Pregnant Irish Mothers are nutritionally compromised

A recent study carried out at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, found many expectant mothers did not meet the national guidelines for nutrition in pregnancy.

The study measured the intake of food and drink of women attending the hospital.  Some of the statistics do not make for good reading.  The data revealed that 9 out of 10 women were consuming excess saturated fats.   Irish  women are consuming excess 'bad fats' in the diet in particular trans-fats, trans fats are found in chips, crisps, pizza, buns, cakes, donuts, pastries, all foods that are made using oils that have been hydrogenated or reused.  These fats are not conducive to the health of the mother or baby.

Vitamin D

99% of participants fell short on Vitamin D.  This is not a surprise as it is well documented that Vitamin D is chronically lacking in pregnant Irish mothers.  Vitamin D is essential in every cell in the body and lack of it has far reaching consequences for both mother's health and baby's.  Mothers that have a greater risk of D deficiency are those of ethnic backgrounds as they require more vitamin D than fair skinned people.  It is wise to supplement during pregnancy, however, there is no recommended daily amount for pregnant women in Ireland.  Eating eggs and full fat milk and oily fish will support the dietary intake of this vital vitamin.

Folic Acid

Folic acid comes from the B vitamin Folate.  It is vital that a woman has sufficient folate in her system prior to conception and during pregnancy to prevent amongst other things neural defects.  It is recommended that she take it for at least 3 months before pregnancy.  As it is a water soluble vitamin it is not stored in the body so it must be taken in daily.  Food sources don't provide sufficient amounts at this time.  Good food sources are green vegetables, avocados and lentils.


Iron is a vital nutrient necessary to provide a good supply of blood to the developing foetus, it is common during pregnancy that iron levels may drop as mother is sharing her supply with the unborn baby.  It should be measured regularly and supplemented.  It is very important for brain development and baby's cognition.  The best sources of bio-available iron is red meat.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin which the body cannot make, it must be taken in from the diet.  It works hand in hand with Iron, vegetarians and vegans tend to lack B12 as it is only found in animal produce.  To maintain a healthy pregnancy it is wise to supplement prior to and during conception.


Calcium is a mineral which is involved in every cellular function in the body.  It is best known for its role in bone development and bone health.  Irish women despite the high dairy diet tend to lack calcium across the life-course.  Ensuring a good supply of calcium during pregnancy will support the bones of the developing baby and protect mother's bones.  Calcium requires Vitamin D and K to transport it into bone.  

Health of Mother & Baby

Many of these deficiencies do not auger well for the long term health of baby and mother. Babies that are nutritionally compromised may have long lasting negative health outcomes such as a higher propensity to develop cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in later life.   There is now a large body of evidence linking nutritional deficits in utero and in early life to disease in adulthood.

Taking a good quality nutritional supplement prior to and during conception may help prevent this outcome.