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Why you need vitamin C during pregnancy
Both you and your baby need vitamin C daily because it's necessary for the body to make collagen, a structural protein that's a component of cartilage, tendons, bones, and skin. Based on animal studies, some researchers believe that vitamin C deficiencies in newborn babies can impair mental development.
Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is essential for tissue repair, wound healing, bone growth and repair, and healthy skin. Vitamin C helps your body fight infections and acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.
Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron, especially from vegetarian sources.
How much vitamin C you need
Pregnant women age 18 and younger: 80 milligrams (mg) per day
Pregnant women age 19 and older: 85 mg per day
Breastfeeding women age 18 and younger: 115 mg per day
Breastfeeding women age 19 and older: 120 mg per day
Nonpregnant women age 18 and younger: 65 mg per day
Nonpregnant women age 19 and older: 75 mg per day
Food sources of vitamin C
Citrus fruits are especially high in vitamin C, but leafy greens and many other fruits and vegetables are also excellent sources. Choose fresh foods as your source of vitamin C because heat can destroy this vitamin. Also, some cereals and juices are fortified with vitamin C.
Try to include a food rich in vitamin C at every meal to maximize the amount of iron you get from the other foods you eat.
Foods that provide vitamin C include:
- 6 ounces orange juice: 62 to 93 mg
- 6 ounces grapefruit juice: 62 to 70 mg
- one kiwi: 91 mg
- 1/2 cup raw, sweet red bell pepper, chopped: 95 mg
- 1 cup whole strawberries: 85 mg
- one medium orange: 70 mg
- 1/2 cup broccoli, cooked: 51 mg
- 1/2 medium grapefruit: 38 mg
- one medium baked potato: 17 mg
- one medium tomato: 16 mg
- 1 cup raw spinach: 8 mg
Should you take a vitamin C supplement?
Probably not. It's easiest and safest to get your daily requirement from food. A glass of orange juice at breakfast every day is all you need. (Choose calcium-fortified OJ for even more nutritional value.)
Although some studies show that vitamin C supplementation can reduce the incidence of premature rupture of the membranes (PROM), there is some concern that taking vitamin C supplements during pregnancy may raise the risk of preterm birth.
There are also reports (though rare) of babies born to mothers who took excessive vitamin C supplements during pregnancy developing scurvy, a severe vitamin C deficiency.
If you're concerned about your vitamin C intake, talk with your healthcare provider.
The signs of a vitamin C deficiency
Signs of a deficiency include fatigue, gum inflammation, slow-healing cuts, bruises, and rough, dry skin.