A guide to Exercise, Diet and Supplements in Pregnancy

A guide to Exercise, Diet and Supplements in Pregnancy

Please note that all the advice in this blog is written as a sign post for pregnant women. Please seek advice from a nutritionist, midwife or GP before improving your exercise regime, changing your diet and taking supplements.


There is little excuse not to take regular exercise while pregnant. A variety of classes in
pregnancy yoga, active birth, ante-natal aqua-aerobics and Pilates now exist. Some
women find personal trainers to take them through. Others make sure they walk
everywhere, while office bound women use their lunch break as an opportunity to
keep fit. Exercise videos for pregnancy cater for women who find it hard to get to a
class. The thing to remember is the fitter you are in pregnancy, the healthier and
happier you will be, the easier your birth and the faster your recovery – most
importantly, the healthier your baby will be.

Diet, changes and supplements

Pregnant women need to consume an extra 300 calories a day. Diet is very important in pregnancy

for both the mother and the baby. A mother’s diet will affect the child’s health for the rest of his/her life.Drinking
plenty of fluid is also important as the risk of dehydration is increased.


Apart from the standard advice about taking folic acid to prevent neural defects in the
foetus, metabolic changes that take place in pregnancy mean that you make better use
of the food you eat, therefore it is not always necessary to take vitamin and mineral
supplements. Women who should think about taking supplements should take those
specifically designed for pregnant women They are recommended for women who are
overweight or underweight, teenagers (because they are still growing themselves) and
those who have a restricted diet, for example a vegan diet. Other women who
would benefit from supplements are those who have lost a baby through miscarriage or havehad three babies within two years. If you smoke, live in a very polluted environment or have a very poor diet, your body’s demand on vitamins will
be greater and you could also benefit by taking a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral
supplement designed for pregnancy.

Drinking plenty of fluids is also important. Water is the best drink, preferably still mineral water or filtered tap water – 6-8 glasses/day. If you love your tea and coffee try to cut it down to the minimum you can tolerate. They are both stimulants and diuretic, they contain tannin and caffeine that bind with important nutrients such as iron, calcium and zinc. Don’t drink either after a meal. De-caffeinated tea and coffee are not always a good idea as the process of decaffeinated can use a lot of chemicals. If you can’t bear the idea of drinking water, it is best to choose fresh juice from the chill cabinet or better still make your own. However, drinking huge amounts of juice has been linked to swelling limbs, so best to mix juice and water 50/50. If you drink squash to make your water bearable, choose an organic fruit squash or Elderflower cordial. These have no artificial ingredients. Try to steer away from low sugar alternatives because artificial sugars and additives have been linked with a variety of health problems and behavioural problems in children.

Many women suffer from heartburn in pregnancy which is generally aggravated by acid, so avoid fruit juices, citrus fruit and vinegar.

Diet – The natural way to absorb vitamins and minerals
Cravings for large quantities of food, strange combinations and non-foods such as
coal is indication of nutritional deficiencies and/or blood sugar fluctuations. If this applies to youit is advisable to seek
advice from a nutritional expert.

Vitamins and minerals in pregnancy
Ideally most vitamins and minerals should come from food not supplements.

Vitamin E
Ensures Iron absorption and prevents the destruction of red blood cells. Vitamin E is
also good for boosting the baby’s immune response to allergens and may reduce the
risk of Asthma.

Good sources
Eat plenty of vitamin E-containing foods such as leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts and
seeds, oily fish.

Vitamin C
Helps your body absorb iron. Keeps you strong and enhances your immune system.

Good sources of vitamin C
Fresh fruit and vegetables, potatoes and berries

Iron deficiency causes anaemia.
Iron is necessary for the formation of red blood cells. If there is not enough
haemoglobin, insufficient oxygen is carried to the baby and you get tired. If anaemic
when giving birth chances of haemorrhage increase.

