Supplements and probiotics for pregnancy and breastfeeding

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From the moment you fall pregnant your body's nutritional requirements change as you begin supporting the growing life inside of you.

As your little bundle of joy grows, he's dependent on your body for all his needs and what you put into it can have a big influence on his development.

Under normal circumstances most women obtain adequate nutrients and vitamins from eating a balanced and healthy diet.  However, it can be harder in pregnancy to ensure you're getting the right amounts because of your increased needs (and, at times, morning sickness!).

That's why many pregnant women find that taking specifically tailored supplements can help during this time.

So what's in these supplements that's so vital, and how do they impact on our baby's development?

One of the most important and recommended vitamins during pregnancy is folic acid. Clinically proven to reduce the risk of birth defects linked to the brain and spine, the recommended intake in pregnancy is 400 micrograms daily.

Iron and iodine play an important role too. 

Iron helps prevent dietary deficiency in pregnant women, which has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight. 

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Meanwhile, iodine is essential for your baby's production of the thyroid hormone, which is responsible for regulating body temperature, metabolic rate, reproduction, growth, blood cell production and nerve and muscle function.

But that's not all you need. 

Vitamin C is necessary for the formation of collagen, which is important for blood cells. Calcium is vital for your baby's bones, teeth, muscles, nerves and their heart. Zinc is important for rapid cell growth, and Vitamin B12 is needed for neurodevelopment.

And then there's one of most beneficial supplements of all - omega 3 fish oil. 

Containing DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), this oil acts as a 'good' fat within our bodies and is essential for ensuring optimal fetal brain, eye, immune and nervous system development.

It plays a particularly important role in the third trimester when the baby's brain is developing the most and DHA is being transferred at the highest rate from you to your baby.  

So how do our nutritional requirements change once our baby arrives and we start breastfeeding?

There's no doubt that breastfeeding is a demanding business so it makes sense that you'll need to increase calorie and nutrient intake to maintain a good quality and supply of milk.

It's recommended that nursing mums increase their calorie intake by 400-500 a day.

While most women are able to achieve this through a balanced and healthy diet, the challenges of being a new mum – including sleep deprivation – aren't always conducive to eating enough or well.

In this instance, a nursing supplement can assist and, much like the pregnancy supplement, provide your body with what it needs at this time.

And ensuring that your body is providing your baby with the necessary nutrients is important for so many obvious reasons – but some not so much.

For example, nutrients provided through your breast milk can actually be linked back to the prevention of skin conditions such as eczema. 

Research has suggested that by supporting your baby's immune system through nutrition you may help reduce the chance of them developing eczema, or at least alleviating its symptoms.

By consuming a probiotic rich diet, found in foods such as yoghurts, some soft cheeses and acidophilus milk, you'll pass on good bacteria to your baby and assist their immune system to mature faster.

Alternatively, women can take a probiotic supplement.

"It's important for infants to develop and maintain a healthy intestinal flora for many reasons," says Melanie Bosanko, Product Manager at Faulding.

"Colonisation of the digestive tract begins at birth and a complex microflora is quickly established which is linked to the development of the immune system."

Bosanko says that for these reasons taking a probiotic may be beneficial to women both pre and postnatally.

"The Faulding Probiotics Mum & Bub formulation is designed to help support the health of the digestive, urogenital and immune system in women before, during and after pregnancy," she says.

"The product also includes the HOWARU Rhamnosus strain which is clinically proven to help reduce the prevalence of eczema in infants and young children via breastfeeding."

Bosanko advises that the probiotic is safe to be taken prenatally and while breastfeeding. 

"For non-nursing mothers the capsule contents can also be broken into formula or food to help benefit the infant's health," she concludes.

This article brought to you by Faulding