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When I coached my clients I got these questions a lot: "Do I really need to take supplements?" or "I eat a healthy diet, why do I need to supplement?" I don't blame them because before I became a nutritionist, I was thinking the same thing!


While eating nutrient-dense foods is always the best way to get your daily nutrients, this is most often not enough. Especially considering how being a mother impacts your nutrient stores and ability to replenish them. It is extremely difficult for the average mother to be able to plan, cook, and eat perfectly balanced, nutrient-rich meals every single day. Having that expectation is simply unrealistic, and places an unnecessary burden on ourselves and mothers in general. After extensive research on the nutritional status of mothers before, during, and after pregnancy, it is clear that mothers need more than just "healthy food." That is why I created my line of supplements, probiotics, and superfoods so that mothers can get help replenishing their depleted nutrient stores and can feel better and not have the nagging worry that they are not "getting enough" to provide for their babies and themselves.


When people ask me why they should take a supplement, I usually respond with these reasons:


1. Mothers go through incredible physical, emotional, and mental transformations during pregnancy that leaves them nutritionally depleted. 


In fact, over 80% of mothers are considered to be nutrient depleted as a result of pregnancy, birth, and lactation. It's no surprise that as a woman grows an ENTIRE little human (sometimes more than one!) inside of her body, she needs many more nutrients compared to the pre-pregnancy period. It takes a LOT of energy to not only grow a baby, but also to birth a baby and create breast milk to nourish your baby and to reverse all the changes of pregnancy back to a non-pregnant state. While many pregnant and postpartum women try their best to eat nutritious foods, unfortunately, the vast majority of people are unable to meet the nutritional demands of pregnancy and lactation without supplemental support. Take iron, for example. In the U.S., over 24% of women experience anemia during pregnancy, often due to the fact that many women have insufficient stores even before their pregnancy begins (WHO, 2010, Turner, 2003). An iron-deficient diet, an increase of 50% in iron needs, poor iron absorption in the gut, and blood loss from menstruation before pregnancy are some common reasons why women can't keep up with the increase in demand for iron during pregnancy (Abbaspour, 2014). 


Another example is folate, an essential nutrient required for cell division during pregnancy and the synthesis and secretion of breast milk during postpartum, which leads to a decline in its concentration from mid-pregnancy until 3-6 months after birth. In fact, 20% of women in developed countries have been reported to have low serum folate levels 6 months after delivery (King, 2003).


Like iron and folate, many of the nutrients required for pregnancy and lactation are mobilized from maternal stores. So when you start from an already depleted state, it becomes nearly impossible to increase your nutrient intake without taking supplements, especially as the nutritional demands increase throughout your pregnancy and continue to remain high during lactation. 



The changes that occur to your body during and after birth can also contribute to your nutrient depletion. Your entire digestive system shifts and as a result, your microbiome is affected and the digestive process (and therefore the absorption of nutrients in your gut) can be slow and inefficient. While many people view the postpartum period to sometimes be as short as 6 weeks after delivery, the truth is, nutrient depletion can last for much longer. A study by Janet King concluded that it takes approximately 18 months to replete nutrient stores after pregnancy and therefore that mothers with closely-spaced pregnancies are at increased risk of adverse maternal and baby outcomes (King, 2003). 


Pregnancy and postpartum is a truly unique time that places extra stress on your body, so you want to make sure that you are getting the most important nutrients to support your pregnancy and birth, including folate, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, choline, B-vitamins, iron, and collagen. Taking a multivitamin in addition to single nutrient supplements is often the best way to meet the elevated nutritional requirements during this time.


2. Many health issues are linked to nutrient deficiencies.

When we don't have the necessary vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that our body needs, the biochemical processes in our bodies are unable to work efficiently, which applies chronic stress on our bodies. For example, we all know that omega-3s are key in baby's brain development, but it does a lot more than that. Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA have been linked to auto-immune conditions, postpartum depression, anxiety, and pregnancy complications like preterm labor and hypertension. Low folate during pregnancy has been linked to higher risks of neural tube-related birth defects. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis, pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, and data from the CDC Nutrition Report shows that almost 90 million people do not meet the standard required levels of vitamin D (Serrallach, 2018, Nichols, 2018, CDC). Vitamin B12 deficiency, which has been reported in 3.4 million women in the U.S., can lead to anemia, depression, nerve damage, dementia, and increased risks for neural tube birth defects, preterm delivery, and miscarriage (Nichols, 2018, CDC).


For mothers, many of these health risks can have serious consequences for their health and the health of their babies. Conditions like postpartum depression, which is diagnosed in 10-15% of mothers, can be especially crippling (NIMH). While there are many factors that result in mental health struggles, for many mothers, there's often a nutritional component that compounds the issue. Aside from Omega 3's, deficiencies in vitamin D, calcium, iron, selenium, and zinc have also been linked to negative impacts on mood (Leung, 2009).


Addressing nutrient deficiencies through supplementation can be the first step towards feeling better, both physically and mentally.

It makes sense, doesn't it? The more nutrients we can fuel our body with, the more enzymatic processes go smoothly, and the more energy we can get and have.  


3. The nutrient content of the soil in the U.S. has declined greatly over the last few decades. 



Due to modern farming practices, which greatly impacts the soil's natural processes, the soil in the U.S. has lost almost half of its original mineral and vitamin content over the last few decades. A 2004 study which looked at over 40 crops from 1950-1999 found that nutrients including protein, calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin C and riboflavin have all declined significantly, some by up to 38% (Davis, 2004). The decline in nutrient-dense soil has a negative impact on the nutrient content of food, which decreases the amount of bioavailable nutrients for us to absorb into our bodies.

That means that compared to a decade ago, the same vegetables are providing us with less nutrients, so we need to get the extra nutrients elsewhere to make up for it. 


4. The longer you supplement, the better your long term health is. 


One study comparing supplementation of mothers for 2 months vs. 5-7 months after birth between consecutive pregnancies concluded that the group that supplemented for longer had a higher mean hemoblogin status at the onset of their second pregnancies. Their babies also had higher birth weights and lengths and a lower risk of low birth weight compared to the 0-2 month supplementation group, demonstrating that longer supplementation periods between pregnancies can improve the outcome of subsequent pregnancies even among reasonably well-nourished women. We also have to keep in mind that as we age, our bodies naturally decline in nutrient stores. This is especially true for collagen, which declines to about 50% by the time we are 40. While many consider collagen to be helpful for skin health, it is also an important nutrient for your pelvic floor, gut, joints and scar healing.


5. Your babies benefit from your supplementation


You're not the only one who benefits from the nutrients your body absorbs from supplementation, especially if you breastfeed your baby. In a 2012 study on probiotic supplementation, women who were given probiotics during the last 4 weeks of pregnancy and throughout lactation produced breastmilk with double the levels of immunoprotective

compounds. The rate of eczema in their infants during the first 2 years of life was also

decreased for that group of women (15%) compared to 47% for those who did not receive the probiotic supplement (Pelucchi, 2012). Other studies have shown that probiotic supplementation can protect against infant colic, spitting up and overall digestive discomfort. (Nichols, Lily. 2018).


The effects of Omega 3 supplementation in breastfeeding mothers' babies has been studied in depth. Getting enough DHA during pregnancy and lactation can improve behavior, attention, focus, and learning in children. Other benefits that have been found by having adequate DHA during pregnancy is a reduced risk of allergies in infants and a positive influence on immune development.


It's clear that to support the high nutritional demands of pregnancy, birth, and lactation, and recovering postpartum, mothers need the help of supplements.


But knowing what kind of supplements to take can be incredibly overwhelming, especially in a market that is saturated with choices. 


Here are a few things to remember:

  • Getting your levels tested by your primary care doctor is crucial to knowing exactly which nutrients you are deficient in. Having hard data on how deficient you are can help you make decisions on what to supplement with.

  • What matters is the quality and form of the supplements, in addition to the dose. It is a waste to take supplements if they provide nutrients that are unable to be absorbed by our bodies. That is why looking at the specific forms of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients is important and why all of our supplements were created using bioactive forms (like folate, D3, chelated iron) that are most easily absorbed by the body. Many of our supplements also include ingredients that enhance absorption, like our Organic Ashwagandha with black pepper, and our Vitamin D3 with K2. Sourcing from pasture-raised and organic animals also ensures that the nutrient content is as high as possible. 

