The Best Vitamins to Take (and Avoid) While Pregnant

by Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE · Updated May 16, 2022
SHARE

Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, shares recommended vitamins to take while pregnant. Plus: additional supplements for a healthy pregnancy, other prenatal nutritional needs, and vitamins to avoid during pregnancy.

Is it safe to take vitamins during pregnancy? 

This is one of the most common questions that dietitians get from expectant and new mothers. It’s no secret that proper nourishment can better optimize your pre and postnatal care. But exactly which vitamins and supplements should you take during pregnancy?

In this article, we’re bringing things back to science-backed basics. When it comes to supplements and pregnancy, here’s the information you need to have a safe and healthy term.

**This information should not be used in lieu of professional medical advice. Always follow guidance from your OB-GYN and/or primary care physician.

The Importance of Prenatal Nutrition

Meeting your daily nutrient needs during pregnancy is necessary to keep up with your rapidly changing maternal metabolism.

Of course, maternal nutrition is essential for healthy fetal growth and development. In fact, there’s growing research that suggests the effects of prenatal nutrition can trickle into adulthood. For that reason, it’s important to learn about necessary vitamins and minerals for pregnant women, as well as additional supplement and macronutrient needs.

Pregnant woman taking supplements to illustrate essential vitamins for pregnant women

SUPPLEMENTS TO TAKE DURING PREGNANCY

In addition to the vitamins and nutrients discussed above, here are two of the best supplements to take while pregnant.

1. PRENATAL MULTIVITAMIN

First and foremost, pregnant women should take a prenatal supplement to help cover their increased nutrient needs.

Here’s a list of some of the key nutrients and how much you should aim to consume each day from food and a supplement, according to the ACOG:

  • choline: 450 mg
  • folic acid: 600 mcg
  • iodine: 220 mcg
  • iron: 27 mg
  • vitamin A: 770 mcg
  • vitamin B6: 1.9 mg
  • vitamin B12: 2.6 mcg
  • vitamin C: 85 mg
  • vitamin D3: 600 IU

Your OBGYN will likely recommend you to continue taking a prenatal supplement after you give birth and while you breastfeed. 

2. OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

Doctors will often encourage their pregnant patients to take a supplement that provides omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA. Here’s why.

Why they’re important: Omega-3 fatty acid stores tend to deplete quickly throughout pregnancy. Fortunately, omega-3 fatty acids provide DHA, one of its most biologically active acids.

DHA is a key part of healthy brain development in babies. The benefits of taking omega-3 fatty acid extend to postnatal nutrition, too. Researchers suggest that rapid depletion of fatty acids during pregnancy and breastfeeding may contribute to the baby blues. Omega-3s are also good for heart and overall health benefits.

Sources + dosage: Food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • cold-water fish
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • plant oils

The ACOG recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women eat at least two servings of fish or shellfish per week to help increase omega-3 intake. However, pay special attention to avoid raw or undercooked fish. Additionally, you should also avoid fish with high mercury levels while pregnant.

Most prenatal vitamins contain about 200 milligrams of DHA. However, the American Pregnancy Association recommends looking for a prenatal vitamin with a minimum of 300 milligrams of DHA. For reference, one serving of HUM’s Womb Service Step 2 Prenatal DHA packs 350 milligrams.

pregnant woman stretching and getting vitamin D from the sun

3. CALCIUM

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It’s well known for its ability to support strong bones and teeth. Less known are calcium’s other important functions such as its role in blood circulation, hormone regulation, fluid balance, and muscle movement. 

Why it’s important: In pregnant women, calcium helps with the healthy formation of the fetus’s bones and teeth. Calcium can also have beneficial effects for the mother. 

Sources and dosage: One of the best ways to support your calcium intake is through food. Calcium can be found in a variety of foods, including:

  • dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.)
  • green leafy vegetables
  • fortified foods (juices, plant-based milks)
  • almonds
  • broccoli
  • sesame seeds

Adult women should aim to consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. While calcium requirements don’t increase during pregnancy, ensuring that you’re getting enough is very important. In fact, calcium absorption during pregnancy is directly linked to how much calcium the expectant mother consumes through diet or supplementation.  

With that in mind, you might benefit from taking a calcium supplement if you suspect that you aren’t getting enough calcium through diet alone.

If your doctor recommends boosting your calcium intake, consider trying HUM’s Got Calcium vegan supplement which packs 630 mg of calcium per serving. 

3. VITAMIN D

Vitamin D status is important for everyone. However, because the fetus relies on maternal vitamin D intake, getting enough of this vitamin during pregnancy is critical. In fact, anywhere from 40 to 98 percent of pregnant women around the world are vitamin D deficient.

