Because we need all the vitamins & minerals when we are pregnant, not just folate, iodine and iron.

That’s the short answer. The long answer is that we need all the vitamins and minerals when we are pregnant, not just folate, iodine & iron.

Notice that both answers are the same.

Traditionally pregnant women were advised to take foods and herbs that were high in nutrients throughout pregnancy as we understood the demands on the body were extreme. These days we can use tablets and nutritive herbs (never use herbs without professional advice during pregnancy – there are many that need to be avoided) that can target the nutrition that we know pregnant women need.

Since 2006 pregnant women have been advised to take and prescribed a folic acid tablet and an iodine tablet in the recommended daily doses for pregnant women, when pregnant and trying to conceive. This is to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects that can occur early in development if the required nutrient folate is not present in the mothers blood. This is a great step in the right direction for NZ women. When women are pregnant we need almost 1/3 to 2/3 more nutrients to compensate for the demands of making a baby. The consequence of not getting them is that the mother runs the risk of becoming deficient and the baby can miss out on critical nutrients at crucial times of cellular division and growth.

We have 36 essential minerals and vitamins needed from outside of ourselves, from the environment, because we can not make them. In fact we use these to form bonds with our internal enzymes and these nutrients and chemicals from food connect with our molecular pathways and click them into action when needed. Without them we cannot express our true cellular potential. Sounds ideal, and luckily for us we have adapted to take in these nutrients through foods we can find in our environment.

The body adapts while pregnant to the increased demands by slowing the motility of the gut so the nutrients have more time to pass through. Also you will feel driven to eat certain flavours as the body is not shy of asking for what it needs. On the same token, we also go off many foods as we shy away from foods that may cause us sickness as our immune system switch from one phase to another, protecting the developing placenta and therefore our baby. The down side is that we are more prone to certain types of ills and our immune system is lowered for some types of sickness, so we feel a bit put off some smells and tastes to protect us from these potential bugs. The extreme version of this is morning sickness which can occur at any time causing nausea.

It is important too, to load up with nutrients before we conceive so that when we go through this off putting stage surviving on crackers and water, our body can still have the energy to do what we need so that we can catch up later on. And catch up later we do! As the appetite kicks back in we seem to crave almost anything when hungry.

See the theme running through this is all related to nutrients. Not just folate, iodine and iron (we need almost double the iron during pregnancy!) but copper, zinc, selenium, silica, lithium, molybdenum, chromium, sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, inositol, biotin, omega 3, omega 6, gut bacteria (yes these are an essential nutrient – they live in our gut and are not part of us but live symbiotically with us), vitamin C, E, K and D. All of the proteins, fats and carbohydrates that feed us are important too. Lets not leave anything out.

So why then do we only get prescribed 3 of these nutrients?

If we think about it logically we need all 36 of them, not just 3, and we should actually take a good pregnancy multi before, during and after to keep us and our baby healthier throughout this demanding time. Research has more definitively linked folate and iodine to associated conditions and with time and more research all 36 will get gradually added to the list of essential nutrients prescribed during pregnancy.

Part of the role of nutrients in expectant mums involves collagen repair (think stretch marks), preventing nutrient depletion in mum (think reduced cravings) and baby making (think less fatigue). Making our babies grow like mushrooms, and keeping our pregnancy pangs at bay is a key part of keeping healthy during this time. Come in and talk to us about your pregnancy and we can advise you on the right products to take for your needs.

Simone Reddington is the founder of the Apothecary, a Medical Herbalist and thinker. She holds a degree in Psychology and is a professional member of the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists.