The Lowdown on Prenatal Vitamins



Every mom wants the best for her bundle of joy. We all know how important vitamins are, especially to a growing baby. Standing the in vitamin aisle it soon becomes apparent that there are a lot of options when it comes to prenatal vitamins. How do you know that you are taking the right types and in the right amounts? Our experts give you some advice to give yourself and your baby the perfect nutrition.

Our expert doctors give you the lowdown on the optimal daily amounts of the key nutrients that you need to support a healthy growing baby. Even if you are taking the correct prenatal vitamins it can also be important to watch what you eat, so make the best effort to eat healthily. Most of our nutrients should be obtained from our diet.

Experts advise taking vitamins about 3 months before you start trying to conceive, or as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. The egg starts developing before it is fertilised which is why the experts suggest ensuring optimum nutrition levels if you are battling to conceive. Many defects, such a Neutral-tube defects, occur in the first 4 to six weeks of pregnancy.

There are many multi-vitamins available for pregnant women, they all have different combinations to suit individual needs. Be sure to read through the individual vitamin levels so that you get everything that you need! If your morning vitamins increase your morning sickness and nausea, try take them at night.

  • Vitamin A

Vitamin A is used for cell development and brain growth, which is why it can be one of the most important prenatal vitamins. Take care with the amount of Vitamin A that you are consuming. Too much Vitamin A has been linked to increased risk of birth defects.

Aim for no more than 15 000 IU a day while pregnant

  • Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is crucial in the development of the baby’s nervous system. By consuming the correct amount of B6 it can also reduce problems for moms like morning sickness, preeclampsia and delivery complications.

Aim for 3 mg twice a day.

  • Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9 (also known as Folate) is a very important prenatal vitamin as it helps to grow the spinal system and brain. This wonder nutrient reduces birth defects like spina bifida and reduces the risk of infant cancer for the first 6 years. If you suspect that you are pregnant but are not sure yet, start with an over the counter Folic Acid supplement.

Aim for atleast 400 mcg from supplements and a total of atleast 800 mcg including Folate from foods.

  • Calcium

Calcium is one that is especially crucial to mom. A growing baby needs calcium to help build their bones so moms need to ensure that they take calcium supplements. This will ensure that mom maintains her own bone strength.

Aim to take 600mg twice a day with 200mg of magnesium (to combat constipation). Also be sure to include calcium-rich foods in your diet.

  • Iron

Iron is used to transport Oxygen in the blood, because your red blood cells will increase by 20 – 30% a pregnant mom will need more iron than normal. Take a iron supplement to avoid feeling tired and other symptoms of Anaemia. Iron is also transferred to the growing baby.

Aim for 20mg twice a day.

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acid DHA

DHA is a major component in our brains and your child’s, because it is such an important structural component mom’s DHA will be depleted. Be sure to make a point of adding this supplement to help your brain repair brain cells and connectors damaged by stress. There are many sources of Omega 3 in our diets (like fresh leafy greens).

Aim for at least 200 – 300 mg in total, although new research shows that 600 – 900 mg may be better. 

  • Zinc

Zinc in low levels has been related to increased birth defects, low birth rates and in some cases miscarriages or behavioural problems later on.

Aim for 10mg twice a day

  • Other important nutrients:

  • B1 (also called thiamin)—25 mg
  • B2 (also called riboflavin)—25 mg
  • B3 (also called niacin)—At least 30 mg
  • B5 (also called pantothenic acid)—At least 30 mg
  • B12—400 mcg twice a day
  • Biotin —300 mcg
  • C—400 mg twice a day (remember, it’s water soluble, so you need two doses over the day)
  • D—600 IU twice a day
  • E—200 IU twice a day (or, preferably, 400 IU of mixed tocopherols)
  • Magnesium—200 mg three times a day; twice a day prior to pregnancy
  • Selenium—100 mcg twice a day

This helpful table from American Pregnancy shows you the recommended nutrients, why you need them and where you can find them in your diet.

Nutrients And Vitamins For Pregnancy

Essential Vitamin/Mineral: Why You Need It: Where You Find It:
Vitamin A & Beta Carotene (770 mcg) Helps bones and teeth grow Liver, milk, eggs, carrots, spinach, green and yellow vegetables, broccoli, potatoes, pumpkin, yellow fruits, cantaloupe
Vitamin D (5 mcg) Helps body use calcium and phosphorus; promotes strong teeth and bones Milk, fatty fish, sunshine
Vitamin E (15 mg) Helps body form and use red blood cells and muscles Vegetable oil, wheat germ, nuts, spinach, fortified cereals
Vitamin C (80 – 85 mg) An antioxidant that protects tissues from damage and helps body absorb iron; builds healthy immune system Citrus fruits, bell peppers, green beans, strawberries, papaya, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes
Thiamin/B1 (1.4 mg) Raises energy level and regulates nervous system Whole grain, fortified cereals, wheat germ, organ meats, eggs, rice, pasta, berries, nuts, legumes, pork
Riboflavin/B2 (1.4 mg) Maintains energy, good eyesight, healthy skin Meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, fortified cereals, eggs
Niacin/B3 (18 mg) Promotes healthy skin, nerves and digestion High-protein foods, fortified cereals and breads, meats, fish, milk, eggs, peanuts
Pyridoxine/B6 (1.9 mg) Helps form red blood cells; helps with morning sickness Chicken, fish, liver, pork, eggs, soybeans, carrots, cabbage, cantaloupe, peas, spinach, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, bananas, beans, broccoli, brown rice, oats, bran, peanuts,walnuts
Folic Acid/Folate(600 mcg) Helps support the placenta, and prevents spina bifida and other neural tube defects Oranges, orange juice, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, spinach, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, fortified cereals, peas, pasta, beans, nuts
Calcium (1,000 – 1,300 mg) Creates strong bones and teeth, helps prevent blood clots, helps muscles and nerves function Yogurt, milk, cheddar cheese, calcium-fortified foods like soy milk, juices, breads, cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish with bones
Iron (27 mg) Helps in the production of hemoglobin; prevents anemia, low birth weight, and premature delivery Beef, pork, dried beans, spinach, dried fruits, wheat germ, oatmeal or grains fortified with iron
Protein (71 g) Helps in the production of amino acids; repairs cells Most animal foods, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, veggie burgers, beans, legumes, nuts
Zinc (11-12 mg) Helps produce insulin and enzymes Red meats, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereals, oysters, dairy products

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