Is It Safe to Take Multivitamins During Pregnancy?

Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD
Published by Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD | Medical Doctor
Last updated: November 23, 2023
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As a doctor, I can confirm that you can take multivitamins during pregnancy.

However, while some vitamins and minerals are required and recommended, others should be avoided.

The best thing to do if you're planning a pregnancy or already pregnant is to consult your doctor before taking any supplement.

To help you out, we consulted our dietitian and came up with the important things you need to know about vitamins and pregnancy.

Quick Summary

  • Pregnant women can safely take multivitamins to ensure their unborn baby receives essential nutrients for proper growth, with a focus on folic acid, iron, calcium, Vitamin D, and iodine.
  • It's recommended to consult a doctor before taking any supplements during pregnancy, even if certain vitamins and minerals are necessary.
  • You should take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before you're pregnant and until you're 12 weeks pregnant.
  • In my opinion, maintaining a balanced diet rich in natural nutrients is preferable to relying solely on supplements for a healthy pregnancy.

Do You Need to Take Supplements During Pregnancy?

woman with a pregnant belly holding her stomach and a capsule

Probably yes, because it's recommended by NHS Inform that all pregnant women take folic acid and iodine supplements [1].

Of course, it's better to get all the nutrients from a healthy diet rather than supplements.

I always tell my patient that eating a variety of nutritious foods and maintaining a balanced diet should meet both their's and their baby's vitamin needs.

However, if you have a known deficiency or dietary gaps, your doctor might advise you to take a daily multivitamin.

Why You Should Take Dietary Supplements

You may need to take dietary supplements to maintain a healthy pregnancy if you’re:

  • A vegetarian or vegan. since the diet might not provide enough vitamin B12.
  • Sensitive or allergic to dairy foods. If you are, you may need a calcium supplement which is vital for bone health.
  • Low in iron.
  • Deficient in vitamin D.

Some multivitamins are made especially for pregnant women. But they’re not a substitute for a healthy, nutritious diet.

“Getting the right nutrients is important at every stage of life, but it's especially critical during pregnancy, as you'll need to nourish both yourself and your growing babe."

- Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

6 Essential Vitamins and Minerals in Pregnancy

different types of vitamins in a medicine kit

Good nutrition is always recommended, but it’s essential in pregnancy because it’s vital for the healthy growth and development of the baby.

Women need to consume enough nutrients to meet the baby's and their own needs.

All vitamins are essential, but your prenatal vitamin must have the following as they are crucial for delivering a healthy baby:

1. Folic Acid

Folic acid supplements are crucial for preventing birth defects. They're found in green leafy veggies, fortified breakfast cereals, and fat spreads.

It's tough to get enough folate from food, so supplements are key.

Folate deficiency can lead to neural tube defects like spina bifida.

Experts advise 400 micrograms of folic acid daily before and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

If you didn't take it before getting pregnant, start immediately upon finding out.

2. Iron

iron food sources in an image

Iron is vital for producing hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen to tissues.

During pregnancy, iron needs double to create extra blood for the baby, preventing fatigue and anemia.

Pregnant women should aim for 27mg of iron daily.

Include plenty of green leafy vegetables, lean meat, dried fruit, and nuts in your diet for adequate iron intake.

3. Calcium

Calcium keeps the bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.

Lack of calcium can make your bones brittle and lead to osteoporosis.

While pregnant, you need at least 1,000mg of calcium a day. You can get it from foods such as:

  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • calcium-fortified foods

By consuming these foods, you’ll also replenish your protein needs.

4. Vitamin D

vitamin d food sources in one image

Vitamin D aids in absorbing and synthesizing calcium and phosphate.

Deficiency can lead to pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, and other conditions.

Proper Vitamin D intake is crucial for regulating calcium and phosphate, benefiting both mother and baby.

I recommend taking 10 micrograms of Vitamin D daily for a healthy balance.

5. DHA

This omega-3 fatty acid promotes the healthy development of the baby’s brain and eyes.

There hasn’t been much research on the lack of DHA, but scientists believe that DHA deficiency can compromise the baby’s development.

However, they don’t have much information on the long-term consequences.

It’s recommended you eat 8–12oz of seafood during pregnancy to get enough of DHA. Just make sure the seafood is low in mercury.

