If you’re a would-be-mum following a healthy diet, you’re probably getting many, if not all, the nutrients needed to increase your chances of conceiving. That said, even if you are eating well, your doctor might have recommended you take certain supplements, too. Here’s a rundown of the key nutrients for women trying to conceive…
Folic acid is crucial for the healthy development of the foetus. It can reduce the chance of brain and spinal cord defects (called neural tube defects) such as spina bifida. If you’re thinking about having a baby, start taking a daily folic acid supplement of 400mcg. Ideally, you should start taking this for three months before you start trying to conceive.
Folic acid is found is leafy green vegetables (broccoli is one example), beans, nuts, wholegrain breads and wholegrain cereals, fruits and citrus juices.
Calcium is really important for your bones and teeth as well as a developing baby’s too. It’s also crucial for a baby’s circulatory, muscular and nervous systems. When pregnant, it’s recommended you have 1000mg a day. When trying to conceive, you just need to keep up your normal calcium levels.
If you think you’re not getting enough calcium – for example, if you’re lactose intolerant or don’t eat dairy foods – you could look into taking a calcium supplement. Antenatal vitamin tablets do contain calcium, though some could only provide a third of the recommended daily amount, so make sure you check!
You can get calcium in your diet through dairy products. You’ll also find it in green leafy vegetables (such as broccoli and spinach), some fish (such as salmon and sardines), fruit (such as figs and rhubarb), many nuts (such as almonds), and calcium-fortified soy milk.
Iron is key for creating the haemoglobin that carries oxygen in red blood cells to all parts of your body. When you’re pregnant, you body has to boost its blood supply by 50%. This means you need plenty of iron to make all the extra haemoglobin for new red blood cells. If you’re lacking in iron, you could suffer from anaemia.
If you think you’re not getting enough iron, you should chat to your doctor – don’t just go and take an iron supplement! Iron supplements can cause, or make worse, digestive problems like constipation. If you’re not actually anaemic, your best bet it to get iron through your diet.
There are two forms of iron found in natural sources – HAEM and NON-HAEM.
HAEM IRON is more easily absorbed by your body. Meat, oily fish and poultry are all good sources of this type of iron.
NON-HEAM IRON isn’t so easily absorbed. Fruits, beans, nuts, vegetables and grains are all sources of this type of iron.
Magnesium is important for making and renewing bone, protein and fatty acids. It also relaxes muscles, plus helps your body build and repair all the body tissue it needs as you support your unborn developing baby. In pregnancy, you need about 350mg each day. If you’re deficient, the most serious possible outcome is an increased risk of pre-eclampsia and premature labour.
Magnesium supplements and iron supplements can prevent each other from working at their best. Basically, a magnesium supplement can inhibit the absorption of iron. Make sure you don’t take magnesium and iron supplements within two hours of each other.
You’ll find magnesium in leafy vegetables, dates, apricots, nuts, seeds, avocado, bran, wholewheat breads and dairy products. Also, some breakfast cereals are fortified with magnesium. Different mineral waters also have different magnesium levels.