Vitamin conundrum

Last updated 08:41 27/02/2013
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BRAIN DRAIN: Making sure your body is getting all the vitamins and minerals it needs is important at the best of times (work-related stress, studying, life changes) and particularly before you get pregnant.

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So, last night, at about 8.30pm, I was trying to wrap my head around the theory of scientific research and the cycle of science... zzzzzz.

It must have been at the fourth reading of the same paragraph discussing the theory behind statistics that the wave of fatigue hit me- the spirit was willing, but the body was tired.

I know I have chosen to study, I have committed and will put my big girl pants on and deal with it, but I have clearly forgotten the declaration I made when I finished my first degree "I am never, ever studying again- I am so glad this is over" (I was also working and studying at the same time back then).

Anyway- the fatigue got me to thinking that I probably need a multi-vitamin of sorts to help cope with the higher demands I am putting on myself- work- gym- housework- brain bootcamp- sleep.

It also occurred to me that I might need a pre-pregnancy health vitamin too- do I get both? Do I take one? Is it worth the expense?

I have heard that many women experience fatigue while pregnant and I have also seen some articles that suggest that certain birth defects could be prevented by an intake of certain vitamins and minerals.

Pre-pregnancy health- vital

In my previous blog- I established that pre-pregnancy health is vital in helping women with fertility problems, as well as getting your body ready for all the changes you go through when you are pregnant.

While it would be impossible for anyone, besides medically trained doctors to give sound and accurate advice- I did do some research on what has been recommended that women take if they are trying to get pregnant.

(Please note- the best would be for you to speak directly to your nutritionist/ doctor/ pharmacist about what you should be taking if you are trying to get pregnant, or are pregnant. Each individual's needs are unique and Dr Google, although insightful is not a good substitute for the real deal.)

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I would recommend looking at any sources very closely- obviously if the New Zealand Ministry of Health issues an update about what pregnant women should be eating, or avoiding, you can be pretty confident that a team of doctors have reviewed all kinds of data to come to that conclusion, still- if you aren't sure, ask a professional.

For the ladies like me trying to get ready to get pregnant, consider consulting a nutritionist, or your GP, or even a midwife.

Why do I keep hearing something different?

One week fats are bad, the next they are good. Then food colouring X causes this problem, the next it doesn't- there is no shortage of research findings, but why are they all so different?

 Well funny you should ask! As I am learning in Introduction to Psychological Research this is because science is constantly evolving and being updated and retested. It would be great if there was a book called- "Everything you need to know about everything" but unfortunately theories are constantly being re-evaluated.

But it can be tricky to negotiate through the myriad of information.

For example research from the University of Sydney found that the fat around a woman's organs is more dangerous to her and her baby's health during pregnancy than the spare tyre around her tummy. 

Research in Norway suggests that women who drink a lot of sweet sodas during pregnancy may be more likely to give birth prematurely. 

Other research says that pregnant women should keep consumption of coffee, tea and cola to a minimum, because there could be a link between caffeine intake and low birth weight among babies. 

However, a moderate amount may not pose any danger.

There is even research on what you can eat to make your baby smarter, or reduce the chances of your baby being born with autism.

Ok- So what about these vitamins now?

Lesley Dixon, midwifery advisor at the New Zealand College of Midwives says that Folic Acid is one supplement recommended for women pre-pregnancy and while they are pregnant too.

"You need to take that, if you can, for at least three months prior to conception and the first three months of pregnancy," she says.

Iodine is also recommended for those trying to conceive and expectant mums.

"But other than that, if you eat nutritionally well, you should be able to get all your vitamins and minerals from your diet," she explains.

That is your five plus servings of fruit and vegetables a day- remember you should totally cut out alcohol if you are trying to get pregnant.

"You do need to be aware of what you are taking if you do take a vitamin supplement and whether the levels you are taking are situated within the recommended daily allowance, along with what you are eating," says Dixon.

"As midwives we would not recommend that a woman has a whole range of supplements. We would say look at your diet, ensure you are eating well- your carbohydrates, your proteins and your vegetables and supplement with folic acid and iodine as well."

Auckland-based nutritionist Rene Schliebs agrees and says diet should be focussed on first before supplementing with other vitamins.

"During pregnancy Fish oils are so important, Omega 3 is very important in supporting brain development," Shliebs says.

"Zinc is also so important in pregnancy. If Zinc levels are very low that can in fact inhibit embryo development, which could prevent pregnancy from happening."

So it seems that it all comes back to accurate nutrition, more than over loading on supplements.

I found this guideline from the Ministry Of Health particularly interesting- as it explains why you need certain and what food groups they can be found in (it is the first PDF document on the right hand panel). 

Fact or fiction?

 Many a conversation starts with- "You know they say..." What are some of the "facts" you have been told that "they" ( whoever they are) know and what are you are particularly interested in finding the truth about? Email me at

- Essential Mums


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