How Can I Safely Boost My Immunity During Pregnancy?

With the Coronavirus outbreak, pregnant women around the world are wondering how they can safely boost their immunity during pregnancy. Let’s consider the most commonly prescribed immune-boosting nutrients.  More importantly, are they safe to take during pregnancy?

Vitamin A

Increases our resistance to infection, boosts antibody production and enhances the activity of our immune system. Vitamin A is found in egg yolk, full-fat dairy products, liver and fish liver oils. Too much vitamin A, however, can cause birth defects.  For that reason, it’s not safe to eat liver or pate during pregnancy. 

You can eat foods high in carotenoids such as apricots, carrots and green leafy vegetables and convert the carotenoids to vitamin A.  However, a quarter of the population lack the enzyme required for conversion.

Dunaliella salina is a natural source of mixed carotenoids including beta-carotene. Supplementing with beta-carotene on its own may inhibit the absorption of lutein (another carotenoid) by up to 50%.  Lutein is important for baby’s eye development.

If you are vegan or are intolerant to eggs or dairy, it would be a good idea to speak to your nutritionist or naturopath about supplementing with vitamin A.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is necessary for a healthy immune system.  Not only that, it helps us absorb iron which is essential during pregnancy (more on iron below).

The RDI is 60mg, although you can increase this dose to 2000mg daily during pregnancy if you are ill.

Vitamin D

There is research* to suggest that having healthy vitamin D levels may improve clinical outcomes of patients with Covid-19.  Many prenatal vitamins contain 1000iu of vitamin D, however it is best to have a blood test and consult with a healthcare professional before taking a higher dose than this.

Iron

One of the most important minerals during pregnancy, especially from 16 weeks when hemodilution kicks in (doubling of blood volume).

Iron deficiency can lead to dysfunction and disease including poor immune function so it’s important to get supplementation right.

  • If you are anaemic, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor about an iron infusion.  It is very difficult to boost iron stores through supplementation during pregnancy.
  • If you are mildly deficient, then speak to your naturopath or nutritionist about the appropriate dose for you. Even though the RDI is 27mg daily during pregnancy, you may need up to 100mg of elemental iron daily.

Zinc

Zinc is the most important mineral during the entire preconception, pregnancy and postnatal period. Involved in over 200 enzyme reactions in the body, zinc maintains a healthy immune system.

It is a common deficiency and even though the RDI during pregnancy is 11mg daily, many women will need a higher dose than that to correct their deficiency. Remember, like everything, it’s essential to have a chat with your health professional rather than self-medicating with high doses.

Probiotics

The benefits of probiotics during pregnancy extend further than just the prevention of allergies and eczema. Look for a multi-strain probiotic to support the immune system as well as gut health.

Lifestyle and mind/body medicine

Pregnancy is already a time that can evoke anxious thoughts and feelings without worldwide pandemics occurring.

Remember that pregnancy itself weakens your immune system and stress can weaken it even further. If you find yourself becoming stressed out, switch off from watching/listening to the media and go for a walk, meditate or do some yoga.

Try to distance yourself from people as much as you possibly can until this pandemic is over. Focus on eating nutritious meals, exercise, fresh air, sun and try to sleep 8 hours every night (if your bladder lets you!)

Disclaimer: The nutrients mentioned in this article are for immune support only.  They have not been proven to prevent or treat COVID-19.

*Vitamin D research


About the Author

Nikki Warren is an experienced fertility naturopath and herbalist based on the Sunshine Coast who launched NaturoBest in 2016.  NaturoBest is a unique prenatal and preconception supplement range that was born out of a desire to supply high quality products that help pregnant women achieve good pregnancy and birth outcomes and maximise the health potential of their babies. 

The range is unique in that it has a separate, evidence-based multivitamin and mineral for the first trimester of pregnancy, designed to minimise the symptoms of morning sickness and it is the first on the Australian market to contain 500mcg of active folate as the patented Quatrefolic®.


 

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