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Vitamin C in your pregnancy diet

Why you need vitamin C during pregnancy

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is essential for tissue repair, wound healing, bone growth and repair, and healthy skin. Vitamin C also helps your body fight infection, and it acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.

Both you and your baby need this vitamin daily – 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.

Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron. Try to include a vitamin C-rich food with every meal to get the most iron out of the other foods you eat.

How much vitamin C you need

Pregnant women: at least 85 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day
Pregnant, 18 years or younger: 80 mg

Breastfeeding women: 120 mg
Breastfeeding, 18 years or younger: 115 mg

You don't have to get the recommended amount of vitamin C every day. Instead, aim for that amount as an average over the course of a few days or a week.

Food sources of vitamin C

Citrus fruits are especially high in vitamin C, but leafy greens and many other fruits and vegetables are excellent sources. Because heat can destroy vitamin C during cooking, it's best to choose fresh foods for your vitamin C. Some cereals and juices are fortified with vitamin C, too.

Foods that provide vitamin C include:

  • 8 ounces orange juice: 124 mg
  • 8 ounces grapefruit juice: 94 mg
  • 1 kiwi: 70 mg
  • 1/2 cup raw sweet red bell pepper slices: 59 mg
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries: 49 mg
  • 1/2 cup boiled broccoli: 51 mg
  • 1/2 medium grapefruit (pink, red, or white): 44 mg
  • 1/2 cup papaya cubes: 43 mg
  • 1/2 cup cantaloupe 29 mg
  • 1/2 boiled cabbage: 28 mg
  • 1/2 cup raw mango: 23 mg
  • 1/2 cup mashed sweet potato: 21 mg
  • 1 baked potato, with skin: 20 mg
  • 1/2 cup boiled beet greens: 18 mg
  • 1/2 cup raspberries: 16 mg
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes: 10 mg

Should you take a vitamin C supplement?

Probably not. It's easy, and safest, to get your daily requirements through food. A glass of orange juice at breakfast every day is all you need. (Choose calcium-fortified OJ for even more nutritional value.)

While some studies show that vitamin C supplementation can reduce the incidence of PROM (premature rupture of the membranes), 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 scurvy (a severe vitamin C deficiency) in babies born to mothers taking vitamin C supplements during pregnancy.

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 brittle hair; gum inflammation; rough, dry skin; slow-healing cuts; and bruises.

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