BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health: Important vitamins for the development of a healthy foetus



A healthy diet promotes growth and health at all stages of life- foetus, child, adult and old age. The role of nutrients and vitamins in fetal development and growth cannot be overemphasized. Eating a healthy, balanced diet in pregnancy is particularly helpful in supplying the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for baby formation and nutrition. In addition to a balanced, healthy diet, some vitamins are so important that they have to be supplemented by taking multivitamins to provide adequate amounts for the body. These extra vitamins also help to bridge any nutritional gaps in diet and should be started as early as possible to be effective. Understanding which nutrients are most needed as well as where to find them prepares expecting mothers and helps them optimize the health of their baby.

The first 28 days of foetal development represent one of the most crucial periods as the spine, spinal cord and brain begin to develop. Consequently, the essential prenatal vitamins must be taken in the required dose during this period to aid these developments.

There is actually no special formula for a healthy pregnancy diet; in fact, the basic principles of healthy eating remain binding and constant- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. However, some nutrients and vitamins are needed in more doses than even a healthy, balanced diet can supply. In such cases, these vitamins deserve special attention and should be supplemented. They include:

  1. Folate and folic acid: Folate is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects, birth defects, premature birth, serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. Its synthetic form- folic acid is found in supplements and fortified foods. The recommended daily intake is 400 – 800 micrograms before conception and throughout pregnancy. Sources include fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and dried beans.
  2. Calcium: Calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth. It also helps the circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally. Up to 1,000 milligrams are needed daily for pregnant women while pregnant teenagers need up to 1,300 milligrams. Sources include dairy products, fortified fruit juices, broccoli and kale.
  3. Vitamin D: Vitamin D, like calcium also helps build foetal bones and teeth. About 600 international units (IU) are needed daily. Sources include fatty fish, such as salmon, and fortified milk and orange juice.
  4. Protein: Protein is crucial for foetal growth throughout pregnancy. Recommended intake amount is 71 grams a day. Protein sources include Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and peas, nuts, seeds and soy products.
  5. Iron: The body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues. Iron is needed to make more blood to supply oxygen to the growing baby. During pregnancy, the need for iron should be doubled because its deficiency causes anaemia, fatigue, premature birth, low birth weight and postpartum depression. About 27 milligrams is needed daily. Sources include lean red meat, poultry, fish, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, beans and vegetables.

Other prenatal vitamins include: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, Iodine, Zinc, Niacin, Thiamine, and Riboflavin. It is important to consult a healthcare professional who would recommend the specific vitamins and in what doses they should be taken.

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