Good sources of iron:
Black strap molasses, egg yolk, whole grains, dried peas and beans, all dark green
leafy vegetables, raisins, prunes, brewers yeast and nuts. Eating lots of these iron rich
foods in pregnancy will help you avoid taking supplements as you will have a lot of
iron stored on your liver. The foetus draws on these reserves and stores enough iron
in its liver to last for several months after birth.

Digestion and how it affects iron absorption
If you suffer from anxiety or tension this may impair digestion and absorption.
vitamin b complex or brewers yeast helps the nervous system and helps prevent anaemia
caused by deficiency of vitamin B, B12 and Folic acid.

For proper digestion and absorption there needs to be sufficient hydrochloric acid in
the stomach. Sip a little cider vinegar and honey (two teaspoons of cider vinegar and
one of honey) in hot water half an hour before meals, or lemon in hot water, to
increase acidity.

Foodstuffs that lock up iron
Drinking lots of tea, especially after a meal, can lock up iron, making it unavailable
for your body to use. Taking ant acids medicines for heartburn and acid reflux also stop your body absorbing iron
Folic acid
One of the B complex vitamins and is vital for the formation of red blood cells. It is
particularly important in pregnancy for the development of the foetus and the supply
of breast milk.

Good sources of Folic acid
Found in green leafy vegetables, also brewers yeast, beans, legumes, nuts.

Destruction of Folic acid
Folic acid diminishes in storage and exposure to sunlight, which is another reason
why leafy vegetables should be eaten as fresh as possible. Folic acid is destroyed by
cooking, especially boiling, so ensure that you eat a fresh green salad daily and only
light steam or stir fry vegetables. Some drugs such as aspirin, estrogens and sulphur
drugs destroy folic acid in the body and alcohol slows down its absorption. High
doses of vitamin C also hasten its excretion.

Necessary for the formation of strong bones and teeth. It enables blood to clot and
muscles to work smoothly, and may protect against high blood pressure and pre –
eclampsia. Your baby’s teeth start to bud very early in pregnancy so it is vital that
your calcium intake in the first four months of pregnancy is not too low.

Good sources of calcium

Milk and dairy foods, green leafy vegetables, seaweed, whole grains, nuts and carrot

Foodstuffs that can lock up calcium.
Oxalic acid in spinach, rhubarb, beetroot and cocoa as well as coffee.

If levels of magnesium get low it can cause muscle cramp. Good levels of
magnesium may also help prevent pre-eclampsia.

Good sources of magnesium
Cereals, nuts, Soya, milk, fish and meat

Necessary for muscles to contract well, shortage of zinc is a cause of long labour.
Deficiency may result in miscarriage, growth restriction in the uterus, stillbirth and
congenital handicap.

Good sources of zinc
High fibre foods such as bran. Brazil nuts, parmesan and other hard cheeses, seeds,
herring and meat.

Foodstuff that can lock up zinc
Iron supplements can interfere with the absorption of zinc.

‘Alternative’ Supplements. These can be taken during and after

Spa tone- If your midwife advises you to take iron supplements then this is a good
alternative, much more easily absorbed than standard pills and doesn’t cause
constipation. Find it in your local chemist. It comes in a box of sachets containing
spa water from Snowdonia. It is has a very high content of iron sulphate. One or two
sachets/ day should fulfil your daily requirement. Take in water or fruit juice.
Remember vitamin C helps your body absorb iron and don’t drink tea for at least 30
minutes because it will prevent your body absorbing it by locking it up.
Floradix – Multi – vitamin and mineral herbal / food supplement. A good liquid
tonic, one with added iron. Find it in most health food stores.

Probiotic such as bio-acidophillus- Healthy bacteria for the health of your
intestines. If antibiotics have been taken more than twice in a lifetime then it is
worthwhile taking a probiotic supplement to rebalance the healthy bacteria in you
intestines and reduce the chances of you or your child having a Candida imbalance

Bio-care produce top quality supplements for pre-conception and anti-natal care for
both men and women. Available through mail order, they also have an excellent
telephone help line where you can ask well-trained staff for advice.

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