  • In addition to single nutrient supplements, look for a multivitamin that contains vitamin A, all the B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, Alpha Lipoic Acid, choline, inositol, boron, calcium, chromium, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, potassium, selenium, and zinc.







Not sure where to start?


Take our free Wellness Quiz to get a personalized nutrition report based on your answers about your pregnancies, diet, lifestyle, symptoms and other areas of concern. In your results, you will find out what supplements you could benefit from taking. 


For high-quality products that use the most bioavailable forms of nutrients, explore our online shop. You can find a wide range of products, from prenatal and postnatal multivitamins, potent probiotics for women, to a delicious golden milk mix with collagen (Golden Collagen)!




Did you take supplements during your pregnancy and postpartum? What was recommended to you to take? Tell me in the comments!


References

De Benoist B, McLean E, Egli I, Cogswell M, editors. Geneva: WHO Press, World Health Organization; 2008. WHO/CDC. Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data. Worldwide prevalence of anaemia 1993-2005: WHO global database on anaemia; p. 40.


Turner RE, Langkamp-Henken B, Littell RC, Lukowski MJ, Suarez MF. Comparing nutrient intake from food to the estimated average requirements shows middle- to upper-income pregnant women lack iron and possibly magnesium. J Am Diet Assoc 2003;103:461–6 


Abbaspour N, Hurrell R, Kelishadi R. Review on iron and its importance for human health. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19(2):164–174.


King JC. The Risk of Maternal Nutritional Depletion and Poor Outcomes Increases in Early or Closely Spaced Pregnancies. The Journal of Nutrition. 2003;133.


Serrallach, O. (2018). The Postnatal Depletion Cure: A Complete Guide to Rebuilding Your Health and Reclaiming Your Energy for Mothers of Newborns, Toddlers, and Young Children. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.


Nichols, L. Real food for pregnancy: the science and wisdom of optimal prenatal nutrition. United States: Real food for Pregnancy; 2018.


Second Nutrition Report (2012) [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2012. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nutritionreport/report_2012.html


Postpartum Depression Facts [Internet]. National Institute of Mental Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/index.shtml


Leung BM, Kaplan BJ. Perinatal Depression: Prevalence, Risks, and the Nutrition Link—A Review of the Literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009;109:1566–75.


Davis DR, Epp MD, Riordan HD. Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004;23:669–82.


Pelucchi C, Chatenoud L, Turati F, Galeone C, Moja L, Bach J-F, Vecchia CL. Probiotics Supplementation During Pregnancy or Infancy for the Prevention of Atopic Dermatitis. Epidemiology. 2012;23:402–14.

Updated: Oct 2, 2019



Pregnancy is a very special time for a woman, a time of so many physical and emotional changes. Feeling your baby kick for the first time and watching it grow inside of you is no less than an amazing experience. And while some women really enjoy being pregnant, other women, like me, can experience a slew of not-so-great symptoms and complications.

The most common pregnancy complication around the world is anemia, or iron deficiency. In the United States, 24.1% of pregnant women are reported to have anemia (WHO, 2010). When you have anemia, your hemoglobin levels are low (<11g/dL), meaning you do not have sufficient red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues in your body. While there are several possible causes of anemia during pregnancy, the most common cause is iron deficiency.


Common symptoms you may experience from iron deficiency include:

● fatigue

● chest palpitations

● pale skin

● Irritability

● shortness of breath

● Dizziness

● Difficulty sleeping (Abu-ouf, 2015, Abbaspour, 2014)



Why is anemia so common during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a critical time because of the increased needs of iron to support the placenta, growing baby, red blood cell production and 50% increase in plasma volume. (Erdman, 2012, McMahon, 2010). This is why the recommended daily intake of iron increases from 18mg pre-pregnancy to 27mg during pregnancy.


