Preconception Care and Nutrition

Nutrition during preconception is a key component of healthy pregnancy outcomes. Multivitamin and mineral supplementation is recommended for women undertaking a vegan and lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, vitamin B12 supplementation is considered imperative to prevent developmental delays (Widen & Siega-Riz, 2010). All women are encouraged to use, at least, 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid supplements daily during the preconception period to reduce the risk of neural tube and additional birth defects (Widen & Siega-Riz, 2010). Vitamin D intake either from diet or from the sun may be sufficient during the summer months; however, in the winter months and for women with dark pigmented skin, daily supplementation of vitamin D in amounts up to 2000 IU daily (Widen & Siega-Riz, 2010).In a 2003 study undertaken by obstericians and gynecologists from Erasmus Medical Centre, Netherlands, it was reported women planning pregnancy consumed significantly more saturated fats and proteins, less carbohydrates and higher medium intakes of vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium and selenium, magnesium and iron than women not intending to fall pregnant (Weerd, Steegers, Heinen, van der Eertwegh, Vehof, & Steegers-Theunissen, 2003). Nevertheless, what is most surprising is that the percentage of women planning pregnancy with intakes below recommended daily allowances was 74 percent for iron, 59 percent for selenium, 48 percent for vitamin A and 91 percent for copper (Weerd, Steegers, Heinen, van der Eertwegh, Vehof, & Steegers-Theunissen, 2003). Hence, if the nutritional intake of women during preconception is inadequate, supplementation has a definite role in increasing daily nutritional recommendations.

Weerd, S., Steegers, E.A.P., Heinen, M.M., van der Eertwegh, S., Vehof, R.M.E.J. & Steegers-Theunissen, R.P.M. 2003. Preconception nutritional intake and lifestyle factors: first results of an explorative study. European Journal of Obsterics & Gynecology & Reproductive Biology, 111, 167-172.

Widen, E. & Siega-Riz, M.A. 2010. Prenatal nutrition: A practical guide for assessment and counselling. Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health, 55, 6, 540-549.

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