Pregnancy & B Vitamins - The Essentials
- Preconception and the first trimester of pregnancy require increased nutrition to support baby’s growth and the health of the mother.
- B vitamins are essential for pregnancy and are often depleted due to stress, poor diet, and genetic polymorphisms.
- Supplementation with a vitamin B complex that includes bioavailable forms of vitamin B9, B6, and B12 can help address deficiencies and support healthy development.
- Adequate intake of B vitamins is important for preventing neural tube defects, supporting iron levels, and reducing the risk of infertility and miscarriage.
Why are Folate & B Vitamins so essential for Conception and Pregnancy?
By Jean Jarrett
Pregnancy is an exciting time, however, it does dramatically increase the nutrition requirements necessary to support the growth and development of the baby and the health and well-being of mums. In fact, the health and nutritional status of both parents play a vital role in fertility and pregnancy and have a lasting impact on a baby’s health for life.
Why improve nutrition and address health concerns before conception?
I work with clients to improve their nutrition and address any underlying health concerns before they start their fertility journey. Taking time to address nutritional deficiencies improves the chance of falling pregnant, helps avoid health issues during pregnancy and supports the growth and development of baby. For couples experiencing fertility challenges or undergoing IVF, this is equally as important.
What factors contribute to B vitamin deficiencies in the body?
During this process, I often discover my clients are low in B vitamins. This is not surprising as we utilise B vitamins in so many metabolic functions and they are depleted during times of stress(1).
Also, poor sleep, a diet low in green leafy vegetables, poor gut health, alcohol, and stimulants like caffeine and nicotine contribute to B vitamin deficiencies(2).
B Vitamins in Preconception and First Trimester
Furthermore, anyone with an MTHFR genetic polymorphism will struggle to metabolise B vitamins and these people are particularly vulnerable to deficiencies and fertility challenges(3).
B vitamins have an indispensable role in pregnancy. They are essential vitamins, which means we cannot make them, they must be obtained from food or supplements. If you are trying to fall pregnant or in your first trimester I recommend a diet rich in whole foods, protein and fresh vegetables along with a daily supplement containing:
1. Vitamin B complex
A vitamin B complex contains several B vitamins. B9 supplementation is recommended for women in their first trimester, however, I prefer my clients to take a B complex that includes B9. This is because the B vitamins work synergistically not independently, for example, B6 is needed for the metabolism of B3 and B9 and B12 work together in regulating DNA and RNA(4). Supplementing one B vitamin without the others may lead to an imbalance(5).
2. A Bioavailable form of Vitamin B9
It is important to take the active form of Vitamin B9, also known as folate, not synthetic folic acid. Folate in the form of Levomefolic acid is bioavailable and easily utilised.
During baby’s first trimester its brain, spinal cord and organs are developing and this requires a significant increase in demand for folate. Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend folate supplementation of at least 400mcg each day throughout pregnancy to support healthy development and prevent neural tube defects(4). Low levels of folate in pregnancy are associated with anaemia, recurrent miscarriage, preterm delivery and low birthweight(6,7).
3. A Therapeutic Dose of Pyridoxine (B6)
Pyridoxine is necessary for the production of hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone and for regulating homocysteine, high levels of which are associated with an increased risk of infertility and miscarriage(4).
In the first trimester, baby needs pyridoxine and folate together to support brain and nervous system development. Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 1.9mg daily of vitamin B6 throughout pregnancy (8).
B6 is reportedly low in women who experience hyperemesis gravidarum and morning sickness and may also be correlated with a higher incidence of gestational diabetes (4)
4. A Bioavailable Form of Vitamin B12
During pregnancy, B12 plays an important role in maintaining healthy iron levels and supporting energy production. The nutritional demand for iron doubles during pregnancy to support baby’s growth and neurological development. B12 assists in raising iron levels in red blood cells and low B12 can be a factor in anaemia (9).
B12 is important in male preconception health, as low levels are linked with reduced sperm motility and count (4).
Again it is important to avoid the synthetic form and choose an active B12 such as Co-methylcobalamin which is easily absorbed and utilised.
Vitamin B For Pregnancy
Taking a Vitamin B supplement is highly recommended to support fertility, pregnancy and your baby’s growth and development it is also important to eat a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, protein and whole foods to ensure you are getting all of the nutrients for you and your growing baby’s needs.
About Jean Jarrett
Jean Jarrett is a naturopath, nutritionist and owner of Elemental Health in St. Ives on the Northshore of Sydney. Jean believes nutrition and gut health are the missing links in our health and well-being and works with her clients to educate them and help them implement dietary changes in ways that suit their busy lifestyles.
Looking for a folate prenatal that all women can absorb?
Perdays Preconception Activated Folate with B Vitamins is specially formulated for mums who prefer or require activated folate to support their preconception and pregnancy health.
- Advanced Clinical Naturopathic Medicine by Leah Hechtman