Pregnancy is one of those times in life when you definitely want to pay attention to your nutrition and vitamin intake. You may find yourself experiencing symptoms you’ve never had before and you may be suffering from a lack of energy. For me, it was really important that I add some specific supplements to my routine during pregnancy and postpartum and I felt so much better thanks to some specific high quality supplements during pregnancy.
Why take supplements during pregnancy?
Taking supplements during pregnancy serves two main purposes—supporting your own health and ensuring proper fetal growth for your baby. Your baby needs specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in order to grow and you are much more likely to become depleted in certain areas during pregnancy and postpartum. Ideally, we could all get the proper nutrients from the food we eat but it can be hard to maintain a well-rounded diet when you’re experiencing morning sickness or nausea or you just aren’t the best about eating your veggies! In order to feel your best and know that your baby is getting what they need, there are a few things to keep in mind. Of course, you should always talk to your care provider when taking new vitamins and supplements.
10 supplements that are safe to take during pregnancy
1. Prenatal vitamins
All women of childbearing age should be taking a prenatal vitamin. It’s important to be taking a prenatal vitamin before you even become pregnant because your body needs certain vitamins in the very early stages of pregnancy, namely folate. There are many different varieties of prenatal vitamins and most only require one pill per day. Experiment with different ones if you find that yours is upsetting your tummy.
Folate or Folic acid is a B vitamin that is extremely important for fetal development and taking it before you get pregnant and in early pregnancy has been proven to prevent birth defects in your babies brain, called neural tube defects. There is also evidence folate can reduce the risk of heart defects and cleft lip/palate. You should be taking at least 600mcg of folic acid well before you become pregnant. If you are pregnant and haven’t been taking folate, start immediately. Your prenatal may have this amount already in it.
MTHFR is a gene mutation that affects the way your body processes folate. Most people don’t even know they have this gene even though it’s estimated that 40% of individuals do. For moms with MTHFR, it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin that uses methylfolate instead of synthetic folic acid.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D affects your body’s nerves, muscles, and immune system. It is also important in helping your body absorb calcium. Vitamin D is crucial in the development of your baby’s bones and teeth. During pregnancy, you need 600 IU of vitamin D each day. During postpartum, and if you are breastfeeding, you should actually up your Vitamin D intake to 6400 IU or be giving your baby a Vitamin D supplement. Here’s a postpartum multivitamin called Lactation One that has 6400 IU of Vitamin D.
4. Fish Oil
Fish Oil is a great source of DHA which stands for docosahexaenoic acid. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is super important for your babies brain and eye development. During pregnancy, you need 200 milligrams of DHA and not all prenatal vitamins have DHA, so you may need to add a separate DHA supplement. Many women prefer to take a DHA supplement derived from algae instead of Fish Oil due to concerns with mercury.
Your baby is going to need calcium to grow and if you aren’t getting enough calcium daily, your body will take it from your bones and give it to your baby. Sounds fun, right?! Luckily, most prenatals will have the recommended 1,000 milligrams of calcium. Other good sources of calcium include dairy, broccoli and kale and fortified orange juice.
Magnesium works in conjunction with calcium and is important during pregnancy. While magnesium serves the purpose of relaxing your muscles, calcium causes them to contract. There is research that shows that taking magnesium during pregnancy can prevent premature labor caused by uterine contractions. Magnesium also plays a part in growing your baby’s teeth and bones. In my personal experience, taking a magnesium supplement before bed helped with my charley horses and leg cramps. My favorite magnesium and calcium supplement is called Super Cal Plus.
Iodine is a mineral crucial to your baby’s developing nervous system and is used to make thyroid hormones. During pregnancy, you need 220 micrograms of iodine every day. Iodine isn’t always included in prenatal vitamins so be sure to check the label and consider adding an iodine supplement. Iodine is also found in iodized salt, dairy, fortified cereal, and bread as well as fish.
Probiotics help your digestive system work properly. They are comprised of the good bacterias that help gut health. They can be particularly helpful if you are prone to yeast infections as many women are during pregnancy. My favorite probiotic is called Life 9 from Young Living.
Iron is a very important mineral during pregnancy and something many women end up being deficient in. I personally bordered on anemic with all three of my pregnancies and needed to add an iron supplement in addition to the iron in my prenatal vitamin. In fact, your blood volume increases so much during pregnancy and your baby is busy making their own blood, that you need twice as much iron when you’re pregnant! Most prenatals will have the recommended amount of 27 milligrams of iron but if you are finding that your energy is low or that you’re frequently dizzy, you should get your iron levels checked and consider adding another supplement or upping your intake of iron-rich foods. My favorite supplement is a plant-derived iron called Floradix.
Chlorophyll is found in green vegetables but can also be taken as a supplement. Chlorophyll has similar properties to hemoglobin which essential to your blood cells and carries oxygen through your body. My midwife recommended I take Chlorophyll at the same time as my iron supplement as they work well together. I currently take a supplement called Multigreens which is a chlorophyll formula made from spirulina, alfalfa sprouts, barley grass, bee pollen, eleuthero and Pacific kelp.
3 supplements to avoid during pregnancy
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is actually really important for fetal eye development but the problems occur when too much Vitamin A is consumed as your body will store excess amounts in your liver and can cause liver damage or birth defects for your baby. Your prenatal vitamin will have the right amount of vitamin A in it and you shouldn’t consume any additional Vitamin A supplements.
2. Black and Blue Cohosh
These herbs are often found in the form of a tincture and are used by many midwives to augment labor when a woman is past her due date or has premature rupture of membranes. I’ve personally done a black and blue cohosh regime for two out of my three births. Since these herbs can cause uterine contractions, they should not be used during pregnancy as they could lead to early labor. If using them to augment labor, only do so under the supervision of your care provider.
3. Dong Quai
Dong Quai is a very popular herb in Chinese medicine and similarly to black and blue cohosh, can cause uterine contraction so should be avoided while pregnant.
Here are some other herbs to avoid in pregnancy:
- Saw Palmetto
- Passion Flower
- Roman Chamomile
- Pay D’ Arco
Take the following precautions when taking supplements during your pregnancy
Inform your care provider
It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor or midwife before taking any new supplements during pregnancy.
When using supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to start with a small amount and see how your body reacts. You are likely dealing with many symptoms that you aren’t used to and while supplements can often help with these symptoms, you certainly don’t want to make any of them worse.
Read the labels
One thing to keep in mind is that herb and vitamin supplements often are not evaluated by the FDA the way prescription drugs are. Many times the labels will say “avoid use if pregnant or breastfeeding” even though your care provider may have recommended it. This is because there is no official testing done to prove that they are safe for pregnancy so the company is required to include that disclaimer. Another thing to keep in mind is that the quality and strength of supplements may vary between different products or brands.
3 places to buy pregnancy supplements
Your local pharmacy will have many of these supplements and vitamins. Most large box stores like Target or Walmart also carry many supplements these days.
Health food stores
Your local co-op or Whole Foods will have a very large selection of supplements and these will often be organic and of higher quality than ones you may find elsewhere.
Online through Young Living
I personally prefer to order the majority of my supplements through my wholesale membership with Young Living. I get 24% off everything I order and they have very high standards for quality control. Several of the supplements I mentioned above are from Young Living and you can find out more about getting your own wholesale membership here.
Pregnancy is a time of many changes physically, emotionally and mentally. Some vitamins like your prenatal, folate and DHA are essential for your baby’s development. Other supplements mentioned here may give you more energy and make your pregnancy a little easier. Consult with your care provider and find the supplements that are going to be best for you.