Will supplements help with pregnancy?

Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Yes, you will likely need a prenatal vitamin because it supplies key nutrients to help prevent birth defects, nutrient deficienciens and complications. Many women also need to take a supplement with iron since daily requirements are higher during pregnancy. You should consult your doctor as early as possible to discuss your needs.

Vitamin supplements can help you have a healthy pregnancy, and increase your chances of having a healthy baby. Even if you are eating a well-balanced diet high in whole grains and vegetables, as doctors recommend, certain vitamin or mineral supplements may help you. These include folic acid, calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. Vitamin B6 may help avoid morning sickness.

Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics

Taking dietary supplements provides health benefits during pregnancy, since a great number of women are deficient in essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, and folic acid among others. For instance, iron deficiency may increase the risk for pre-term delivery and low levels of folic acid are linked to neural tube defect and cleft palate.

As a registered dietitian, I encourage women to consume foods from all food groups: whole grains, lean meats, legumes, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats and to take a multivitamin to ensure a healthy pregnancy and outcome. Start making wise food choices.

Dr. Pina LoGiudice, LAc, ND
Naturopathic Medicine

Given the low quality nutrient status of typical diets, wisely chosen supplements can play a healthy role in pregnancy and childbirth. It is key to remember though, that nothing replaces healthy foods, plenty of water and good quality healthcare.

For most of my pregnant moms, I recommend a high quality pre-natal with adequate folic acid, calcium and vitamin D levels. I am cautious of many store-bought brands and even doctor prescribed versions, for many contain artificial colors, preservatives, dyes, and unnecessary and even toxic binders and fillers. For many moms, it is helpful to start with a liquid prenatal in first trimester, due to normal levels of nausea, which may make a liquid version more palatable.

Fish oil is a key supplement for the growing newborn nervous system. A high quality, mercury and toxin-free oil is key. 

Depending on a woman's nutrient status, I may recommend extra vitamin D, iron, folic acid, and calcium, but this is on a case-by-case basis of need. Occasionally, women with high amounts of cramping or musculoskeletal complaints may need increased levels of magnesium, which can help prevent pre-eclampsia, a problem of high blood pressure and kidney problems during pregnancy.

At times, I will also recommend probiotics to help establish good digestive function in the mother, and new born. These are quite safe to use in pregnancy when a high quality pure probiotic is used.

If a woman gets a cold, Echinacea and vitamin C in low dose is safe to use, and certain bioflavonoids have also been studied for effectiveness and safety in hemorrhoids during pregnancy. 

In general, it is best for a pregnant woman not to take more supplements than needed - and all of these should be looked at by a naturopathic doctor or other qualified health care practitioner who is educated in the use of vitamins/herbs/supplements during pregnancy.

Picture of embryo at 40th week
There are certain additional (supplemental) nutrition needs during pregnancy. Pregnant women need extra iron and folic acid, and these are often prescribed by the health care provider in pill or liquid form as supplements. Sometimes a prenatal supplement that contains these two nutrients plus vitamins and minerals is recommended. Ask your health care provider whether you should be taking a prenatal supplement and if so what brand they recommend.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.