In normal circumstances, your body utilizes several vitamins and minerals for important functions such as immunity, bone health, energy, and metabolism. When a lady becomes pregnant, the body’s requirement of vitamins and minerals (including omega-3 fish oil) will increase as the fetus obtains all the necessary nutrients from the mother. Even before a lady gets pregnant, she is recommended to start taking folic acid, a type of vitamin B .
Vitamins and omega-3 fish oil supplements for pregnant ladies (or ladies preparing to get pregnant) are called prenatal vitamins. Although you should be able to obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals from taking a well-balanced diet, there may be deficiencies and gaps especially in times of higher stress to the body such as pregnancy and breastfeeding.
These supplements are also important to be at adequate amount in the breast milk to provide sufficient nutrients for the baby. Breastfeeding also presents as a nutrition depleting process for the mothers. With adequate nutrition, not only does it benefit the mother, but she can also ensure that her breast milk will contain enough nutrients for the baby.
Find out more about the roles and functions of the different vitamins and omega-3 fish oil for a pregnant or breastfeeding lady.
Vitamin A is considered an important nutrient for pregnant ladies and the fetuses. It plays multiple roles, including eye development, as well as cellular growth and differentiation . There is an increasing need for vitamin A, especially in the later stages of pregnancy . Pregnant women require extra vitamin A for fetal growth as well as to support their own metabolism .
However, it is also to be noted that excessive levels of vitamin A can be harmful for the baby. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and is stored in the liver when taken in excess . There is potential for teratogenic effects associated with high doses of vitamin A (more than 3,000 mcg RAE [10,000 IU] daily) [3,4], and hence it is crucial to prevent excessive intake of vitamin A.
Vitamin B class consists of a total of 8 sub-groups of vitamin B:
Perhaps the most well-known vitamin B for pregnant women is folic acid, also called folate or vitamin B9. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women take at least 400mcg of folic acid every day, especially if she is preparing to get pregnant . This helps to prevent birth defects such as to the baby’s brain or spine . In addition, the CDC also recommends women who have had pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect to take 4000mcg of folic acid from 1 month prior to pregnancy and up till 3 months of pregnancy .
Other types of vitamin B also helps with maintaining natural energy levels in adults, which is especially important in pregnant women who may feel more fatigued in the 1st and 3rd trimester . Vitamin B3 (niacin) and Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) both help with fetus’ brain development and keeping the nervous system healthy. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin), together with folic acid, also helps with DNA synthesis and red blood cells production. A low levels of vitamin B12 in women may also increase the risk of neural tube defect in their fetus .
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that the body is normally unable to produce on its own, and hence can only be taken via external means . Vitamin C is best known for its roles in wound healing, immune system , and for the absorption of iron for the formation of healthy red blood cells . Not only is vitamin C important for the pregnant lady for immune protection and reducing risk of anemia, but it is also a crucial component in the healthy development and growth of your baby.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin best known for its function for bone health by modulating calcium absorption  but has also recently gain attention due to its effects on improving the body’s immune system . It is produced in the body when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is an essential component for a pregnant woman’s diet, as it aids in the healthy development of the baby’s bones and teeth, together with several other key systems such as the nervous system .
Vitamin E is a group of 8 fat-soluble chemicals that have distinct antioxidant properties . This group of vitamins have also been shown to reduce the risks of pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage and pre-eclampsia, due to its antioxidant properties . High levels of oxidative stress have been linked with certain pregnancy complications, and hence the supplementation of vitamin E is important especially for pregnant women.
Omega-3 fish oil fatty acids are found in fish and certain seafoods, with the most active being docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Numerous benefits to the fetus and child have been shown when the pregnant mother is supplemented with omega-3 fish oil, both during pregnancy and the post-partum period . These benefits include improved neurodevelopmental outcomes, reducing risks of preterm birth, and protecting the mother from depression .
It is recommended to continue taking vitamins with omega-3 fish oil to help with post-delivery recovery and to provide sufficient nutrition for both mother and child, especially if the mother is breastfeeding.
Pre- and post-natal vitamins with omega-3 fish oil supplementation are vital, not just for the growth and development of the fetus or baby, but for the pregnant or breastfeeding mothers’ health as well. Hence, it is crucial for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to be aware of the dietary gaps that they are likely to have and supplement themselves with the necessary pre- and post-natal vitamins with omega-3 fish oil.