Most Important Vitamins for Pregnancy

During pregnancy you need folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin C.

Pregnancy is a time of great change, not just in your body but also in your diet. Throughout pregnancy you need more vitamins, especially folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, choline, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. Vitamin C plays an important role in fertility in both men and women. Here’s how to get these essential nutrients…

The most important vitamins for pregnancy are folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, choline and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also a good idea to make sure your diet includes vitamin C, B vitamins and folate.

Folic acid, iron, calcium and vitamin D are important for your baby’s brain development. Choline is critical for brain function and growth. Omega-3 fatty acids help keep your brain healthy. Vitamin B6 helps produce hormones that are vital to the development of your baby’s nervous system. And folate (or folic acid) helps prevent severe birth defects of the spine, brain and spinal cord such as spina bifida. Vitamin C can also help reduce blood pressure while vitamin E may protect against cell damage caused by oxidant stress during pregnancy.

As ingesting certain vitamins and supplements during pregnancy is good for your health and that of your baby, it is important to know about them. Let us tell you about the most important vitamins for pregnancy.

Best Folic Acid Tablets For Pregnancy

  • During pregnancy, your baby gets all necessary nutrients from you. So you may need more during pregnancy than you did before pregnancy.
  • Taking prenatal vitamins and eating healthy foods can help give you all the nutrients you and your baby need during pregnancy. 
  • Make sure your prenatal vitamin has folic acid, iron and calcium in it. Most have the right amount of each of these.
  • Talk to your provider to make sure you get enough vitamin D, DHA and iodine each day.
  • Don’t take any supplements without your provider’s OK.

What are prenatal vitamins? 

Prenatal vitamins are multivitamins for pregnant women or women who are trying to get pregnant. Compared to a regular multivitamin, they have more of some nutrients that you need during pregnancy. Your health care provider may prescribe a prenatal vitamin for you, or you can buy them over the counter without a prescription. Take a prenatal vitamin every day during pregnancy. If you’re planning to get pregnant, start taking prenatal vitamins before you get pregnant. 

Your body uses vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in food to strong and healthy. During pregnancy, your growing baby gets all necessary nutrients from you. So you may need more during pregnancy than you did before. If you’re pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets or more), you may need more nutrients than if you’re pregnant with one baby. Your prenatal vitamin contains the right amount of nutrients you need during pregnancy. 

If you’re a vegetarian, have food allergies or can’t eat certain foods, your provider may want you to take a supplement to help you get more of certain nutrients. A supplement is a product you take to make up for certain nutrients that you don’t get enough of in foods you eat. For example, your  provider may recommend that you take a vitamin supplement to help you get more vitamin D, iron or calcium. 

Which nutrients are most important during pregnancy?

All nutrients are important, but these six play a key role in your baby’s growth and development during pregnancy:

  1. Folic acid
  2. Iron
  3. Calcium
  4. Vitamin D
  5. DHA
  6. Iodine

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (also called NTDs). Some studies show that taking folic acid may help prevent heart defects and birth defects in your baby’s mouth (called cleft lip and palate). 

  • Before pregnancy take a vitamin supplement with 400 mcg of folic acid every day.   
  • Take a vitamin supplement with 400 mcg of folic acid each day, even if you’re not trying to get pregnant.
  • During pregnancy, take a prenatal vitamin each day that has 600 mcg of folic acid in it.

Check the product label to see how much folic acid is in it.

If you’re at high risk for having a baby with an NTD, talk to your provider about how you can safely take 4,000 mcg of folic acid each day to help prevent an NTD. Start taking 4,000 mcg at least 3 months before you get pregnant and through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. You’re at high risk if:

  • You’ve had a pregnancy with an NTD in the past.
  • You or your partner has an NTD.
  • Your partner has a child with an NTD.

Don’t take several multivitamins or prenatal vitamins. You can get too much of other nutrients, which may be harmful to your health. Your provider can help you figure out the best and safest way for you to get the right amount of folic acid.

