Getting the right nutrients is important at every stage of life, but it’s especially critical during pregnancy, as you’ll need to nourish both yourself and your growing babe.
You may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements for various reasons, including:
Nutrient deficiencies: Some people may need a supplement after a blood test reveals a deficiency in a vitamin or mineral. Correcting deficiencies is critical, as a shortage of nutrients like folate has been linked to birth defects.
Dietary restrictions: Women who follow specific diets, including vegans and those with food intolerances and allergies, may need to supplement with vitamins and minerals to prevent micronutrient deficiencies
Multiple pregnancies: Women carrying more than one baby have higher micronutrient needs than women carrying one baby. Supplementing is often necessary to ensure optimal nutrition for both the mother and her babies.
Genetic mutations like MTHFR: Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is a gene that converts folate into a form that the body can use. Pregnant women with this gene mutation may need to supplement with a specific form of folate to avoid complications.
Poor nutrition: Women who under eat or choose foods that are low in nutrients may need to supplement with vitamins and minerals to avoid deficiencies.
Prenatal vitamins are multivitamins that are specially formulated to meet the increased demand for micronutrients during pregnancy.
They’re intended to be taken before conception and during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
While prenatal vitamins aren’t meant to replace your healthy eating plan, they may help prevent nutritional gaps by providing extra micronutrients that are in high demand during pregnancy.
Since prenatal vitamins contain the vitamins and minerals that you’ll need, taking additional vitamin or mineral supplements may not be necessary unless suggested by your doctor.
Prenatal vitamins are often prescribed by doctors and available over-the-counter.
Folate is a B vitamin that plays an integral role in DNA synthesis, red blood cell production, and fetal growth and development.
It’s recommended to take at least 400 micrograms of folate or folic acid per day to reduce the risk of neural tube defects and congenital abnormalities like cleft palate and heart defects.
In a review of five randomized studies including 6,105 women, supplementing with folic acid daily was associated with a reduced risk of neural tube defects. No negative side effects were noted.
Although adequate folate can be obtained through diet, many women don’t eat enough folate-rich foods, making supplementation necessary.
Iron is critical for oxygen transport and healthy growth and development of your baby and the placenta.
Anemia during pregnancy has been associated with preterm delivery, maternal depression, and infant anemia.
The recommended intake of 27 milligrams (mg) iron per day can be met through most prenatal vitamins. However, if you have iron deficiency or anemia, you’ll need higher doses of iron, speak to your doctor about the recommended daily intake of iron.
If you aren’t iron deficient, you shouldn’t take more than the recommended intake of iron to avoid adverse side effects. These may include constipation, vomiting, and abnormally high hemoglobin levels.
Vitamin D is important for immune function, bone health, and cell division during pregnancy.
Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of cesarean section, preeclampsia, preterm birth, and gestational diabetes.
The current recommended intake of vitamin D during pregnancy is 600 IU or 15 mcg per day.
Choline plays a vital role in baby’s brain development and helps to prevent abnormalities of the brain and spine.
The current recommended daily allowance of choline during pregnancy (450 mg per day) has been thought to be inadequate and that an intake closer to 930 mg per day is optimal instead.
If you are looking for prenatal vitamins, be on the lookout for this ingredient as prenatal vitamins often don't contain choline. You might need a separate choline supplement if your prenatal vitamins are missing it.
Magnesium is a mineral involved in hundreds of chemical reactions in your body. It plays critical roles in immune, muscle, and nerve function.
Deficiency in this mineral during pregnancy may increase the risk of chronic hypertension and premature labor.
Some studies suggest that supplementing with magnesium may reduce the risk of complications like fetal growth restriction and preterm birth.
Fish oil contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two essential fatty acids that are important for baby’s brain development.
Supplementing with DHA and EPA in pregnancy might boost post-pregnancy brain development in your baby and decrease maternal depression, though further research is required.
While a study found that supplementing with fish oil did not affect maternal depression, they reported that fish oil did protect against preterm delivery. The study also reported some evidence that fish oil might be beneficial for fetal eye development.
To get DHA and EPA through food, it’s encouraged to consume two to three servings of low-mercury fish like salmon, sardines, or pollock per week.
Ginger root is commonly used as a spice and herbal supplement. In supplement form, it is often used to treat nausea caused by motion sickness, pregnancy, or chemotherapy.
Nausea and vomiting are common during pregnancy, with up to 80% of women experiencing them in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Studies suggested that ginger is both safe and effective for treating pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting. However it is recommended that you consult with your doctor on what the optimum daily dosage is for you.
Though ginger may help reduce this unpleasant pregnancy complication, more research is needed to identify the maximum safe dosage. Double check with your doctor to see if you need it.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that are thought to benefit digestive health.
Several studies have shown that supplementing with probiotics may reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, postpartum depression, and infant eczema and dermatitis.
Many studies have shown that probiotics are safe to take during pregnancy, and no harmful side effects have been identified, aside from an extremely low risk of probiotic-induced infection.
Although this vitamin is extremely important for fetal vision development and immune function, too much vitamin A can be harmful.
Given that vitamin A is fat soluble, your body stores excess amounts in the liver. This accumulation can have toxic effects on the body and lead to liver damage. It can even cause birth defects.
For example, excessive amounts of vitamin A during pregnancy has been shown to cause congenital birth abnormalities.
Between prenatal vitamins and foods, you should be able to get enough vitamin A, and additional supplementation outside of your prenatal vitamins is not advised.
While vitamin E is very important for health, it’s recommended that you don’t supplement with it.
Extra supplementation with vitamin E has not been shown to improve the safety and quality of the pregnancy, and may increase the risk of abdominal pain and premature rupture of the amniotic sack.
Dong quai is a medicinal root that is popular in traditional Chinese medicine and has been used for over 1,000 years.
Dong Quai supposedly treats a variety of health ailments from high blood pressure to menstrual cramps. However, there has not been much research conducted on Dong Quai's efficacy in treating those health conditions.
Dong Quai should not be used during pregnancy as it may stimulate uterine conctaction which increase the risk of miscarriage.
Goldenseal is a herb whose supposed medicinal benefits include treating conditions like diarrhea and respiratory infections. It is important to note that not much research has been on goldenseals' safety and efficacy treating these health conditions.
Goldenseal should not be used during pregnancy as it contains a chemical called berberine. Berberine has been linked to worsening jaundice in babies and can potentially lead to kernicterus, a rare form of brain damage.
Nlack cohosh is a medicinal plant used to treat several health conditions like menstrual cramps and hot flashes.
Black Cohosh should not be used during pregnancy as it has been known to cause uterine contraction as well as liver damage.
Yohimbe is a supplement made from the bark of a tree found in Africa. Used as a herbal treatment, its supposed benefits span from obesity to erectile dysfunction.
Yohimbe should not be used during pregnancy as severe side effects like heart attacks, seizures and high blood pressure have been linked to it.
If you are thinking of getting pregnant and would like to increase your chances of conceiving, it is highly recommended that you speak with your doctor and ask to do a pre-pregnancy check-up. During this check-up, doctors will look into any health conditions that might be affecting your chances of conceiving and determine the areas that should be worked on.
Articles featured on Zoey are for informational purposes only and should not be constituted as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. If you're looking for a healthcare provider, click here.