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The Science Bit

There’s lots of confusion around what extra nutrients pregnant women and nursing mothers need. Everyone seems to know about Folic Acid but do you know how important it is to make sure you get enough Vitamin D? (to help support babies’ bone development) or that certain B Vitamins may help mums feel less queasy but are also vital in the development of babies’ nervous system? Our Mumkind ‘What do I need and when’ chart created by our pregnancy nutrition expert Dr Emma gives you in-depth detail into everything that mum…and baby needs.


Which nutrient?

What does it do?

For mum “Healthy mum” For baby “Happy baby”
Water, also known as ‘the forgotten nutrient’ Water is needed replenish the fluids that are lost when you have morning sickness and for your circulation (blood plasma volume) which expands with pregnancy. It also works hand-in-hand with fibre making going to the toilet a bit easier (also see below)1. Water is needed to form the amniotic fluid cushion around the baby (making it nice and comfy), as well as after birth to help produce breast milk.
Fibre Fibre helps to maintain a healthy immune and digestive system, preventing things like constipation and haemorrhoids which can be quite common in pregnancy1. Well, if mum spends less time on the toilet, baby is happier!
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) This family of B vitamins are needed to help maintain your energy levels which can decline in pregnancy. Vitamin B6 is thought to help reduce feelings of queasiness in pregnant mums, as well as helping to regulate hormone activity (always good!) B vitamins are needed to support the formation of the babies’ nervous system but especially B6 and B12.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
Biotin (vitamin H) Biotin is good for general health, vitality and wellbeing. Deficiencies of this nutrient have also been linked to poor sleeping patterns. Biotin is thought to help support the babies’ development in the early stages of pregnancy2.
Folic acid Folic acid is needed to support the expansion of tissues in pregnancy. It has also been found to help lower levels of a substance found in the blood known as homocysteine, which has been linked to pre-eclampsia risk in pregnancy3. This nutrient is very important in early pregnancy (especially the first trimester) as it helps the babies’ cells to divide healthily, which includes the cells that make up the spinal cord.
Vitamin C Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to supports the immune system which can be quite low in pregnancy – protecting against pregnancy colds. It may also help to reduce diabetes risk in pregnancy, although more work is needed in this area4. Vitamin C levels in pregnancy may help to support the growth of the baby5.
Vitamin D Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to reduced risk of pre-eclampsia and diabetes in pregnancy, although more scientific work is needed6. Vitamin D is needed to help support the formation of all 300 little baby bones!
Vitamin E Helps to supports mums immune system which can be quite low in pregnancy, again helping to fight cold and infections. Vitamin E deficiency has been linked to preterm births and growth restriction (smaller babies)7.
Vitamin K Vitamin K is fat-soluble vitamin that helps blood to clot. If mums are deficient in vitamin K then this may affect the babies vitamin K levels too. Some babies may need injections after birth to help their blood clot.
Calcium In some studies higher calcium intakes have been found to help prevent high blood pressure in pregnancy8. Calcium is also needed to support the formation of baby bones and teeth (works along with vitamin D and magnesium)
Magnesium Magnesium is needed to help build and repair your bodies’ tissues. It may also help to promote and regulate sleep9 Zzzz. This important nutrient is needed for the formation of baby bones, nerves and brain. Magnesium deficiency has also been linked to babies being born too soon, as well as the baby being born with medical conditions such as cerebral palsy (where the babies movement, posture and co-ordination are affected) 10.
Iodine This important mineral is needed to help produce extra thyroid hormones which assist with proper metabolic functioning in pregnancy. Again, this mineral is needed to ensure the babies nerves and brain form properly.
Iron Iron can help to prevent fatigue, tiredness and iron deficiency in pregnancy which can be quite common, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. The baby needs mum to be in best form after birth and some studies have linked iron deficiency to tiredness, seesaw emotions and postnatal depression11.
Zinc Zinc is needed for DNA and blood formation. Zinc is also needed to help support the babies’ nerve and brain development12.
Potassium Potassium can help to maintain normal blood pressure and is also thought to help alleviate pregnancy cramps. Low potassium levels have also been to disturbance of sleep. If mum sleeps well and has fewer cramps then baby sleeps better.
Selenium Again, this is an important antioxidant that helps to supports mums immune system, protecting against cold and bugs. These days it is difficult to get enough selenium from non-fortified foods due to soil deficiencies which are common in Europe. Amongst other things selenium is though to help support the growth of the baby.


Supporting Science:

  1. Derbyshire E (2007) The importance of adequate fluid and fibre intake during pregnancy. Nursing Standard 21(24),40-3.
  2. Mock DM, Quirk JG and Mock NI (2002) Marginal biotin deficiency in normal pregnancy. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition75, 295-9.
  3. Selhub J 2008) Public health significance of elevated homocysteine. Food and Nutrition Bulletin 29(2 Suppl),S116-25.
  4. Zhang C, Williams MA, Sorensen TK et al. (2004) Maternal plasma ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and risk of gestational diabetes. Epidemiology 15(5), 597-604.
  5. Lee BE, Hong YC, Lee KH et al. (2004) Influence of maternal serum levels of vitamins C and E during the second trimester on birth weight and length.European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 58(10), 1365-71.
  6. Urrutia RP and Thorp JM (2012) Vitamin D in pregnancy: current concepts. Current Opinions in Obstetrics & Gynecology24(2), 57-64.
  7. Gagné A, Wei SQ, Fraser WD et al. (2009) Absorption, transport, and bioavailability of vitamin E and its role in pregnant women. Journal of Obstetrcis & Gynaecology Canada 31(3), 210-7.
  8. Buppasiri P, Lumbiganon P, Thinkhamrop Jet al. (2011) Calcium supplementation (other than for preventing or treating hypertension) for improving pregnancy and infant outcomes. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews  Oct 5;(10), CD007079.
  9. Chollet D, Franken P,  Raffin Y et al. (2001) Magnesium involvement in sleep: genetic and nutritional models. Behaviour Genetics 31(5), 413-25.
  10. Scheans P (2012) The role of magnesium sulfate in the prevention of cerebral palsy. Neonatal Networks 31(2),121-4.
  11. Milman N (2011) Postpartum anemia I: definition, prevalence, causes, and consequences. Annals of Hematology 90(11), 1247-53.
  12. Levenson CW and Morris D (2011) Zinc and neurogenesis: making new neurons from development to adulthood. Advanced Nutrition 2(2), 96-100.