Vitamins and nutritional substances recommended for pregnant women – choline

The diet of pregnant women should be well-balanced to provide both the mother and the growing baby with all the necessary nutritional substances. Understandably, the body’s demand for vitamins and minerals increases significantly during pregnancy. Today, we will have a look at choline, a component which is deficient in many women.

Choline – what exactly is it?

Choline was classified amongst the well-known B vitamins. Over time, however, this view was regarded as outdated. Today, the substance in question is referred to as vitamin-like. Its deficiency may have a bad effect on both the mother’s and the baby’s bodies. Therefore, it is recommended that it should be supplemented especially by pregnant women. The indicated daily intake of choline amounts to as much as 550 mg. Hence, it is impossible to satisfy the demand through the food consumed. Help is offered by various supplements for pregnant women, which are easily available in every pharmacy.

A substance needed by the mum and the baby

Choline contributes to proper development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. Through its supplementation during pregnancy, you will reduce the risk of neural tube defects, preeclampsia and premature childbirth. Choline will also have a positive effect on the hepatic functions of a young mum. If you care about a well-balanced diet full of vitamins, which will support your body both during pregnancy and in the breastfeeding period, do not forget about choline. Take care of its adequate supplementation to enjoy good health!

The foundations of healthy pregnancy – folic acid

Folic acid is a compound belonging to B vitamins (it is referred to as vitamin B9), which has a beneficial effect on the development of the nervous system, the formation and growth of blood cells and the synthesis of DNA. It prevents damage to the so-called neural tube of the baby developing in the mother’s womb.

Do Polish women suffer from folic acid deficiency?

An ordinary diet usually does not satisfy the demand for folic acid before and during pregnancy. The research conducted on the Polish population demonstrates that the consumption of folic acid by as many as 90% of women is below the recommended daily allowance (400 µg).

Folic acid is naturally found in green vegetables, such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, nuts and legumes – peas, soybean and beans. High quantities of folic acid are also found in citrus fruits. However, in order to obtain the recommended 400 µg of folic acid, one would have to eat approx. 12 oranges, or 2 kilograms of this fruit.

A problem with folic acid absorption.

The folic acid contained in foodstuffs is hardly absorbable. It is also highly sensitive to external factors. A negative impact on folic acid absorption is exerted by changes in the digestive pH or food processing (cooking, crushing) – while being cooked, spinach loses as much as 50% of its folic acid content. It is also nicotine, alcohol and certain medications (such as contraceptives, hyperacidity agents) that limit folic acid absorption.

MTHFR gene mutation. What is it?

Few women also realise that the folic acid they supply through supplementation or in their diet is not used in all of them. Research indicates that every second Polish woman, to a greater or lesser degree, fails to convert folic acid into its active form (the so-called active folate). This is due to the mutation of the MTHFR gene which is responsible for converting of the biologically inactive folic acid into its active form that can be directly used by the body. For preventive purposes (since the tests detecting the mutation are very expensive), state-of-the-art preparations contain mixed forms of folates (folic acid and active folate). As a result, both women with MTHFR gene mutation and those without the mutation are able to achieve adequately high folic acid concentrations in their tissues.

Due to its fundamental importance (especially before conception and during pregnancy), in order to prevent folic acid deficiencies, it is necessary to pay attention to products naturally rich in folic acid and, in the case of pregnancy, in the reproductive period and during breastfeeding – to intentional supplementation of folates.

Beginnings of pregnancy

If your menstrual cycle is regular, you can observe absence of menstrual bleeding approximately two weeks after conception. It may also be accompanied by other symptoms — perhaps you will notice them even before you realise that your menstrual bleeding is missing, especially if you dream about a baby and are alert to these changes. Go to your doctor to make sure if you are pregnant and learn more about prenatal care. Your body is undergoing changes induced by the so-called pregnancy hormones, which are released into the bloodstream and affect your body.

The breasts start to change soon after conception. Your body starts to produce a tissue for the production and storage of milk. You breasts may seem more tender than usual. The areolar tubercles – tiny spots around the nipple become more visible.

You may feel nauseous and find it hard to tolerate certain foods and smells. Some women vomit. This usually happens in the morning, but also at other times of the day. The metallic taste in the mouth may affect the gustatory perception of foods. The smell of some foodstuffs may cause nausea.

You may feel tired. Some women say that they feel more tired than ever at the beginning of their pregnancy.