You can also get folic acid from food. Citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables and beans are all excellent sources of folic acid. Some foods are also enriched with folic acid, such as cereals, bread, rice and pasta.

What is iron?

Iron is a mineral. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein that helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. You need twice as much iron during pregnancy than you did before pregnancy. Your body needs this iron to make more blood so it can carry oxygen to your baby. Your baby needs iron to make his own blood. 

During pregnancy, you need 27 milligrams of iron each day. Most prenatal vitamins have this amount. You also can get iron from food. Good sources of iron include:

  • Lean meat, poultry and seafood
  • Cereal, bread and pasta that has iron added to it (check the package label)
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Beans, nuts, raisins and dried fruit

Foods containing vitamin C can increase the amount of iron your body absorbs. It’s a good idea to eat foods like orange juice, tomatoes, strawberries and grapefruit every day.

Calcium (in dairy products like milk) and coffee, tea, egg yolks, fiber and soybeans can block your body from absorbing iron. Try to avoid these when eating iron-rich foods.

If you don’t get enough iron during pregnancy, you may be more likely to experience: 

  • Infections.
  • Anemia. This means you have too little iron in your blood. 
  • Fatigue. This means you feel really tired or exhausted.
  • Premature birth. This means your baby is born too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. 
  • Low birthweight. This means your baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. 

What is calcium?

Calcium is a mineral that helps your baby’s bones, teeth, heart, muscles and nerves develop. During pregnancy, you need 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. You can get this amount by taking your prenatal vitamin and eating food that has a lot of calcium in it. Good sources of calcium include:

  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Broccoli and kale
  • Orange juice that has calcium added to it (check the package label)

If you don’t get enough calcium during pregnancy, your body takes it from your bones and gives it to your baby. This can cause health conditions, such as osteoporosis, later in life. Osteoporosis causes your bones become thin and break easily.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. It also helps your body’s nerves, muscles and immune system work. Your immune system protects your body from infection. Vitamin D helps your baby’s bones and teeth grow.

During pregnancy, you need 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D each day. You can get this amount from food or your prenatal vitamin. Good sources of vitamin D include:

  • Fatty fish, like salmon
  • Milk and cereal that has vitamin D added to it (check the package label)

What is DHA?

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a kind of fat (called omega-3 fatty acid) that helps with growth and development. During pregnancy, you need DHA to help your baby’s brain and eyes develop. Not all prenatal vitamins contain DHA, so ask your provider if you need to take a DHA supplement.

During pregnancy, it is recommended that women eat 8 to 12 ounces of seafood low in mercury each week. Good sources of DHA include:

  • Herring, salmon, trout, anchovies, halibut, catfish, shrimp and tilapia
  • Orange juice, milk and eggs that have DHA added to them (check the package label)

What is iodine?

Iodine is a mineral your body needs to make thyroid hormones, which help your body use and store energy from food. You need iodine during pregnancy to help your baby’s nervous system develop. The nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) helps your baby move, think and feel.

During pregnancy, you need 220 micrograms of iodine every day. Not all prenatal vitamins contain iodine, so make sure you eat foods that have iodine in them. Ask your provider if you need to take an iodine supplement.

Good sources of iodine include:

  • Fish
  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Enriched or fortified cereal and bread (check the package label)
  • Iodized salt (salt with iodine added to it; check the package label)

Prenatal Vitamins To Get Pregnant

Eating a healthy, varied diet in pregnancy will help you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need.

But when you’re pregnant, or there’s a chance you might get pregnant, it’s important to also take a folic acid supplement.

It’s recommended that you take:

  • 400 micrograms of folic acid every day – from before you’re pregnant until you’re 12 weeks pregnant

This is to reduce the risk of problems in the baby’s development in the early weeks of pregnancy.

It is also recommended that you take a daily vitamin D supplement.

Do not take cod liver oil or any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol) when you’re pregnant. Too much vitamin A could harm your baby. Always check the label.