6. Iodine

food sources of iodine in one image

Iodine enhances the development of the baby’s nervous system.

Lack of iodine during pregnancy can lead to severe health issues such as fetal and maternal hypothyroidism and goiter, congenital anomalies, and decreased intelligence.

Pregnant women need 220mcg iodine a day.

You can get it from:

  • Iodized salt
  • Iodine-enriched foods
  • Fish
  • Dairy

Why Should Pregnant Women Take Multivitamins?

woman holding her pregnancy belly, with fish oils displayed on her bed side table

During pregnancy, your need for macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) significantly increases.

Protein intake should rise from 0.36 grams to 0.5 grams per pound of body weight, requiring protein in every snack and meal.

Additionally, your micronutrient (vitamins, minerals, and trace elements) needs grow even more.

While some women can meet these heightened demands with a carefully crafted diet, it's a tough task for most.

Your doctor may advise you to take vitamin and mineral supplements for various reasons, including:

woman holding a tissue paper to sneeze

Nutrient Deficiencies

Some women may need pregnancy supplements after a blood test reveals a deficiency in a vitamin or mineral.

Correcting these deficiencies is of the utmost importance since a shortage of nutrients such as folic acid has been linked to birth defects.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

This is a pregnancy complication characterized by severe nausea and vomiting.

Besides sounding excruciatingly exhausting, it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies and weight loss.

Dietary Restrictions

As mentioned, following specific diets, especially vegan and those catered to people with food intolerances and allergies, may require taking a prenatal vitamin to prevent micronutrient deficiencies.

Smoking

We’re all aware that it’s critical for pregnant women to avoid cigarettes; still, those who continue smoking have an increased need for specific nutrients like vitamin C and folic acid.

Cigarette smoke includes harmful substances that are bad for your body and can take away important nutrients, like vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts your immune system and helps your cells grow and develop.

woman with a pregnancy belly holding two baby shoes near her stomach

Multiple Pregnancies

Women carrying more than one baby have even higher micronutrient needs compared to women carrying one baby.

Supplements during pregnancy are often necessary to ensure optimal nutrition for both the mother and the babies.

Genetic Mutations like MTHFR

According to Medline Plus, methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is a gene that converts folate into a form that the body can use [2].

Pregnant women with this gene mutation may need a specific folic acid supplementation to avoid complications.

Poor Nutrition

Undereating or choosing foods low in nutrients may lead to nutrient deficiencies and a need for a dietary supplement.

Other Supplements in Pregnancy

Besides folic acid, iodine, and pregnancy vitamin and supplement mentioned, you might also want to look into taking the following:

  1. Omega-3. Some researchers claim that it might help reduce the risk of premature birth.
  2. Probiotics. This might help control blood glucose levels, but it's still unclear if the benefits of taking these supplements outweigh any possible harm.

Synthetic vs. Natural Multivitamins

Synthetic and natural multivitamins differ in origin and makeup, affecting absorption, effectiveness, and safety during pregnancy.

  • Natural multivitamins, sourced from whole foods, include co-factors and enzymes for better absorption and are usually easier on the stomach.
  • Synthetic multivitamins, while offering higher nutrient concentrations, may have lower absorption rates and a greater chance of nutrient imbalances.

Pregnant women often prefer natural multivitamins for their comprehensive nutrient profiles and lower risk of overdosing on certain nutrients.

However, individual health conditions and dietary requirements should guide choices, and consulting a healthcare professional for tailored advice is recommended.

FAQs

Which multivitamin is safe during pregnancy?

The multivitamins that are safe during pregnancy are vitamid D and folic acid. Throughout your pregnancy, you should take vitamin D supplements. It is advised to begin using folic acid when attempting to conceive or as soon as you discover you are pregnant.

Can multivitamins affect pregnancy?

No. Multivitamins cannot affect pregnancy. However, they are not a replacement for a well-balanced diet. Even if you're using prenatal multivitamins, it's critical to eat healthily. Avoid consuming multivitamins that are not developed for pregnancy if you are pregnant.


References:

  1. https://www.nhsinform.scot/ready-steady-baby/pregnancy/looking-after-yourself-and-your-baby/vitamins-and-minerals-in-pregnancy
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/mthfr/
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About The Author

Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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