Why it’s important: Vitamin D plays a key role in fetal bone and teeth development. A 2014 systematic review reveals that maternal vitamin D status is “modestly” associated with:

  • infant birth weight
  • bone mass
  • calcium levels

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s also critical for eye and skin health.

Sources + dosage: There are a number of ways to get your vitamin D intake, including through:

Additionally, if you’re taking a prenatal vitamin, ensure that it includes adequate amounts of vitamin D. The ACOG recommends that pregnant women (and all women for that matter) get 15 micrograms (or 600 IUs) of vitamin D daily.

If your doctor detects that you have low vitamin D levels, they may recommend additional supplementation.

Pregnant couple at doctor to discuss healthy supplements during pregnancy

4. PROBIOTICS

Probiotics are gut-friendly bacteria that help balance the microbiome.

The gut microbiota—or the collection of bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut—influences many areas of health. The gut microbiome can play a role in processes ranging from immunology to digestive health, as well as pregnancy.

Why they’re important: An infant’s gut microbiota starts forming throughout the entire pregnancy and continues colonizing during the first years of life.

For this reason, there’s an increased interest in the efficacy of prenatal probiotic supplementation. Research suggests that taking probiotics is generally safe for pregnant and nursing mothers but it is best to check first with your health care provider.

Additionally, in 2015, the World Allergy Organization recommended prenatal probiotic supplementation for both:

  1. pregnant women at risk of having an infant with allergies
  2. women who nurse an infant who’s at risk for allergies

Sources + dosage: There are a number of fermented and probiotic foods you can add to your diet. Additionally, HUM’s Gut Instinct probiotic includes strains to help diversify the gut microbiome.

5. VITAMIN B12

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a nutrient that supports the nervous system. It also plays a role in creating red blood cells and DNA.

Why it’s important: Vitamin B12 is important for helping to develop a baby’s neurological functions. Specifically, it is required for the formation of the neural tube, brain, and spine. 

Sources + dosage: Many animal proteins and fortified foods contain vitamin B12. Additionally, a good prenatal supplement should contain at least 2.6 mcg (the recommended daily value for pregnancy and adults in general) for healthy nervous system development, according to ACOG.

However, some pregnant women may need to supplement with additional vitamin B12 during pregnancy. In particular, those following a plant-based diet may be at higher risk for B12 deficiency. As such, your doctor may recommend a B12 supplement if you are plant-based or had low levels prior to pregnancy

If your doctor recommends supplementing B12 throughout your pregnancy, you can find 1,000 mcg (per serving) in HUM’s B12 Turbo

Pregnant woman eating breakfast to meet her prenatal nutrition needs

ADDITIONAL PRENATAL AND POSTNATAL NUTRITION NEEDS

As we’ve gathered so far, a woman’s nutrition needs increase during pregnancy—but in terms of calories, it’s not as much as you might think.

On average, most pregnant women will need to consume an extra 340 extra calories per day. 

Additionally, the CDC recommends that breastfeeding mothers consume an additional 450 to 500 calories daily. However, this number can vary depending on your:

  • body mass
  • activity level
  • breastfeeding frequency

During pregnancy, there’s also an uptick in certain macronutrient needs. Macronutrients are large food nutrients such as protein, carbs, and fats.
The American Pregnancy Association recommends increasing protein intake to 75 to 100 grams per day while pregnant. In addition, they should strive to consume get plenty of fiber from complex carbohydrates and choose fewer foods high in saturated fats.

Woman nursing her baby in bed

SUPPLEMENTS TO AVOID WHILE PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING

While the vitamins and supplements above are generally considered safe for pregnant and nursing mothers, certain plants and herbs can potentially be harmful while pregnant or breastfeeding. That’s why you must always let your doctor know about any supplements you take.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, avoid these plants and herbs while pregnant or breastfeeding:

  • saw palmetto
  • goldenseal
  • dong quai
  • ephedra
  • yohimbe
  • pau d’arco
  • passion flower
  • black cohosh
  • blue cohosh
  • roman chamomile
  • pennyroyal

THE BOTTOM LINE

To circle back to the original questions, it’s generally safe and recommended to take certain supplements and vitamins while pregnant or breastfeeding.**

Expecting mothers have unique nutrient needs that are necessary to optimize prenatal care. For most pregnant women, taking a well-rounded prenatal supplement is a great place to start.

**As a reminder, the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Pregnant and nursing women should always consult their OB-GYN and/or primary care physician before adding any vitamins or supplements to their routines.


To Top

JOIN THE WELLNEST

NO THANKS.