The problem is, many women do not have adequate stores of iron even before beginning their pregnancy and therefore become deficient as the needs for iron increases with each trimester (Turner, 2003). This lack of iron could stem from an iron-deficient diet, poor absorption of iron in the gut, blood loss from pre-pregnancy menstruation or other medical conditions (Abbaspour, 2014). Those who have a history of anemia, have short intervals between pregnancies, and those who carry twins or triplets are at higher risk of experiencing iron deficiency too.



What is the big deal?

A number of studies have linked iron deficiency and anemia to a variety of complications for both the baby and mother. A 1992 study by Scholl et al. found that iron-deficiency anemia during the first two trimesters of pregnancy led to a twofold increased risk for preterm delivery and a threefold increased risk for delivering a low-birthweight baby. Other studies have reported similar findings, as well as neurodevelopmental delays, and higher risks of developing pre-eclampsia, needing blood transfusion at birth, and thyroid autoimmunity or dysfunction in mothers (Cogswell, 2003, Ronnenberg, 2004, Veltri, 2016, Breymann, 2015, Ali, 2011, Scanlon, 2000). And the complications don’t end when the pregnancy is over. The probability of hemorrhage during birth skyrockets when the mother is anemic during pregnancy. One study looking at the relationship between anemia during pregnancy and uterine atony, the main cause of postpartum hemorrhage, found that 80% of the women who underwent emergency hysterectomies following severe hemorrhaging were anemic during pregnancy (with a hemoglobin level <7 versus 12.5% of the non-hysterectomized group) (Frass, 2015).


All of these risks point to the importance of having adequate levels of iron before, during, and after your pregnancy.



The good news is that anemia is totally preventable

You can increase your intake of iron by incorporating iron-rich foods into your diet. Animal products that contain the most absorbable heme iron, such as organ meats (liver, heart), oysters, beef, clams, lamb, poultry, and sardines are the best food sources of iron. Other sources include legumes and dark leafy greens.


You can increase your body’s absorption of iron by consuming these iron-rich foods with vitamin C (fruits, tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, and other green leafy vegetables) (Gautam, 2008). You can also increase the iron in your food by cooking in cast iron pots. Studies have reported increases anywhere from 2 to 24 times the amount of iron in the food compared to cooking in other pans (Kroger-Olsen, 2002).


Cooking and eating with organ meats may not be appealing to many pregnant women, so an alternative is to take a desiccated liver supplement like Mother Nutrient’s Grass-fed Beef Liver Capsules. You can get all the benefits of obtaining high levels of iron (and many other important nutrients) without the taste of liver.



Iron supplementation

When diet alone is not sufficient to increase your iron levels, the next step is to take an iron supplement. Iron supplementation is known to increase maternal iron levels, increase birth weight, and reduce risks for low birthweight in deficient mothers, especially when started in early pregnancy (Ronnenberg, 2004, Mcmahon, 2010).

Iron supplements have a bad rap for their taste and causing constipation. Recent studies looking at different forms of iron supplementation found that compared to the commonly prescribed ferrous sulfate, iron bisglycinate reported fewer side effects and is better absorbed (Melamed, 2007, Milman, 2014).


Mother Nutrient is now offering a chewable iron chelate (ferrous glycinate) supplement that is gentle on the stomach, has great taste and is non-constipating. It delivers the highest dose of 30 mg of iron and is safe for pregnant and lactating mothers as well.


It’s clear that maintaining iron levels throughout pregnancy is important. It is always beneficial to have your doctor monitor your iron levels before and during your pregnancy (done through blood tests checking hemoglobin, hematocrit, and ferritin levels) so that you can nourish your baby and yourself with the necessary amounts of iron.




For more helpful nutritional tips, product deals, and new post notifications, sign up for our newsletter on our website. When you join you will receive a free guide, "Top 10 Postnatal Nutrition Tips!"


Did you know we also have a free wellness quiz on our website that will give you a personalized nutrition report, including targeted product recommendations?


Recommendations are based on specific questions that you answer about your health, energy, diet, birth, etc.



Are you experiencing iron deficiency during your pregnancy? Share your experience with me in the comments below!


If you know a mama who can benefit from this post, share by clicking next to the title!





