Essential Vitamins for Pregnancy: Importance, RDA and Food Sources

Vitamins during a pregnancy play a crucial role in the physiology of the pregnant mother and the developing baby. It is important that you get an adequate supply of these pregnancy vitamins, not just during your pregnancy and breastfeeding period but also before your pregnancy.

So, make sure a good intake of these especially planned pregnancy vitamins through your diet as soon as you have planned to become pregnant. Their importance in pregnancy, the recommended daily allowances (RDA) for adult women between the ages of 19 years to 50 years, and the food sources are explained below.

The American Pregnancy Association advises an increased intake of 300 calories per day during your pregnancy.

Vitamin A

You require Vitamin A during pregnancy for a good vision and to maintain the integrity of the body cells of the developing baby.

Vitamin A is a vitamin, which is soluble in fats and therefore, requires fat to be metabolized. It is an important vitamin that is required during pregnancy. It is stored in the liver and is of two types:

Preformed Vitamin A is the most common form and can be directly used by the body. It is called retinol or retinoids and is found in foods of animal origin like milk, eggs, and liver.

Provitamin A carotenoids or beta-carotene, which is converted inside the body into usable vitamin A and found in red, yellow, orange and dark green fruits and vegetables.

If an adult stopped having vitamin A in his diet, it would take about 2 years for signs of vitamin A deficiency to manifest. This speaks highly of vitamin A stores in the body (liver).

Recommended daily allowance (RDA) = 770 micrograms.

Why you need vitamin A?

In pregnancy, the mother and the growing baby both require vitamin A  for the growth of the baby’s lungs, heart, eyes, bones and for the integrity of the body cells.

Vitamin A also helps in the development of the nervous and circulatory systems of the fetus. It promotes fat metabolism and the resistance to fight infection.

Similarly, it also helps to have good vision, promotes tissue repair after giving birth and increases the immunity of the mother.

A normal diet gives you a good amount of vitamin A. It is necessary not to increase your vitamin A requirement with supplements as too much of vitamin A can cause birth defects and liver toxicity.

Vitamin A dosage during pregnancy

In a pregnant woman under 18 years of age, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 750 mcg (micrograms) and in pregnant women, 19 years and above the RDA is 770 mcg.

In breastfeeding mothers, the RDA increases and is 1200 mcg in a pregnant woman under 18 years and 1300 mcg in women above 19 years.

Vitamin A Foods

Fruits include Carrots, Watermelon, Mango, Tomato juice, Pumpkin, and Prunes

Vegetables include Broccoli, Spinach, Sweet potatoes

Animal foods such as Liver from beef and chicken. Kidneys Fish liver oils, Eggs.

Dairy foods such as cow’s milk, cheese, and ice-cream

Other food sources include Fortified cereals and Butternut

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B1 during pregnancy is 1.4 mg.

Why you need vitamin B1?

Vitamin B1 is needed for the development of the baby’s brain and the nervous system and also to increase the energy levels. It also contributes significantly to the development of other organs of the baby.

Food sources of vitamin B1

Whole grains, Fortified cereals, Wheat germ, Organ meat, Pork, Rice, Eggs, Pasta, Legumes, Nuts, Berries.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 

RDA:  The RDA of vitamin B2 during pregnancy is 1.4 mg.

Why you require vitamin B2?

It is necessary to give good eyesight and a good skin to the baby and for high energy levels.

Food sources 

Fortified cereals, dairy products, meats, poultry, fish.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 

RDA of vitamin B6 during pregnancy is 1.9 micrograms

Why is Vitamin B6 required in pregnancy?

It helps to reduce morning sickness and also to promote the formation of red blood cells in the baby.

Food sources of vitamin B6

Fish, chicken, eggs, liver, pork, soybeans, cabbage, peas, beans, broccoli, spinach, wheat germ, brown rice, bran, oats, sunflower seeds, bananas, peanuts, and walnuts.

Folic acid (vitamin B9) 

Folic acid is essential for proper development of the nervous system of the baby and for a healthy pregnancy. Its role is important in the formation of cells, development of DNA and formation of tissues.

It also promotes the formation of red blood cells. Taking adequate folic acid reduces the risk of neural defects in the baby by 70% and also greatly reduces the risk of preeclampsia in the pregnant woman. Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition in which the pregnant woman develops high blood pressure.

Vitamin C

RDA = 80 to 85 mg.

Why you require vitamin C in pregnancy?

It helps to absorb iron and prevent anemia in the pregnant woman. It is an antioxidant thereby preventing damage to body tissues. It also helps to improve the immunity of the pregnant mother.

Food sources of vitamin C

Citrus fruits like oranges and lemon, strawberries, papaya, tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, potatoes, bell peppers.

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D is essential for absorption of calcium in the mother and helps in the calcium metabolism in the baby.

RDA = 5 micrograms

Why you require vitamin D during pregnancy?

Vitamin D helps proper absorption of calcium and phosphate in the body. Calcium and phosphate are essential for strong bones and teeth. Sufficient levels of vitamin D reduces your risk of diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis besides increasing your resistance to infections.

Insufficient calcium in a pregnant mother can result in low calcium in the developing baby, which can cause weak bones and teeth in the baby.

Food Sources of Vitamin D

Exposure to sunlight, green leafy vegetables, Egg yolk, Butter, Fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, Fish oils, Fortified milk.

Vitamin  E

Vitamin E helps to promote pregnancy and prevent abortions.

RDA = 15 mg.

Vitamin E and pregnancy – Use caution

The requirement of vitamin E in pregnancy has to be approached with caution because high doses beyond the requirement can be potentially dangerous. And therefore, any separate and  additional supplement of vitamin E is to be avoided because your diet will give you enough of it,

High doses of vitamin E increase the risk of bleeding, which can be dangerous in pregnancy. Some studies indicate that high doses of vitamin E increase risk of death for reasons that are unknown.

Food sources that contain vitamin E

Avocado, Soybean, corn and canola oils, Sweet potatoes, Sunflower seeds, Wheat germ, Codfish, Shrimp, Tofu.

Vitamin K

RDA = 90 micrograms.

Why you require it?

Vitamin K is essential in the normal process of clotting of blood and its deficiency can lead to neonatal bleeding. Its deficiency is rarely seen and is very rarely required to be given as supplements. Vitamin K helps to prevent neonatal hemorrhages

Food sources of Vitamin K

Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, Spinach, Leafy green vegetables, Cabbage.

Besides vitamin other nutrients are also required for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, which are described in the subsequent posts.

 

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