If you’re a mum to be or have already gone through the process, you’ll know that the journey to childbirth is not always plain sailing. Physically there’s the joyous menagerie of aches and pains, nausea, heartburn, exhaustion and mood swings to get used to. Mentally there are demands on all sides, from family, work, financial worries and relationships. Not to mention that none of your clothes fit, you’re permanently hungry and you can’t go for more than an hour without needing to pee. It’s enough to drive anyone a bit crazy.
Sadly for some of us pregnancy can be more than just a little frustrating, it can result in depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. According to the WHO 1 in 10 pregnant women worldwide experience a mental disorder, the most common of which is depression. Figures from London School of Economics show that in the UK alone the annual cost of mental health problems during pregnancy is estimated at £8 billion.
Of course with so many pressures it’s understandable that those 9 months might not be your most relaxed. But by taking steps to look after your mental health during this exciting time, you are giving yourself and your little mini-me the best chances for success. And you may be surprised to learn how much of a role vitamins can play, both in keeping you sane and in growing a healthy baby.
Our bodies are complicated things and B vitamins are an essential tool in keeping it well tuned. During pregnancy these are even more vital than ever, helping build your baby’s brain and nervous system, improving your digestion and reducing morning sickness. They also support your emotional wellbeing and deficiency has been linked to depression, memory loss and cognitive problems.
Our brains consume more vitamin C than any other part of our bodies, using it to produce the essential neurotransmitter serotonin. This is probably why high levels of vitamin C are associated with an elevated mood. It also builds the collagen that forms a growing baby’s cartilage, tendons and skin.
Iron is found naturally in red meat, green leafy veg, pulses and in tiny amounts in Scotland’s favourite soft drink, though that’s probably not the healthiest source. In the body it forms red blood cells and you need more than usual when pregnant as you’re making enough blood for two. Iron is also involved in the production of dopamine and serotonin, the chemicals we rely on to feel happy. Iron deficiency has many of the same symptoms as depression, such as fatigue, anxiety, irritability and brain fog.
Zinc builds your little one’s immune system but it helps mum keep a level head too. It supports healthy brain function and energy metabolism, and supplementing it has been shown to reduce anger and depression.
Iodine is an especially critical mineral for expectant mothers as it produces the thyroid hormone which aids the cognitive development of the growing foetus, and can even increase your child’s intelligence. It keeps you sane too by balancing your mood and energy levels so it’s well worth remembering about.
Copper helps build your baby’s heart, bones, brain and nervous system. It helps your metabolism too by synthesising ATP, our body’s source of fuel, helping you feel more awake and ready to deal with the world.
But that doesn’t make them any less important for our mental health. Selenium is needed for proper thyroid and immune system function but less well known is that it also improves mood. Magnesium deficiency is cited as an important factor in major depression, and supplementing it has been shown to rapidly end depressive episodes. Chromium supports a healthy brain, reducing fatigue and anxiety, and it can even helps cut depression-related carb cravings.
So as you can see, vitamins are your best friends when it comes to looking after your mental health during pregnancy as well as growing a healthy baby. To make sure you’re getting enough try Protea Wellness’ Pregna Sense supplements which contain all the above and more to support you and your little one every step of the way.