For some people, supplementation can be summed up in one word/product – Materna. While this pre-post-natal vitamin does provide an adequate amount of supplementation for the mother and infant, it should really only be considered the bare minimum of preparing for the duo’s long term health. While Materna should be a staple item of supplementation on every pregnant woman’s list, it is just only the tip of the iceberg! The body may experience deficiencies of certain vitamins or minerals that were not an issue prior to pregnancy. The obvious fact is the body is now feeding for two persons and some minor deficiencies that were asymptomatic before are now more obvious. The list of supplements is long and varies depending on who you ask. I will focus on a few vitamins/minerals that I find to be the most important.
Iron is a mineral that females are prone to having deficiencies of. It is essential for the prevention of anemia and maintenance of healthy red blood cells. There are a few different salt forms of iron or ferrous. The variations include ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, and ferrous fumarate. The main difference between the 3 is the actual amount of iron the body absorbs or otherwise known as elemental iron. With all the different iron supplements on the market, it can be mind boggling as to which product to select. Proferrin and Palafer are two very good products that provide a healthy amount of iron while minimizing stomach cramping and constipation, both these products can be found behind the counter at your local Forbes Pharmacy.
Folic acid is a water soluble vitamin B and is very important during pregnancy but will be one of the easiest vitamins to supplement. Its main function is to maintain red blood cell health and help produce and maintain new cells (especially important during pregnancy). The recommended amount is 1mg once daily and can be found in most pre/post-natal multivitamins. Folic acid can also be found in green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin C can be beneficial in cold prevention, assist with iron absorption and strengthen connective and vascular tissue. Supplementation of vitamin C is important during pregnancy but also afterwards both for the mother and infant. Sudden withdrawal of vitamin C supplementation can sometimes lead to a “rebound effect” where both mother and/or infant can experience cold like symptoms, fatigue and other unpleasant feelings.
Omega-3 and vitamin E are very good for the heart. Both these supplements can assist with controlling blood pressure and maintain a healthy heart. Omega-3 from fish oils provides the body with EPA and DHA, the two essential fatty acids the body cannot produce on its own. When selecting an omega-3 supplement it is important to choose one of pharmaceutical grade as some “cheaper” generics can be derived from contaminated fish leading to toxicities and the same can be said about consuming excessive amounts of fish for omega-3 fish oils. Flaxseed oil may be an alternative to fish oils; however, some have reported that it affects hormonal levels. It also provides only 1 essential fatty acid ALA which can be converted to EPA and DHA when an appropriate amount is consumed, but for the vegan parent, this can be a good source of omega-3.
So far, all the mentioned supplements pertain to long term health and disease prevention; however, supplementation along with lifestyle changes can achieve things beyond just that. Morning sickness, stretch marks from giving birth, hemorrhoids due to constipation and the weight and pressure of child bearing and development of allergies are a few things that can be managed through supplementation and lifestyle modifications.
Majority of pregnant women will experience morning sickness of varying degrees. Most OTCs are not suitable and should be consulted with your doctor or pharmacist. Vitamin B6 is useful for symptoms of vertigo and morning sickness and ginger has been shown to decrease nausea and is safe for use during pregnancy. For those who do not like the taste of ginger, it is available as an OTC product or talk to one of the pharmacy staff members at Forbes Compounding Pharmacy regarding compounding a capsule or even a lollipop tailored to your needs (ask us about our ginger and vitamin B6 lollipops!).
Asides from the morning sickness, stretch marks are every pregnant women’s fear. There are a few items available to treat stretch marks. Bio-oil, vitamin E and Cocoa Butter Formula are all effective products and can be found at your local Forbes Pharmacy. Vitamin C, as mentioned earlier will strengthen connective tissue and plays an important role in dealing with stretch marks. Perhaps the best thing to do is to stay active before planning the pregnancy, during and after which helps maintain post-partum weight gain and also decrease developing stretch marks. Compounded formulations that combine a few ingredients together are also available, for info contact Forbes Compounding Pharmacy.
Lifestyle changes, such as staying active and weight maintenance also play an important role in maintaining gastrointestinal health in pregnancy. Moderate activity promotes gastrointestinal movement and provides assistance with digestion and regular bowel movements. Weight loss lessens the burden the body needs to carry and decrease chances of hemorrhoids due to pressure on the rectal sphincter. Talk to one of our pharmacists about using stool softeners and other homeopathic remedies if hemorrhoids are a problem.
What you eat and supplement with during pregnancy can also affect the chances of your child developing allergies later on in life. While family history of allergies is the single most important factor that predisposes a person to develop allergic disease, there are ways to minimize the chances of passing these traits on to the next generation. If one parent has allergic disease, the estimated risk of the child to develop allergies is 48%; the child’s risk grows to 70% if both parents have allergies. By avoiding environmental allergens (such as pollen, pet dander, smoke) it can help reduce or delay the occurrence of allergies and asthma in your children. This also applies to certain foods, especially peanuts. It has been shown that eating peanuts during pregnancy can increase your child’s risk for developing a peanut allergy and other allergies — especially if you have a family history of allergies. Other foods such as shellfish and cow’s milk have had similar warnings; however, there has not been any conclusive proof that this has lead to development of allergies. This does not mean large amounts should be consumed, but rather if had in moderation can still be enjoyable and safe. These food restrictions should also be applied to the child’s diet after birth. This topic will be further discussed in our next article.
This just about concludes my list of supplementations and lifestyle modifications that will prepare your body for pregnancy. Your list should not be limited to just these suggestions as each individual will have different needs. Feel free to approach one of our friendly and knowledgeable pharmacists at Forbes Compounding Pharmacy for assistance with planning your pregnancy needs!