Q: My wife is currently 13 weeks pregnant. Can you please provide me with information on whether mineral and vitamin supplements are of value during pregnancy?
– Stuart in Melbourne, Australia

A: Yes. From conception to birth (and for the months following birth if your wife breastfeeds), your baby will be totally dependent on your wife to supply all the essential nutritional building blocks needed for growth and development of every cell, tissue, organ, and body system. Your wife’s vitamin and mineral intake from food and/or supplements also affect whether or not she experiences complications during pregnancy and delivery, and how quickly she regains her pre-pregnancy figure. In short, at no other time in life is nutrition as important as before, during, and following pregnancy. On the other hand, your wife needn’t live on Brewer’s yeast and sprouts to have a healthy baby.

She still can eat foods that come in a box or a bag, eat out several times a week, or order pizza to go as long as she also follows a few simple eating-for-two dietary guidelines, such as including at least 6 fruits and vegetables (more is better), 6+ servings of whole grains, 3 servings of calcium-rich milk or fortified soymilk, and a couple of servings of iron- and protein-rich meat or beans in the daily diet. Also, boost water intake. In addition, a moderate-dose multiple vitamin AND mineral supplement is important to fill in the nutrition gaps. She also will need extra iron (between 30mg and 60mg) and extra folic acid, although this nutrient is most important in the first few weeks prior to and after conception. Don’t go overboard on supplements. This is not the time to experiment with large doses of anything or even to take herbal preparations or off-the-mainstream nutrients, which is more like Russian roulette than responsible supplementation during pregnancy. For a detailed prescription for how to eat and how to supplement before, during, and after pregnancy, see my book Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy. -Elizabeth Somer