During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through all sorts of hormonal and physical changes, and a good vitamin routine should support her with every step of those changes.
Vitamins are essential nutrients that keep our bodies and minds functioning the way they should. Promoting good health from the inside out, vitamins are important whether we get them from our diet or through supplements.
However, some vitamins are better for pregnant women than others. Here are 10 of the most important vitamins to make sure your body is getting enough of during pregnancy.
Vitamin A is a powerhouse vitamin with benefits for everyone, but for pregnant women and fetuses alike it offers some extra pros.
A fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin A is essential for fetal embryonic growth, supporting the development of the heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, and bones — plus the circulatory, respiratory and central nervous systems .
Vitamin A also offers plenty of benefits to pregnant women: it prevents maternal night blindness by supporting better vision, protects against maternal anemia, and research now suggests that it may even be able to reduce the odds of maternal sepsis .
Vitamin B6 is an important nutrient for pregnant women and is often recommended as an important prenatal vitamin.
Vitamin B6 helps develop the baby’s brain and nervous system during pregnancy, along with making sure that it metabolizes protein and carbohydrates . It provides the same benefits to the mother, ensuring that her body is able to get enough important nutrients from her diet to stay in good health.
But that’s not all. Research suggests that vitamin B6 may play a role in preventing morning sickness in pregnant women . In fact, a popular anti-nausea drug, Diclegis, is derived from doxylamine and pyridoxine, which is a form of vitamin B6. Diclegis is FDA-approved and commonly taken by pregnant women to prevent morning sickness.
Vitamin B12 keeps the body’s nerves and blood cells healthy, along with supporting the creation of DNA. For pregnant women, it’s essential in ensuring the healthy development of the fetus.
Not only is vitamin B12 good for pregnancy, but not getting enough of it can be dangerous. Vitamin B12 deficiencies have been shown to increase the risk of babies developing a serious birth defect called a neural tube defect, interfering with the connection between the brain and spinal cord .
Up to one in 20 adults is lacking the necessary amounts of vitamin B12 , so supplementing this important vitamin could make a serious difference to your health.
Vitamin C is all about protection. As a powerful immunity booster, vitamin C protects both mother and baby from infection and illness — but there’s more to it.
Vitamin C also plays a role in fetal development, helping your baby’s bones and teeth develop properly . It also gives mothers a helping hand, supporting the body with better iron absorption; this is crucial during pregnancy when much of a mother’s iron intake will be absorbed by the fetus.
Our bodies cannot create vitamin C on their own, so we need to obtain it through our diet or through supplements — and when we do, we reap the benefits.
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin due to the fact that our bodies are able to generate it through sun exposure. However, in less sunny countries and during fall and winter, we get much less vitamin D. It’s recommended to take supplements to make sure you’re getting enough of this useful vitamin.
Vitamin D requirements have been shown to be even greater for pregnant women , which is why doctors often recommend supplementation during pregnancy.
For pregnant women, vitamin D is particularly important. Low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy can lead to risks of preeclampsia, diabetes, and premature birth, while babies born with a vitamin D deficiency risk rickets, which causes bones to become brittle, weak, and deformed .
Vitamin E helps protect the body’s cells from harmful free radicals, unstable atoms that cause illness and disease. It plays an important role in the nervous system’s early development, along with the development of a baby’s eyes and head.
Vitamin E also improves the mother’s blood circulation — and by proxy, the blood circulation for the placenta, ensuring that enough oxygen reaches the fetus during pregnancy .
The body needs folic acid to create new cells and DNA — and it needs it even more during pregnancy. Thanks to countless studies showing that a lack of folic acid during pregnancy can cause serious side effects for the fetus, many doctors recommend that pregnant women supplement their diet with folic acid.
In fact, folic acid can prevent cleft lips and palates , congenital heart defects , and spina bifida  in babies if taken during pregnancy. Though the risk of birth defects can never be eliminated, folic acid supplementation during pregnancy goes a long way to reducing that risk.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks for your baby’s brain and retina, along with helping to prevent preterm birth . These essential nutrients can only be obtained through diet or supplements; our bodies cannot create them on their own.
Research has also shown that omega-3s may have a positive effect on perinatal and postpartum depression in pregnant women , though it should be used in addition to rather than instead of therapeutic treatment.
