Are Dietary Supplements Safe During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding?

Most pregnant and breastfeeding women use dietary supplements, considered multivitamin mineral products (72.9 and 64.4 percent, respectively). The analysis showed that the use of dietary supplements increases as pregnancies progress. This is worrying, given the critical importance of folic acid in the early stages of pregnancy. Only a small proportion of women at all stages of pregnancy used a dietary supplement that contained iodine.

Iron-rich diets and daily iron supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding help prevent iron-deficiency anemia. Good dietary sources of iron include lean meats, poultry and fish, fortified cereals, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), and green leafy vegetables. To maintain a healthy pregnancy, approximately 300 additional calories are needed each day. These calories should come from a balanced diet of proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Sweets and fats should be kept to a minimum. A healthy, well-balanced diet can also help reduce some symptoms of pregnancy, such as nausea and constipation. You can get enough fluids if you drink several glasses of water a day, in addition to liquids from juices and soups. Talk to your healthcare provider or midwife about restricting your intake of caffeine and artificial sweeteners.

Unpasteurized milk and foods made with unpasteurized milk (soft cheeses, such as feta, white and fresh cheese, camembert, brie, or cheeses with blue veins, unless labeled “made with pasteurized milk”) Hot dogs and sausages (unless heated to very hot before serving) Raw and undercooked seafood, eggs and meat should be avoided during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Most health care providers or midwives will prescribe a prenatal supplement before conception or shortly after to ensure that all of your nutritional needs are met. However, a prenatal supplement is no substitute for a healthy diet. Most berries, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, and fortified breakfast cereals are good sources of folic acid which may help reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

Neural tube defects can cause varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence, and sometimes intellectual disability. Folic acid is most useful during the first 28 days after conception when most neural tube defects occur. Unfortunately, you may not realize that you are pregnant before 28 days so folic acid intake should begin before conception and continue throughout the pregnancy. Your healthcare provider or midwife will recommend the right amount of folic acid to meet your individual needs.

If your blood iron level drops, a general practitioner or midwife will recommend that you take iron supplements. Angela Odoms-Young asked if NHANES data can be used to determine which health care providers are motivating pregnant women to take supplements especially if some of the information comes from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC). Referring to the evidence presented in session 1 that suggested that the dietary reference intake for determining protein adequacy might be underestimated Siega-Riz showed NHANES data that indicate that the usual protein intake of pregnant women is generally within the range of the highest estimates of needs. However far fewer pregnant and breastfeeding women used dietary supplements that contained vitamin A (approximately 40 percent) or choline (less than 8 percent).

Bailey also commented that despite concerns about misinformation about the use of supplements the population distributions of serum folate and red blood cells are almost superimposable to the distributions of the usual total intake of folate apart from some deviations in the tail. Pregnant women should receive 600 micrograms (0.6 milligrams) of folic acid during the second and third trimester. If you're a vegetarian or vegan talk to your doctor to find out if you need to take vitamin B12 supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding. You and your obstetrician-gynecologist or other obstetric care provider can discuss whether you need a supplement of more than 400 micrograms a day.

Healthy pregnant or breastfeeding women need to consume an additional 300 to 500 calories per day to meet their energy needs and support their baby's healthy growth. The United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) has dissolution standards but these standards are voluntary. Bailey explained that dietary supplements are regulated by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act known as DSHEA while prescription formulations have a different set of regulations.

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