The developing baby in the womb is completely dependent on its mother for its nutrient supply, so the quality of the maternal diet is extremely important. During pregnancy, increased intake is required of several nutrients, such as vitamins A, B1, B2, C and D and folate (Table 1). Women’s absorption of certain nutrients increases during pregnancy, which can help achieve adequate nutrient levels.1 Despite this, the dietary intake and/or stores of key nutrients (e.g. vitamin D) are often found to be low in pregnant women.2 Supplements of folic acid and vitamin D are recommended around pregnancy, as diet alone is unlikely to be able to provide a sufficient supply.1
Women who are breastfeeding require even more nutrients than when pregnant.1 Increased amounts of the aforementioned vitamins—along with vitamins B3 and B12—are required when breastfeeding. Adequate levels of these vitamins, with the exception of vitamin D, can be obtained by eating a healthy, varied diet. As in pregnancy, a daily supplement of vitamin D is required for breastfeeding women.
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