While many women planning a pregnancy now take folic acid supplements, 40% of us are still not getting enough folate. Some women are unable to convert folic acid (the synthetic form) into folate (the usable form), due to a genetic polymorphism which affects about half the population and increases the risk of a child born with neural tube defects by 60%.
'To ensure healthy folate levels, especially during critical periods such as conception and pregnancy, it's best to supplement with folate in the form of Calcium folinate (or folinic acid),' says naturopath Tasha Jennings, whose product Zycia Natal Nutrients is the first in Australia to incorporate this form of folate. She also recommends a diet rich in fresh green vegies, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes and lentils to help boost folate levels.
You may not have even heard of the nutrient choline, but the body's demand for it is especially high during pregnancy, to assist with healthy neural tube closure and fetal brain and spine development. Ninety per cent of pregnant women aren't getting enough – dietary sources include eggs, beef, salmon, chicken, pulses, broccoli and cauliflower, or take a supplement.
A massive 80% of pregnant mothers are also deficient in Vitamin D, which can lead to low birth weight, growth retardation and reduced immune function, as well as pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia for the mother.
Iodine deficiency is one of the most common causes of preventable intellectual impairment in developing infants. Deficiency is rare, but it's not worth risking so watch your intake - table salt is usually iodised for just this reason, and seafood is good too.
To find out more, head to Zycia.