Building a Super Baby

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Congratulations – You’re pregnant! This is certainly one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. Solgar Nutritionist, (and mum to be herself!) Alice Bradshaw tells us that eating well is important for both mother and baby and while there are general nutrition guidelines that are recommended during pregnancy, there are key nutrients that play an especially essential role.

Folic acid

Perhaps the nutrient most associated with a healthy pregnancy outcome is folic acid. In fact, if you are planning a pregnancy, 400 µg of this B vitamin should be taken for at least 3 months prior to trying to conceive and then during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Low maternal folate status is a risk factor for neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) in the developing foetus, and while fruits and leafy greens are the best dietary source, they do not provide enough to meet the specific needs of a pregnant woman. If your pregnancy wasn’t planned, just start taking folic acid as soon as you get that positive pregnancy test.

Vitamin D3

Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but a lack of sunshine, the time of year and skin colour are just some factors which may influence the amount of vitamin D you can make. Although foods such as oily fish, eggs and meat naturally contain vitamin D, it is difficult to obtain adequate amounts from food alone. During pregnancy (and breastfeeding), vitamin D is vital to support the proper development of the baby’s bones as it helps with the absorption of calcium and other minerals needed for strong bones.

In children, inadequate vitamin D can cause their bones to soften and may lead to rickets (a disease that affects bone development). Rickets, although largely eradicated after the Second World War, is a disease that has re-emerged. As such, the Department of Health recommends that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a daily supplement containing 10 µg of vitamin D.  Additionally, vitamin D supplementation is recommended to all babies and children under the age of 4.

Always look for vitamin D3 supplements (rather than vitamin D2) as research shown these have better bioavailability.

Calcium and Magnesium

These two minerals are vital for good bones and are especially required by both mother and baby during pregnancy. They are also associated with supporting healthy blood pressure levels and maintaining heart health. Because pregnancy increases the need for these nutrients, be sure to get enough calcium from dairy products, nuts and seeds, and enough magnesium from pulses, nuts, whole grains and vegetables. A prenatal multivitamin will provide additional amounts of these minerals.


Iron is needed to make red blood cells and to transport oxygen around the body. Pregnancy increases a woman’s blood volume by 50%, and inadequate iron can result in fatigue, palpitations and dizziness. Having low iron stores is also risky as there is always a possibility of blood loss when the baby is delivered.  In the past, iron supplements were routinely given to all pregnant women, but today, blood tests will confirm whether or not supplemental iron is necessary. If you are advised to supplement with iron, choose a chelated iron supplement over ferrous sulphate, a form of iron well-known for causing stomach discomfort and constipation. Iron-rich foods include red meat, dried fruit and pulses.



Many women are afraid to eat fish during pregnancy due to the warnings about mercury and other toxins in certain fish. However, the essential fats that oily fish provides are needed for healthy hormone health and play a profound role in the development of a baby’s eyes and brain.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), one of the omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, contributes to the normal brain development of the foetus and breastfed infants. Studies suggest that supplementing with DHA during the last trimester and during breastfeeding may offer great benefits to baby.

by Alice Bradshaw, Solgar Nutritionist

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