You also need to know which foods to avoid in pregnancy.

Where to get pregnancy supplements

You can get supplements from pharmacies and supermarkets, or a GP may be able to prescribe them for you.

If you want to get your folic acid from a multivitamin tablet, make sure the tablet does not contain vitamin A (or retinol).

You may be able to get free vitamins if you qualify for the Healthy Start scheme.

Find out more about the Healthy Start scheme.

Folic acid before and during pregnancy

It’s important to take a 400 micrograms folic acid tablet every day before you’re pregnant and until you’re 12 weeks pregnant.

Folic acid can help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida.

If you did not take folic acid before you conceived, you should start as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.

Try to eat green leafy vegetables which contain folate (the natural form of folic acid) and breakfast cereals and fat spreads with folic acid added to them.

It’s difficult to get the amount of folate recommended for a healthy pregnancy from food alone, which is why it’s important to take a folic acid supplement.

Higher-dose folic acid

If you have a higher chance of your pregnancy being affected by neural tube defects, you will be advised to take a higher dose of folic acid (5 milligrams). You will be advised to take this each day until you’re 12 weeks pregnant.

You may have a higher chance if:

  • you or the baby’s biological father have a neural tube defect
  • you or the baby’s biological father have a family history of neural tube defects
  • you have had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect
  • you have diabetes
  • you take anti-epilepsy medicine
  • you take anti-retroviral medicine for HIV

If any of this applies to you, talk to a GP. They can prescribe a higher dose of folic acid.

A GP or midwife may also recommend additional screening tests during your pregnancy.

Find out about epilepsy and pregnancy.

Vitamin D in pregnancy

You need 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day and should consider taking a supplement containing this amount between September and March.

Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to summer sunlight (from late March/early April to the end of September).

It’s not known exactly how much time is needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D to meet the body’s needs, but if you’re in the sun take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before you start to turn red or burn.

Vitamin D is also in some foods, including:

  • oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines)
  • eggs
  • red meat

Vitamin D is added to some breakfast cereals, fat spreads and non-dairy milk alternatives. The amounts added to these products can vary and might only be small.

Because vitamin D is only found in a small number of foods, whether naturally or added, it is difficult to get enough from foods alone.

Do not take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful.

You can get vitamin supplements containing vitamin D free of charge if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and qualify for the Healthy Start scheme.

Most Important Vitamins in Early Pregnancy

All nutrients are important, but these six play a key role in your baby’s growth and development during pregnancy:

  • Folic acid.
  • Iron.
  • Calcium.
  • Vitamin D.
  • DHA.
  • Iodine.

Prenatal vitamins contain the right amount of nutrients that are important for the development of your baby. All nutrients are important, but these six play a key role in your baby’s growth and development during pregnancy: Folic acid, Iron, Calcium, Vitamin D, DHA and Iodine

These six vitamins are essential for building your baby’s body and brain. Folic acid helps prevent neural-tube defects and other birth defects, Iron keeps your blood healthy, Calcium and Vitamin D help build strong bones in both you and your baby, DHA provides brain support throughout pregnancy, and Iodine supports proper thyroid function.

Which Vitamin is Important for Pregnancy

Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B vitamin that is important for pregnant women. Folic acid may help prevent major birth defects of the fetus’s brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs).

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is important for pregnant women. The recommended intake of folic acid for pregnant women is 400 micrograms (mcg) daily, beginning before conception and continuing through the first trimester of pregnancy. A woman can get folic acid from food sources or from supplements.

A folate deficiency can lead to various problems in pregnancy, including low birth weight and neural tube defects. Folic acid is a form of folate that is easily absorbed by the body. Most people get enough folic acid through their diet, but some women may need extra supplementation.

Our bodies need folate to make nucleotides and other important compounds. Folate also helps reduce levels of homocysteine, a substance that’s linked to heart disease and stroke. Some types of folate can only be obtained through food, while others can also be manufactured by your body, provided you have an adequate supply of the vitamin B12

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