It might turn out that you urinate more frequently. This is caused by changes in the hormone balance that lead to overgrowth and flabbiness of the muscles in the urinary system.

The changes during pregnancy do not affect only the reproductive organ, but they occur in all the other organs of your body. Such changes are adaptive in nature and their task is to reduce the strains exerted on the mother’s body by the developing pregnancy.

Pregnancy – when to start eating healthily and what to eat?

A change of diet.

The diet of pregnant women should provide adequate amounts of energy, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. While planning maternity, it is worth thinking about changing your eating habits in advance. However, if you failed to do it before you got pregnant – waste no more time – change your eating habits today because a well-balanced diet is the fundamental issue.

Preventing and taking care.

Recent studies suggest that what a pregnant woman eats affects the health of the baby not only in the early years but also in the baby’s adulthood. The babies born to mothers who cared about a healthy diet are less susceptible to civilisation diseases, such as diabetes, hyperlipidaemia, ischemic heart disease, overweight and obesity.

A proper diet during pregnancy reduces the risk of numerous complications, such as premature childbirth, pregnancy anaemia, low birth weight, pregnancy-induced hypertension or congenital defects in the foetus.

A few simple rules.

Specialists and dieticians underline that the diet of a pregnant woman should be in line with the so-called food pyramid.

According to this pyramid, our diet – also during pregnancy – should be based on fruit and vegetables (it is important to observe the proportion of ¾ of vegetables and ¼ of fruit). During pregnancy, importance should also be attached to protein-containing products, such as fish, meat (poultry, beef) and dairy produce. In the diet of pregnant women, protein is essential to ensure that the foetal, placental and maternal tissues are properly formed, and foetal metabolism maintained. According to experts, during this particular period, it is also necessary to cut down on sugar, salt and fat in favour of consuming more fibre-rich products (bran, oatmeal, groats, natural cereals, paddy rice, brown and wholemeal bread).


Foodstuffs to be avoided during pregnancy:

  • high-calorie products;
  • confectionery;
  • crisps;
  • fast-food products;
  • liver (contains a lot of cholesterol and excessive amounts of vitamin A).

Innate intelligence

… or what do reading books and listening to music have in common with your baby’s development.

Many pregnant women speak to their bellies from the beginning of pregnancy. This way, they establish the first contact with the baby developing in their womb. These and other mothers-to-be, as well as fathers-to-be, read fairy tales or play music for the belly. But can the baby hear those sounds?


The auditory vesicles in the foetus form as early as in the 4th week after conception and the baby’s ears become visible in approx. the 7th week of pregnancy. The shape of the outer ear (or pinna) is inherited from a father and a mother, and is unique for each person. Slightly later, around the 14th week of pregnancy, the baby’s hearing system develops, and the first sounds are perceived by the baby around the 4th-5th month of pregnancy. Until that point, music and reading are pleasant activities for the mum, which translate into harmonious functioning of her body and peace of mind. The mother’s comfort has a positive effect on the baby’s wellbeing and its proper development. When the baby can hear us very well, there are numerous benefits offered by adequate sound stimulation.


Babies in their mother’s belly react to sounds which either sooth or enliven them. Usually, they prefer low sounds so the favourite musical instruments amongst the little music enthusiasts include the bassoon and the cello. From the perspective of proper functioning of the foetus’s brain waves and heart, a stimulating effect is exerted by classical music.


An interesting experiment was carried out by A. de Casper. In the last trimester of pregnancy, 16 women were reading the same fairy-tale out loud to their babies twice a day. It turned out that 13 babies recognised the fairy tale they had heard in the belly, which they manifested through changed intensity of dummy sucking.

“MOZART’S EFFECT” – children develop better while listening

Scientific reports prove that stimulation through sounds and music has an effect on the development of the baby’s nervous system in the mother’s womb. The baby’s brain learns to receive and process the sounds it hears. Music sounds stimulate hearing, so the baby is born with more nerve cells. The more sounds the baby hears, the better its hearing develops and the easier it learns to speak. Additionally, such children are more successful at school – by being more creative and emotionally mature.


During pregnancy, you can influence your baby’s behaviour in the future. By playing the same music theme to your baby, you teach it how to recognise it. It is also worth trying to sing one favourite lullaby to the belly or read out loud the same fairy tale over and over again. These simple and, at the same time, pleasant activities will make it possible for you to use the familiar sounds in the future to calm your baby down.