Pregnancy and breast-feeding

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During pregnancy and breast-feeding, a number of physiological changes occur which lead to an increase in the requirements of some nutrients for normal foetal development and the child's adequate growth. This increase requires the mother to maintain a balanced, varied diet.

Why is taking supplements important?

Taking supplements during pregnancy is important to optimise the proper development of the foetus and prevent possible complications. Pregnant women must be well nourished and keep this up throughout pregnancy, even after giving birth. During the breast-feeding period, in addition to the normal maternal requirements, their diet must cover everything needed to feed the newborn baby during the first months of its life.

In Western countries, the intake of certain vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, B complex vitamins, vitamin E, etc. can be lower than recommended in some cases (in unbalanced diets, vegetarian or lacto-ovo vegetarian diets, restricted meat consumption, multiple pregnancies, adolescent pregnancies, people that smoke and/or consume alcohol, etc.). In these situations, supplements with multivitamins are recommended to help pregnant women to obtain the right level of nutrition before, during and after the pregnancy.

The importance of vitamin D in pregnancy

Vitamin D during a pregnancy is essential. Inadequate levels of vitamin D are associated with certain gynaecological disorders that can make it difficult to become pregnant. With regard to vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy, it has been associated with different foetal, neonatal and maternal complications. In the first years of life, it is associated with alterations in the programming of bone development, some chronic diseases and even an increase in mortality.

It is estimated that, in Spain, vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy affects up to 60% of women. That is why, in addition to diet and adequate sun exposure, supplements are recommended. In general, the recommended dose to prevent vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is 1000 IU per day.

Tips for healthy eating during pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is more necessary than ever to follow a healthy diet that contributes to the proper development of the foetus. Health professionals recommend following these tips:

  • Eat fruit, vegetables, pulses, legumes, nuts and preferably whole grains (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.) as well as moderate amounts of meat, fish, eggs and dairy.
  • Spread out the daily intake into five or six meals. "Eating for two" is not necessary.
  • Drink preferably water (between around four to eight glasses a day). Do not consume alcoholic beverages (alcohol consumption can affect the normal development of the foetus).
  • Moderate salt intake and preferably use iodized salt.
  • Eat five servings a day of fruit and vegetables. When consumed raw, it is important to wash them with plenty of water.
  • Eat fish twice a week, since it contains omega-3, which is necessary for the proper development of the foetus. However, consuming large fish such as swordfish, swordfish or tuna is not advised due to their mercury content.
  • Eat preferably skimmed dairy products and avoid cheeses (feta, camembert, mascarpone, brie, etc.) that have not been made with pasteurised milk.
  • Cook meat and chicken all the way through, leaving nothing raw.
  • Respect the expiry dates on foods that are kept refrigerated, especially lightly cured sausages, and avoid refrigerated pates and smoked fish.
  • In general, do not eat raw animal products, such as eggs, seafood, fish (sushi) and meat (carpaccio). Clean kitchen surfaces and utensils after handling raw food.

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