without a prescription.

Both groups took these supplements daily from the time they were trying to get pregnant and throughout their pregnancy. She stopped taking them after giving birth to her child.

We found that the advanced supplement helped improve blood vitamin levels and reduced the prevalence of vitamin deficiencies during pregnancy, especially when it came to riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin D. Standard supplements increased folic acid levels, but levels of other vitamins deteriorated during pregnancy. , This was probably due to increased needs during this period.

Riboflavin is important during pregnancy because low levels can mean a low blood count and a greater chance of having anemia.

For vitamin B6, the group taking standard supplements had lower levels in the later part of pregnancy, meaning they may not have enough of this vitamin. Previous research has shown that vitamin B6 may provide some relief from pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting.

B6 may help with pregnancy nausea.

In both groups we saw a decline in homocysteine ​​levels, especially in those taking advanced supplements. Low homocysteine ​​levels are actually a good thing because it indicates less chance of vitamin deficiency. High homocysteine ​​levels are linked to a range of pregnancy complications, including early pregnancy loss and preeclampsia.

The benefit of the supplement’s increased vitamin B12 levels in participants lasted for six months after having a baby. If the mother breastfeeds, it is likely important for her ability to provide vitamin B12 to her baby. B12 helps children’s brain development and growth.

important micronutrients

Although our study included women from three different countries and different ethnic backgrounds, some Black and American Indian women were also included in the research. This means that the results may not represent the experiences of women from these specific ethnic groups. It will be important for future studies to examine vitamin levels in these groups.

Future studies will also need to investigate the exact benefits of improved vitamin levels. But, previous studies have shown that we can predict that supplements will have additional benefits.

For example, our previous research showed that women taking the same advanced supplements had lower rates of premature delivery, and also had a lower risk of major bleeding after childbirth.

It’s also well known that folic acid is important during pregnancy, as it can help prevent major defects in the developing baby’s brain and spinal cord. It is recommended to take folic acid supplements regularly before conception and during the first half of pregnancy.

But many pregnancies are unplanned and a large number of women do not take folic acid supplements in early pregnancy. This is why about 80 countries have started mandatory fortification of staple food items. But many experts believe that the level of fortification in foods may not be enough for pregnant women, which is why supplements will still be important.

Taking vitamin D supplements before and during pregnancy may also have benefits, including reducing the chance of infantile atopic eczema (a condition that causes itchy, cracked, and sore skin patches) and improving bone health in children. Including improving the health of.

Overall, our study shows that most women living in high-income countries do not get enough essential vitamins in their diets, even before they become pregnant. Many of these vitamins are important for the development of the baby in the womb.

Although some of these vitamins can be found in meat and dairy products, it is clear that most women are still not getting enough of them, no matter what type of diet they eat. As more people choose to eat plant-based foods, there will be a need for better advice about vitamin-rich foods. Many women may need to start taking supplements to ensure that they and their baby get the vitamins they need.

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