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Can I Take Multivitamins When Pregnant?
a Dietitian Answers

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 26, 2021

Yes, 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.

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 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.

Eating a variety of nutritious foods and maintaining a balanced diet should meet both your and your baby's vitamin needs.

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

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.

It's essential to eat healthily even if you're taking a multivitamin. And avoid taking multivitamins that aren’t made for pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor even if you know your deficiencies. They'll know how much folic acid, vitamin D, or any other herbal supplements you need.

“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.

5 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:

Folic Acid

Folic acid supplements help prevent birth defects. You can get it from:

  • green leafy vegetables
  • breakfast cereals
  • fat spreads reinforced with folate

Getting the recommended folate dosage from food alone isn’t easy, so taking a folic acid supplement is important.

Lack of folate can cause congenital defects, known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida.

Medical professionals recommend taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before you're pregnant and until you're 12 weeks pregnant.

In the case you didn’t take folate before conceiving, it’s recommended you start as soon as you find out you're pregnant.

1. Iron

iron food sources in an image

Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, which is a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues.

When pregnant, your body needs double the amount of iron to make more blood to supply oxygen for the baby.

Iron deficiency will make you feel tired and more often than not leads to anemia.

Pregnant women need 27mg of iron every day. Try to eat as many green leafy vegetables as you can and pair them with lean meat, dried fruit, and nuts.

2. 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.

3. Vitamin D

vitamin d food sources in one image

Vitamin D helps your body absorb the right amount of calcium and phosphate, and synthesize them.

Vitamin D deficiency can cause pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus, preterm birth, and other tissue-specific conditions.

You need ten micrograms of vitamin D daily to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.

4. 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.

5. 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

When pregnant, your macronutrient (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) intake needs to grow incredibly.

For example, typical protein intake needs to increase from the recommended 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight for non-pregnant women to 0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight for pregnant women.

This means that you’ll have to include protein in each snack and meal throughout the day to reach this goal.

Moreover, your micronutrient (vitamins, minerals, and trace elements) needs to increase even more than the macronutrient needs.

Some women can meet this growing demand through a well-planned, nutrient-dense eating plan, but it’s a challenge for the majority.

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.

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

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.

Is It Safe To Take Multivitamins When Pregnant?

Yes, it is generally safe to take multivitamins during pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a time of growth and development, so taking pregnancy vitamins and extra care of your body is vital for giving birth to a healthy, beautiful baby.

But remember, you should always follow your doctor’s recommendations and do not exceed the recommended dose for your prenatal supplements, as you may harm yourself and your baby.


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/#:~:text=Methylenetetrahydrofolate%20reductase%20is%20important%20for,of%20folate%20called%205%2Dmethyltetrahydrofolate

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