Thiamin (also known as thiamine or vitamin B1) is a water soluble substance. Thiamin is essential for carbohydrate metabolism and is involved in nervous system and muscle function. It enables conversion of carbohydrate into energy in you and your baby.
On top of making sure your nervous system, muscles, and heart function normally. It is also essential for your baby's brain development. Studies in experimental animals have shown that thiamine deficiency leads to delayed maturation profiles for enzymes involved in brain energy metabolism (1)
Deficiency is common in Asia, where diets are often high in thiamine-depleted polished rice and can be low in other food sources. On top of that pregnancy imposes an increasing requirement for thiamine over the course of gestation. This deficiency can lead to widespread metabolic disturbances affecting the placenta and fetus.
Nutritional deficiency for thiamine is rare in people who consume a moderately varied diet that contains whole grains. However, excessive vomiting in pregnancy can cause thiamine depletion, in which case antenatal vitamins containing thiamine and other B vitamins may be beneficial. (1)
Food sources of Thiamin:
Fortified breads, cereals, whole grain products, lean pork, dried beans, nuts and peas all contain good amounts of thiamin. Fruits, vegetables, and dairy products have small amounts too.
How much Thiamin you need:
Pregnant and breastfeeding women: 1.4 milligrams (mg) per day
Nonpregnant women: 1.1 mg per day
1. Fournier H, Butterworth RF. Effects of maternal thiamine deficiency on the development of thiamine-dependent enzymes in regions of the rat brain. Neurochem Int 1989;15:439–44.
2. Sir Peter Gluckman, Mark Hanson, Chong Yap Seng, and Anne Bardsley. Vitamin B1 (thiamine) in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Oxford University Press. Dec 2014
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research