References

“Worldwide Prevalence on Anaemia 1993-2005.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 5 Nov. 2010, https://www.who.int/vmnis/database/anaemia/anaemia_status_summary/en/.

Abu-Ouf, Noran, and Mohammed Jan. “The Impact of Maternal Iron Deficiency and Iron Deficiency Anemia on Child’s Health.” Saudi Medical Journal. 2015;36(2):146–149., doi:10.15537/smj.2015.2.10289.

Abbaspour N, Hurrell R, Kelishadi R. Review on iron and its importance for human health. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19(2):164–174.

Erdman JW, MacDonald I, Zeisel SH. Present knowledge in nutrition. 10th ed. Washington, DC: International Life Sciences Institute; 2012

Mcmahon, Lawrence P. “Iron Deficiency in Pregnancy.” Obstetric Medicine. 2010; 3(1):17–24., doi:10.1258/om.2010.100004.

Turner RE, Langkamp-Henken B, Littell RC, Lukowski MJ, Suarez MF. Comparing nutrient intake from food to the estimated average requirements shows middle- to upper-income pregnant women lack iron and possibly magnesium. J Am Diet Assoc 2003;103:461–6

Scholl TO, Hediger ML, Fischer RL, Shearer JW. Anemia vs iron deficiency: increased risk of preterm delivery in a prospective study. Am J Clin Nutr 1992;55:985-8

Scholl T. Iron status during pregnancy: Setting the stage for mother and infant. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81:1218S-1222S.

Cogswell, Mary E, et al. “Iron Supplementation during Pregnancy, Anemia, and Birth Weight: a Randomized Controlled Trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003;78 (4):773–781., doi:10.1093/ajcn/78.4.773.

Ronnenberg AG, Wood RJ, Wang X, Xing H, Chen C, Chen D, Guang W, Huang A, Wang L, Xu X: Preconception hemoglobin and ferritin concentrations are associated with pregnancy outcome in a prospective cohort of Chinese women. Journal of Nutrition. 2004;134(10): 2586-91

Veltri, Flora, et al. “Prevalence of Thyroid Autoimmunity and Dysfunction in Women with Iron Deficiency during Early Pregnancy: Is It Altered?” European Journal of Endocrinology. 2016; 175(3):191–199., doi:10.1530/eje-16-0288.

Breymann, Christian. “Iron Deficiency Anemia in Pregnancy.” Seminars in Hematology. 2015; 52(4):339–347., doi:10.1053/j.seminhematol.2015.07.003.

Ali, Abdelaziem A, et al. “Severe Anaemia Is Associated with a Higher Risk for Preeclampsia and Poor Perinatal Outcomes in Kassala Hospital, Eastern Sudan.” BMC Research Notes. 2011;4(1), doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-311.

Scanlon KS, Yip R, Schieve LA, Cogswell ME. High and low hemoglobin levels during pregnancy: differential risks for preterm birth and small for gestational age. Obstet Gynecol 2000;96:741–8.

Frass, K. Postpartum hemorrhage is related to the hemoglobin levels at labor: Observational study. Alexandria Journal of Medicine. 2015; 51(4):333-337

Gautam CS, Saha L, Sekhri K, Saha PK. Iron deficiency in pregnancy and the rationality of iron supplements prescribed during pregnancy. Medscape J Med. 2008;10(12):283.

Kroger-Ohlsen M, Trugvason T, Skibsted L, Michaelsen K. Release of Iron into Foods Cooked in an Iron Pot: Effect of pH, Salt, and Organic Acids. Journal of Food Science. 2002;67:3301–3.

Melamed, Nir, et al. “Iron Supplementation in Pregnancy—Does the Preparation Matter?” Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 2007;276(6):601–604., doi:10.1007/s00404-007-0388-3.

Milman N, Jonsson L, Dyre P, Pedersen PL, Larsen LG. Ferrous bisglycinate 25 mg iron is as effective as ferrous sulfate 50 mg iron in the prophylaxis of iron deficiency and anemia during pregnancy in a randomized trial. J Perinat Med. 2014 Mar;42(2):197-206.

Content found on this website is not considered medical advice. Please consult with a physician before making any medical or lifestyle changes.

© 2019 Mother Nutrient

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