Iron deficiency and anemia are increased risks during pregnancy due to the body requiring much more iron to supply oxygen to the baby. As a result, pregnant women are often encouraged to make sure they are getting enough iron by taking supplements.
Besides helping your body supply oxygen to the fetus, iron comes with a host of health benefits for pregnant women.
Iron helps maintain a healthy immune system, preventing infection and illness during one of the most vulnerable times in a woman’s life. It’s also a source of collagen, myoglobin (which supplies oxygen to the muscles), and a variety of different enzymes.
Calcium helps develop the baby’s bones, teeth, and muscle development during pregnancy  — and a lot of calcium is needed for the task.
If your body doesn’t have enough calcium for the baby growing inside during pregnancy, it will turn to its own stores, placing pregnant women at risk for bone and tooth loss. As a result, it’s vital to make sure you’re getting enough calcium during pregnancy.
Calcium supplementation comes with a couple of other benefits for pregnant women, including reducing the risk of preeclampsia and preterm birth .
Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it’s also a time that comes with many changes for a woman’s body. Taking prenatal supplements makes sure that your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs to nourish both you and the baby and prevents potential health risks caused by deficiencies.
Picking the right vitamins for you is a personal choice, and you should always speak to a doctor, midwife or healthcare professional before starting any new supplement.
Recommended Prenatal Vitamins
- Maia, Bastos Sabina: “Vitamin A and Pregnancy: A Narrative Review”, March 22 2019, https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6470929/
- Dibley, Michael J. et al: “Vitamin A in pregnancy: Impact on maternal and neonatal health”, 2001, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/156482650102200305
- Dasher, Eva: “Vitamin B6 During Pregnancy”, June 8 2021, https://babycenter.com/pregnancy/diet-and-fitness/vitamin-b6-in-your-pregnancy-diet_666
- Nuangchamnong, Nina et al: “Doxylamine succinate-pyridoxine hydrochloride (Diclegis) for the management of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: an overview”, April 12 2014, https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990370/
- Molloy, Anne M. et al: “Maternal Vitamin B12 Status and Risk of Neural Tube Defects in a Population With High Neural Tube Defect Prevalence and No Folic Acid Fortification”, September 12 2014, https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4161975/
- Willets, Melissa: “B12 Benefits While Pregnant”, December 20 2018, https://parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/nutrition/is-b12-as-crucial-as-folic-acid-during-pregnancy/
- de Bellefonds, Colleen: “Your Baby’s Bones and Skeleton”, June 16 2021, https://whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/fetal-development/fetal-bones-skeletal-system/
- Mithal, Ambrish et al: “Vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy”, September 2014, https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171878/
- Innes, A Micheil et al: “Congenital rickets caused by maternal vitamin D deficiency”, September 2002, https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2795674/
- Didenco, Svetlana et al: “Increased vitamin E intake is associated with higher α-tocopherol concentration in the maternal circulation but higher α-carboxyethyl hydroxychroman concentration in the fetal circulation”, December 15 2010, https://https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3021429/
- “Folic Acid May Prevent Cleft Lip and Palate”, January 26 2007, https://nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/folic-acid-may-prevent-cleft-lip-palate
- Feng, Yu et al: “Maternal Folic Acid Supplementation and the Risk of Congenital Heart Defects in Offspring: A Meta-Analysis of Epidemiological Observational Studies”, February 17 2005, https://nature.com/articles/srep08506
- Bannink, Femke et al: “Prevention of spina bifida: folic acid intake during pregnancy in Gulu district, northern Uganda”, January 30 2015, https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4450030/
- Greenberg, James A et al: “Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy”, 2008, https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2621042/
- Mocking, Roel J T et al: “Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for Perinatal Depression: A Meta-Analysis”, September 1 2020, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32898343/
- Kumar, Ashok et al: “Calcium: A Nutrient in Pregnancy”, May 22 2017, https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5561751/
- Hofmeyr, G Justus: “Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for preventing hypertensive disorders and related problems”, October 1 2018, https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6517256/
I understand that it can be overwhelming trying to figure out the right prenatal vitamins for you and your baby, especially when considering all of the available information from various sources. It is important to remember that each pregnancy is unique; therefore it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement to ensure that it was designed specifically for you and your baby’s needs.