Consult your doctor or dietitian – you might need to take a vitamin supplement during pregnancy. Keep in mind that supplements are meant not to replace foods, but to balance a nutritious diet. Your doctor can help you choose an appropriate supplement that contains suitable amounts of vitamins and minerals. Any supplementation that exceeds the recommended daily intake (RDI), such as folic acid, should be taken only under the recommendation of your doctor, because high doses of vitamins and/or minerals can be toxic at certain levels.
A folic acid supplement of 0.4 mg per day should be taken by healthy women (for several months in advance) who are planning to become pregnant and by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
In the later stages of pregnancy, you require more iron, to help produce healthy red blood cells for you and your growing baby. Sometimes it's difficult for women to consume enough iron from foods. Most doctors recommend that pregnant women take a daily iron supplement of 16 mg to 20 mg of elemental (ferrous) iron in addition to any other prenatal vitamins. Anemic women in particular may require an iron supplement. Discuss the possible need for iron supplementation with your doctor and pharmacist. You can also help your body better absorb dietary iron by eating iron-rich foods together with foods rich in vitamin C, such as berries, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and citrus fruits. For example, have a glass of orange juice with an enriched breakfast cereal. Pregnant women over 19 years of age should aim for a total vitamin C intake of 85 mg per day, according to the Dietitians of Canada.
Consuming 3 to 4 servings of dairy products a day can help ensure adequate calcium during your pregnancy. However, women with diets lacking in calcium (e.g. women with a lactose intolerance) may require a calcium supplement in addition to their dietary sources. Different types of calcium supplements have different instructions (e.g., taken with or without food), so always read and follow the labels. Avoid bone meal and dolomite, as these types of calcium supplements may contain traces of lead. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist and dietitian for more information about calcium supplements, and be sure to incorporate calcium-rich foods in your diet.
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