Sponsored by Queensland Fertility Group
Words by Karen Kingham
When it comes time to plan a pregnancy, we all want a healthy body that’s ready to conceive naturally. But despite all best efforts to eat healthier foods, your preconception diet may still fall short of the most important vitamins and minerals needed to boost your fertility and support a healthy pregnancy, because there are some nutrients you simply can’t get enough of from food alone. This is why supplements are an invaluable addition to a healthy preconception diet.
Iodine requirements almost double during pregnancy, and with declining availability in our food supply, along with less of us using iodised table salt, the odds are you may be low in iodine.
Recommendation: If you are planning to fall pregnant, are already pregnant or are breastfeeding, start taking 150 micrograms of iodine a day.
Special note: Since 2009, local bread manufacturers have been required to use iodised salt to help improve iodine levels amongst all Australians.
Folate is a critical nutrient for the healthy growth and development of your baby.
Recommendation: If you are planning to conceive, or are in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, you should take at least 400 micrograms of folate a day. Some women may need to take more – consult with your doctor to be sure.
Special note: In 2009, our Food Standards mandated that all bread (except organic) be fortified with folic acid. Two slices contain 80 micrograms of folate.
Vitamin B12 is also important for the healthy development of unborn babies, but it’s only found naturally in animal foods. If you are vegan or vegetarian you may be low in this important nutrient.
Recommendation: If you are vegetarian or vegan and planning a baby, 6 micrograms a day of vitamin B12 now and for the duration of pregnancy and during lactation is important.
Vitamin D is important for fertility, and pregnant women need to ensure a healthy level of vitamin D exposure so their babies already have an adequate supply when they are born. However, levels are low among many women in Australia.
Recommendation: If you avoid sunlight, regularly use sunscreen, have dark skin or are carrying excess weight, your vitamin D levels may be low. Consider checking with your doctor about testing, and discussing supplements if necessary.
Calcium is important for balancing blood pressure during pregnancy and preventing an early labour.
Recommendation: If you avoid dairy or other high calcium foods, restore calcium levels in your diet by taking a calcium supplement of at least 1000 milligrams each day.
Iron needs increase in pregnancy, to support your increased blood volume and to build your baby’s own iron stores. If your red meat intake is low, you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, or your monthly menstrual losses are heavy, you may be low in iron.
Recommendation: See your doctor to check your preconception iron levels, to determine if a taking supplement is necessary.
And while some vitamin and mineral supplements make a valuable contribution to your baby preparations, others should be used with caution.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for reproduction and development, however too much of this vitamin may risk the development of a healthy baby.
Recommendation: Avoid supplements with more than 10 000 IU or 3000 micrograms of vitamin A. Beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body and is a safer way of supplementing vitamin A, is generally the form of vitamin A found in pregnancy vitamin supplements.
Herbal supplements are often thought to be a safe alternative to conventional medicines or supplements, however many of their benefits remain untested and their safety in pregnancy unproven.
Recommendation: Discuss any herbal supplements you may want to take with your doctor before you start.
Read more about how eating and living well can boost your fertility here.
Queensland Fertility Group (QFG) is Queensland’s largest group of fertility specialists, with more than 13 clinics reaching from Cairns to the Gold Coast. Boasting some of the highest fertility treatment success rates in Australia, QFG offers patients the full range of fertility investigation and treatment options from simple techniques, like ovulation timing, right through to artificial insemination and IVF. To learn more about the leading fertility specialists in your area or to locate your local QFG clinic, please visit www.qfg.com.au.