Saturday 25 March 2017

Many pregnant women taking wrong vitamins

Getting ready: 'Mad Men' actress January Jones, who is expecting her first child in September
Getting ready: 'Mad Men' actress January Jones, who is expecting her first child in September

Large numbers of pregnant women are on vitamin supplements but many may be taking the wrong ones and not consuming others early enough to benefit their baby, according to the 'Irish Medical Journal'.

The findings emerged in a study of 450 mothers who were followed up at six weeks and six months after giving birth at the Coombe Hospital in Dublin.

It found that nearly nine in 10 women were taking a folic acid supplement, which helps reduce the chances of a baby having a neural tube defect like spina bifida.

However, only 200 women started the course of folic acid tablets on time -- before getting pregnant.

Ideally women should take a 400 microgram folic acid tablet every day while trying to get pregnant and then continue until 12 weeks into the pregnancy.

"This warrants public health attention given that Irish neural tube defect rates are still among the highest in Europe (1-1.5 per 1,000 total births nationally).

"More effective public health efforts and folic acid promotional campaigns are necessary to convince all women of child-bearing age in Ireland of the critical time frame for neural tube defect prevention."

However, the advice is that if a woman does not take folic acid before conception they should start as soon as they find out they are pregnant.

They should also eat foods that contain folic acid, such as leafy green vegetables, to boost their folic acid intake.

The researchers also found over 10pc of the women in the study consumed a combined multi-vitamin and mineral and/or omega-3 fish oil and/or vitamin D supplement during pregnancy.

However, women are advised not to take vitamin A supplements, or any multi-vitamin supplements containing vitamin A, as too much can harm a baby.

"Recommendations in the UK advise the avoidance of vitamin A-containing supplements, including multi-vitamins and fish liver oils, in addition to foods high in vitamin A such as liver and pâté, during pregnancy," the researchers pointed out.

The incidence of rickets, a disease that affects bone development in children, has risen in infants and toddlers in Ireland and is on the rise in other developed countries.

Insufficient vitamin D can cause children's bones to soften, which can subsequently cause rickets.

Vitamin D is necessary to keep bones healthy and to provide the baby with enough vitamin D for the first few months of its life.

The advice for pregnant women is to take a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms each day. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, and these are needed to help keep bones and teeth healthy.

The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight on your skin. The amount of time you need in the sun to make enough vitamin D is different for every person, and depends on things like skin type, the time of day and time of year.

The researchers in the study -- from Crumlin children's hospital, the Coombe, Holles St, and the School of Biological Sciences, DIT Kevin Street -- stressed the need for more public education in these areas.

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