- Important Nutrients
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Eating a well-balanced diet is important during your pregnancy. What you eat and drink has an impact on your baby and your body. Learn about pregnancy vitamins and supplements you should take to help ensure you have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Why take pregnancy vitamins and supplements?
You may need vitamins and supplements if you:
Important nutrients during pregnancy
A healthy diet during your pregnancy will benefit you and promote your baby’s development. Talk to your doctor about supplements to make sure they're necessary and safe for you and your baby.
Folate or Folic Acid
Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9. It's found in many foods. When it’s a supplement or added to foods, it’s known as folic acid.
Folate helps prevent neural tube defects. The neural tube develops into your baby’s brain and spine. These birth defects happen very early in pregnancy, often before you know that you’re pregnant. The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida (spinal cord defect) and anencephaly (head and brain).
Folate is found in different foods, including:
- Legumes, like peas and dried beans
- Leafy, dark green vegetables such as spinach, romaine lettuce, and broccoli
- Whole grains
- Fresh fruits and juices
- Breakfast cereals
- Fortified foods
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should get 600 micrograms of folate a day. It’s hard to get this amount from food, so doctors usually recommend a folic acid supplement.
Important nutrients during pregnancy (continued)
During pregnancy, you need calcium for your growing baby’s bones and teeth. If you don’t get enough calcium, your body will still give calcium to your baby — but it will get taken from your bones, which can harm your health.
Women who are 19 or older need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. Those aged 18 or under need 1,300 milligrams a day.
Pregnant women who don’t get enough calcium may have complications including:
- Preeclampsia, a pregnancy condition that causes high blood pressure and possible organ failure.
- High blood pressure during pregnancy
- Premature birth
- Your baby may not get enough calcium in their bones
- Slower growth of your baby
Pregnant women should get 27 milligrams of iron a day. Iron-deficiency anemia is common in pregnant women.
Signs of iron-deficiency anemia include:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Loss of concentration and confusion
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sensitivity to cold
- Brittle nails and hair loss
- Pale skin
- Pica, when you crave non-food items like dirt and clay
Anemia increases your risk of:
- Having a low birth-weight baby
- Preterm birth
- Infections after you give birth (postpartum infections)
If you may have iron-deficiency anemia, your doctor may prescribe oral iron supplements. You can also get iron from different types of food. Some good animal sources of iron include:
- Canned sardines
- Beef or chicken liver
- Clams, mussels, and oysters
- Organ meats
Plant sources of iron include:
- Enriched rice or bread
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Beans and lentils
- Nuts and seeds
- Potato with the skin on
Important nutrients during pregnancy (continued)
Research has found vitamin D deficiency is more common among:
- Women with limited sun exposure
- Women with darker skin
Taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy may help protect against:
This nutrient helps support the development of your baby’s brain. It may also help prevent some birth defects.
Pregnant women should get 450 micrograms of choline a day. Less than 10% of pregnant women get enough choline, however. Not all prenatal vitamins contain choline.
Choline can be found in both animal and plant sources like:
- Soy products
- Beef liver
Iodine is important for your baby’s brain development. Pregnant women should get 220 micrograms of iodine a day. Not all prenatal vitamins contain iodine.
Iodine can be found in:
- Iodized table salt
- Dairy products
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Use of dietary supplements by pregnant and lactating women in North America."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Neural tube defects."
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: "Vitamin D supplementation for women during pregnancy."
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source: “Folate (Folic Acid) – Vitamin B9,” “Iron.” Mayo Clinic: "Preeclampsia."
Merck Manual: "Anemia in Pregnancy."
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Bone Health."
Nutrients: "Choline: Exploring the Growing Science on Its Benefits for Moms and Babies."
Nutrition Reviews: "Role of calcium during pregnancy: maternal and fetal needs."
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