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Micronutrients and the use of vitamin and mineral supplements during pregnancy and lactation

02 June 2016
17 min read
Volume 24 · Issue 6


A pregnant woman's dietary intake can have a profound effect on the outcomes of pregnancy, and may lead to a risk of disease in the child's later life. This is particularly the case for some vulnerable groups of pregnant women including adolescents, vegetarians and vegans, underweight women, obese women, and women who have undergone bariatric surgery. These groups present nutritional challenges and may require additional supervision during pregnancy. This paper discusses the effects of dietary supplements in relation to the specific needs of the aforementioned groups in comparison to the needs of the general pregnant population.

Optimal birth weight is often seen as the primary indicator of a positive pregnancy outcome, while a low birth weight or a baby born small for gestational age (SGA) is indicative of impaired fetal development (Gluckman et al, 2005). However, cardiovascular disease (CVD), obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and depression associated with birth weights within the ‘normal’ range have also been observed (Jackson and Robinson, 2001). This suggests that nutritional factors play an important role in fetal development and pregnancy outcomes. Pregnancy is a time when the maternal diet is essential, not only for the health and wellbeing of the woman herself but also for the healthy development of the growing fetus. There has been more focus on maternal diet in recent years, highlighting the consequences of suboptimal nutrition in terms of pregnancy outcomes and long-term risks to offspring. There is a growing body of evidence linking maternal diet with an increased risk for adult-onset metabolic diseases such as T2DM, CVD and some cancers (Poston, 2011; Blumfield et al, 2012; Rao et al, 2012; Wood-Bradley et al, 2013). Research by Nyaradi et al (2013) has highlighted that micronutrients such as vitamin B12, folate, zinc and iodine play a role in the neurocognitive development of babies and children.

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