A balanced and nutritious diet prior to conceiving and during pregnancy is crucial to the health of mother and baby. Not only are the foods you consume important — the vitamins and minerals found in dietary supplements play an equally essential role, especially when and often times, mothers-to-be do not receive enough of these nutrients in their daily diet.
Prenatal Vitamins & Dietary Supplements
Prenatal care begins long before you’re pregnant. Prior to trying and conceiving, it is strongly recommended that vitamins such as folic acid and Vitamin D, and dietary supplements including iron, calcium, and zinc be consumed — ideally, three to six months out. Here’s what to look for in a daily prenatal multivitamin:
- Folic Acid: The importance of including folic acid to your prenatal care, prior and during pregnancy, cannot be stressed upon enough! Proven to decrease your baby’s risk of neural tube defects, folic acid ensures full-term delivery, healthy birth weight, and complete brain and nervous system development. Folic acid is also vital to a healthy placenta.
- Recommended dosage: 400 micrograms a day
- Iron: Consuming iron while trying to conceive increases fertility, promotes healthy eggs, and helps deliver oxygen to all parts of the body, including the ovaries and uterus. Many females will likely receive adequate doses of iron from their daily diet, however many prenatal multivitamins contain iron as well.
- Recommended dosage: 30 milligrams a day
- Calcium: Many females do not receive enough calcium on a daily basis, whether they are carrying or not. Known for building strong bones and teeth, calcium is also necessary for conception. Prior to conceiving, enough calcium will increase bone density, providing a strong foundation of nutrients for your baby during pregnancy.
- Recommended dosage: 1,000 milligrams a day. Most prenatal vitamins contain 150-300 milligrams of Calcium, so an additional calcium supplement is recommended.
- Zinc: Like calcium, zinc contributes to a healthy reproductive system and increases fertility. Zinc is required to produce mature eggs that are suitable for fertilization. Furthermore, zinc promotes healthy cell division, helping balance your estrogen and progesterone levels.
- Recommended dosage: 11 milligrams a day
- Vitamin D: While it’s important your body receives enough calcium, it is even more important the calcium consumed, is absorbed. Vitamin D, as part of your prenatal multivitamin, will help your body absorb calcium and in turn, increase fertility.
- Recommended dosage: 400 IU a day
Vitamin C helps your body produce collagen that is vital to healthy cartilage, tendons, bones, and skin for your baby.
Recommended Vitamins During Pregnancy
Along with a daily prenatal multivitamin, additional vitamins should be taken to complement your pregnancy diet, ensuring the best possible health for you and your baby.
- Folic Acid: In addition to decreasing your baby’s risk of neural tube defects — up to 70% according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — folic acid also prevents birth defects of the spinal cord and brain, which are important during fetal development during the first trimester.
- Recommended dosage: 600 micrograms a day
- Vitamin D: Increased consumption of Vitamin D during pregnancy prevents preterm delivery and infections, while continuing to help your body absorb your daily intake of calcium. A large portion of the U.S. population is Vitamin D deficient, in part to the small list of foods containing Vitamin D. As such, women should be mindful of their Vitamin D consumption during pregnancy.
- Recommended dosage: 2,000 to 4,000 IU a day
- Vitamin C: Also known as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C protects your cells by warding off infections and keeping your body healthy. Vitamin C also helps your body produce collagen that is vital to healthy cartilage, tendons, bones, and skin for your baby.
- Recommended dosage: 85 milligrams a day
Recommended Dietary Supplements During Pregnancy
- Calcium: Your baby’s bones, teeth, nerves, and muscles depend on calcium for healthy development and growth. A lack of calcium will result in your baby drawing calcium from your bones, risking the health of you and your baby.
- Recommended dosage: 1,000 milligrams a day
- Iron: During pregnancy, your body will naturally increase its production of blood by around 50%. Additional iron is required to produce more blood (hemoglobin) — the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells, organs, and tissues in your baby. Daily iron consumption during pregnancy also ensures healthy placenta growth, especially in the second and third trimesters.
- Recommended dosage: 30 to 50 milligrams a day
- Zinc: A strong immune system during pregnancy is imperative to the health of mother and baby to ward off infection. A healthy intake of zinc provides a boost to your immune system, and reduces your risk of preterm delivery. Perhaps more importantly, zinc is needed for the production of your baby’s cells and DNA, and is essential for cell division and tissue growth.
- Recommended dosage: 11 milligrams a day
- Iodine: Essential for brain development and the nervous system, too little iodine will also put you at risk for miscarriage, preterm delivery, and stillbirth.
- Recommended dosage: 220 micrograms a day
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A found in certain foods is important to the development of your baby, building strong lungs, healthy eyes, and helps skin cell production. Most women generally receive enough Vitamin A from a well-balanced diet, and are generally advised against taking supplements. Too much retinol, found in Vitamin A, can lead to possible birth defects.
- Vitamin B6: The recommended dosage for Vitamin B6 (1.9 milligrams per day) will help develop your baby’s brain and nervous system, and for some pregnant women, relieve vomiting and nausea. Too much Vitamin B6, however, can cause nerve damage and numbness in your baby.
Vitamins to Avoid in Excess
It’s no secret receiving essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients during pregnancy are vital to the growth and development of your baby, and to the health of both mother and baby. While a balanced diet will provide you and your baby with the necessary nutrients, not all foods offer enough of the recommended dosage. Similarly, receiving more than the recommended dosage of certain vitamins may harm a developing fetus.
Discuss with your doctor which vitamins and dietary supplements your body can use more of, to complement your daily diet.