New research from Purdue University shows that many pregnant women aren’t getting the recommended amounts of vitamins D, C, A, K, and E as well as other key nutrients.
Getting adequate nutrition is one of the most important responsibilities women have throughout their pregnancies — not only for themselves, but for the lifelong health of their babies as well.
A significant amount of pregnant women are deficient in vitamins D, C, A, K, B-6, and E, as well as iron, folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and choline, according to the
In addition, the vast majority of women may be getting too much sodium and folic acid, likely due to supplement intake.
Given these findings, the researchers believe it’s crucial to improve current dietary guidance to help women meet — and not exceed — dietary recommendations.
“Nutrition is critical for the pregnant patient, because there is an absolute dependence of the developing fetus on the mother for all of its nutrients,” Dr. Don Wothe, a perinatal physician with Allina Health, told Healthline.
There are several types of birth defects a fetus can develop in the event the mother is deficient in key nutrients, Wothe adds.
The researchers discovered that a significant portion of the women had notably low levels of magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin E, and iron.
Some women were also deficient in vitamin A, folate, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B, and zinc.
Most women — 95 percent to be exact — exceeded recommended sodium levels. About a third went above healthy folic acid levels.
The research team also found that even with supplements, many women still weren’t reaching optimal levels of key nutrients.
In general, the risk of dietary deficiencies was lower when women took supplements, but in certain cases, supplements led women to have excessive amounts of folic acid and sodium.
Each vitamin has an important role in supporting the growth of the fetus.
“Quite simply, the pregnant woman is feeding her fetus through her own nutrition, and deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals can adversely affect the growing baby in different ways,” said Dr. Heather Bartos, a board-certified OB-GYN in Cross Roads, Texas.
For example, persistent low iron may lead to anemia, Bartos explains.
Anemia, which is a low red blood cell count, can cause pregnant women to feel tired and lethargic throughout their pregnancies.
Anemia can quickly turn into a critical emergency if there’s blood loss during delivery, Wothe notes.
And it can lead to preterm delivery, having a baby with a low birth weight, and even death in the baby, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A folate deficiency can cause several types of birth defects, particularly in the spine.
To combat this, most health experts recommend that women who are trying to conceive take about 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.
Those who are already pregnant should aim for about 600 to 800 micrograms of folic acid per day, recommends the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Although supplements may be necessary in helping pregnant women get the right amount of nutrients, they may cause some women to take in more nutrients than needed.
And consuming too much of certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful, health experts say.
For example, excess folic acid can hide symptoms of other deficiencies.
If a woman has a vitamin B-12 deficiency and is taking too much folic acid, she won’t discover it until there’s permanent nerve damage, Wothe explains.
“In this circumstance, the excess folic acid treats the anemia, and the B-12 deficiency is not discovered until the patient begins to experience irreversible neurologic signs,” Wothe said.
A large percentage of pregnant women are also consuming way too much salt.
“Excess sodium can cause water retention, and, worse, high blood pressure in pregnant women, which can be devastating for a pregnancy,” Bartos said.
High blood pressure during pregnancy can disrupt blood flow to the placenta, slow the growth of the baby, and potentially injure major organs, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Before adjusting your diet or adding herbal or dietary supplements into the mix, pregnant women should talk to their doctor to determine which vitamins and minerals they truly need.
Once your doctor has an accurate idea of your diet and nutritional needs, they can recommend an appropriate perinatal eating plan and supplement regimen to support the health of you and your baby.
A new study found that many pregnant women aren’t getting adequate nutrition, even with the help of supplements.
Nutrition is critical during pregnancy, as it helps support the lifelong health of mothers and babies. Health experts recommend pregnant women consult their doctors, who can recommend a custom eating and supplement plan.