Posts Tagged ‘vitamin A’

What should you look for in a prenatal vitamin?

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Your body uses vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to help it stay strong and healthy. During pregnancy it’s hard to get the right amount of some vitamins and minerals just through food. That’s why you should take a prenatal vitamin every day during pregnancy. Taking prenatal vitamins along with eating healthy foods can make sure that you and your baby get the nutrients you both need.

Here’s what you should look for in a prenatal vitamin:

Folic acid: 600 micrograms

Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. Taking it before and during early pregnancy, can help prevent neural tube defects (also called NTDs).

Some foods such as bread, cereal, and corn masa have folic acid added to them. Look for “fortified” or “enriched” on the label.

When folic acid is naturally in a food, it’s called folate. Sources of folate include:

  • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and broccoli
  • Lentils and beans
  • Orange juice

Iron: 27 milligrams

Iron is a mineral. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein that helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Your body needs twice as much iron during pregnancy to carry oxygen to your baby.

Iron-rich foods include:

  • Lean meat, poultry and seafood
  • Cereal, bread and pasta that has iron added to it (check the package label)
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Beans, nuts, raisins and dried fruit

Calcium: 1,000 milligrams

Calcium is a mineral that helps your baby’s bones, teeth, heart, muscles and nerves develop.

Calcium is found in:

  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Broccoli and kale
  • Orange juice that has calcium added to it (check the label)

Vitamin D: 600 IU (international units)

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and helps your nerves, muscles and immune system work. Your baby needs vitamin D to help his bones and teeth grow.

Vitamin D is found in foods such as:

  • Fatty fish, like salmon
  • Milk and cereal that has vitamin D added to it (check the package label)

DHA: 200 milligrams

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. It’s a kind of fat (called omega-3 fatty acid) that helps with growth and development. During pregnancy, DHA helps your baby’s brain and eyes develop.

Not all prenatal vitamins contain DHA, so ask your provider if you need a DHA supplement. DHA can be found in some foods including:

  • Fish that are low in mercury, like herring, salmon, trout, anchovies and halibut. During pregnancy, eat 8-12 ounces of these kinds of fish each week.
  • Orange juice, milk and eggs that have DHA added to them (check the label)

Iodine: 220 micrograms

Iodine is a mineral your body needs to make thyroid hormones. You need iodine during pregnancy to help your baby’s brain and nervous system develop.

Not all prenatal vitamins have iodine, so make sure you eat foods that have iodine in them. This includes:

  • Fish
  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Enriched or fortified cereal and bread (check the package label)
  • Iodized salt (salt with iodine added to it; check the package label)

A note about vitamin A….

Your baby needs vitamin A for healthy growth and development during pregnancy. But too much may cause birth defects.

Preformed vitamin A is found in foods such as liver and fish liver oil. You should avoid fish liver oil supplements during pregnancy, but occasionally you can eat a small portion of liver. Very high levels of preformed vitamin A can cause birth defects. You should not get more than 10,000 international units (IU) of vitamin A each day.

Beta carotene is another form of vitamin A found in certain yellow and green vegetables. Beta carotene is not associated with birth defects and is safe to consume.

Talk to your health care provider about getting the right amount of vitamin A from healthy eating and your prenatal vitamin.

Make sure to tell your provider about any additional vitamins or supplements that you take.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Congenital heart defects

Friday, December 18th, 2009

There have been some painful posts and resulting discussion this week on congenital heart defects (CHD) on Twitter. So I thought it would be a good idea to provide some background information about these conditions and what the March of Dimes is doing to help.

About 35,000 infants (1 out of every 125) are born with heart defects each year in the United States. The term congenital heart defect is a general term used to describe many types of rare heart disorders. The term congenital heart defect is not a diagnosis in itself. Some of the most common heart defects include: patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), septal defects, coarctation of the aorta, heart valve abnormalities, tetralogy of fallot, transposition of the great arteries, and hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Click here to learn more.

Over the past ten years, the March of Dimes has invested over $36 million in heart related research, including CHDs.  A number of scientists funded by the March of Dimes are studying genes that may underlie specific heart defects. The goal of this research is to better understand the causes of congenital heart defects, in order to develop ways to prevent them. Grantees also are looking at how environmental factors (such as a form of vitamin A called retinoic acid) may contribute to congenital heart defects. One grantee is seeking to understand why some babies with serious heart defects develop brain injuries, in order to learn how to prevent and treat them.

If you have questions or concerns about a specific birth defect, please drop us a note at AskUs@marchofdimes.org and we’ll gladly provide you with information.

Vitamin A – How much should I take?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

vitamins-26377178_thm1We talk about the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy, but there are other vitamins to consider, too. Some are good, some in high doses aren’t so great during pregnancy.  While vitamin A is needed for normal fetal growth and development, taking too much vitamin A during pregnancy can cause birth defects. Start keeping an eye on your vitamin A consumption before pregnancy. Watch what you eat as well as the vitamins you take.

The body is able to make its own vitamin A, when needed, from substances such as beta carotene, which is found in yellow and green vegetables. This raw material for the vitamin is considered completely safe and healthy during pregnancy. However, much of the vitamin A we consume is the preformed vitamin (retinol) which, in excessive amounts, may cause birth defects. Preformed vitamin A is found in many vitamin supplements and some foods, including meats, eggs, dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals.

Liver is the only food that provides very high amounts of vitamin A. The amount of vitamin A found in liver varies. For example, a 3-ounce serving of beef liver may contain 27,000 IU and chicken liver, 12,000 IU. A pregnant woman who eats liver regularly may consume enough vitamin A to pose a risk to her baby.  Though it is not proven that eating liver causes birth defects, the safest approach is for pregnant women to minimize their consumption of liver.

A pregnant woman also should be sure that her multivitamin or prenatal supplement contains no more than 5,000 IU (international units) of preformed vitamin A (some prenatal vitamins contain no preformed vitamin A, substituting beta-carotene or omitting vitamin A entirely), and she should not take any vitamin A supplements beyond that amount.

Before taking any supplement, talk with your health care provider about whether you personally need it and, if so, how much you should take.  And when it comes to vitamin A, be sure to discuss your diet, too.