How do you know which supplements to take during your pregnancy? Are there certain supplements you should be avoiding?
Your body is going to have much higher nutritional needs during pregnancy, so it is important to try to help it meet those needs in the best way you can.
If you use supplements, you will be helping promote a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.
There are numerous supplements created for use during pregnancy, but before you begin using them, it is best for you to understand why they are necessary.
Why Are Prenatal Vitamins Important During Pregnancy?
One of the most notable supplements women take when pregnant is a prenatal vitamin. It is recommended you begin taking these before you start trying to conceive to help prevent birth defects.
A nutritional supplement will help you fill in the gaps you might be missing from your food intake if you’re indulging in too many cravings instead of paying attention to a well-rounded diet. It’s not reasonable for you to be expected to consume enough nutrients to fully nourish you and your baby (2).
There is a reason there is an entire market for prenatal vitamins. These supplements should become a normal part of your daily routine.
Who Should Take A Prenatal Vitamin?
Every pregnant woman should be taking a prenatal vitamin unless instructed otherwise by your doctor.
It is especially important for women who fall under any of the below categories to take prenatal vitamins.
- Those with an eating disorder.
- Those with a blood disorder.
- Lactose intolerant individuals.
- Those pregnant with twins or multiples.
The Importance of DHA During Pregnancy
By taking a prenatal DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), you will greatly benefit the development of your baby.
DHA is an essential fatty acid that promotes the development of your baby’s brain, nerves, and eye tissues. Some prenatal multivitamins lack DHA, so this supplement is vital (3).
Flaxseed oil is also highly recommended when pregnant because it contains essential fatty acids that also promote brain and neurological development.
When Should You Take Prenatal Supplementation?
You should take prenatal supplements throughout your pregnancy. A doctor might direct you to include an iron supplement if it seems like your levels are low.
You may also be advised to increase the doses of supplements you are already taking. You should not increase your doses unless directed explicitly because excessive amounts of vitamins can cause overdoses that will potentially harm you and your baby.
It is important to incorporate your prenatal multivitamin and your prenatal DHA as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Your baby’s major organs develop during the first trimester, and these supplements will help support healthy development (4).
If any problems or deficiencies seem to arise during your pregnancy, it is likely your doctor will recommend other supplements for you to begin taking. Some women only need to take their prenatal vitamins, while others take five or more supplements.
Don’t get down on yourself if you have to take multiple supplements. This just means your body isn’t able to keep up with both you and your baby. The supplements will help ensure both of you are as healthy as can be!
In my experience, most women need a good prenatal vitamin that contains folate and iron as well as a DHA supplement and little else. Talk to your doctor before starting any other supplement as they may not be necessary.
Editor's Note:Melissa Bartholomew, Pharm.D
10 Important Supplements To Take During Pregnancy
As mentioned above, prenatal vitamins are the most important supplement for you during your pregnancy. This does not mean it is the only supplement you should be taking.
You will find many other supplements can greatly benefit you and your baby throughout your pregnancy.
1. Vitamin D
The best way for you to get that much-needed vitamin D is from sunlight. Many people have a vitamin D deficiency, and they don’t even know it.
If you have low levels of vitamin D, you can take a supplement with your doctor’s approval. This supplement may help prevent gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and low birth weight.
Vitamin D can also help support your baby’s bone and hormone development (5).
It is extremely difficult to get enough folate, otherwise known as folic acid, from your food intake alone. Many prenatal vitamins include folic acid, but others don’t.
Even if your prenatal vitamin includes folate, your doctor may advise you to include a separate folate supplement to ensure you are getting your recommended amount.
Folate helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects that can lead to a cleft palate or heart defects.
Your baby will culture its gut bacteria from what it received from mom during birth.
By taking a probiotic, you are ensuring your baby receives a good amount of beneficial bacteria.
These beneficial bacteria will only be transferred if your baby is delivered vaginally. Don’t worry though, probiotics still benefit mom, and they can be useful for your baby if you choose to breastfeed. Probiotics may help mom avoid illnesses and constipation.
Iron is usually present in prenatal vitamins, but many women still aren’t receiving enough. Your blood volume almost doubles when you are pregnant, so your need for iron also significantly raises.
Iron is necessary to help with the transport of oxygen to the tissues surrounding your baby.
If you aren’t getting enough iron, you could become anemic. Anemia can lead to preterm delivery and even maternal depression.
Most people have a magnesium deficiency because it is challenging to get a sustainable amount from food.
Magnesium is especially important during pregnancy because it offers many lasting benefits. It can help support your tissue growth, which can allow your baby to receive more nutrition across the placenta.
It is also critical for helping immune, muscle, and nerve functions.
6. Coconut Oil
If you add a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil to a smoothie or any other drink each day, you can help naturally boost your immune system, support the development of your baby’s brain, and consume many components that benefit breastfeeding.
Coconut oil can also help combat dry and itchy skin when applied topically.
7. Algae Oil
Algae Oil contains DHA and EPA fatty acids that are essential to your baby’s brain development.
By including this compound, studies have shown you may be able to boost your baby’s brain development.
This supplement is most beneficial when taken during the third trimester because that is when your baby’s brain cells are connecting at a rapid pace.
Others will recommend Fish Oil, but I personally prefer Algae Oil. Because Algae Oil is derived from a plant-based source, it reduces the risk of contamination and is also more environmentally sustainable (6). It also won’t give you those weird “fish burps” which are enough to drive you insane while you’re pregnant.
During your first trimester, ginger can be your best friend. It is known to help with nausea and vomiting. It is unclear how much is considered to be a safe dosage, so you should not splurge on this supplement because it may be too strong.
Instead, you can add ginger to drinks or you can buy ginger drops, which are chewables.
9. Vitamin B6
This supplement can help ease your nausea significantly. Some mothers take around 50mg of this before each meal to help decrease their nausea and vomiting symptoms.
10. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
This tea is packed full of essential vitamins that can benefit your pregnancy. The tea is believed to help prepare your body for delivery by strengthening uterine muscles, toning the pelvic floor, and assisting in promoting your breastmilk supply.
This tea is most effective once you have reached the third trimester.
Can I Use Exercise Supplements When Pregnant?
The moment you find out you’re pregnant should be the moment you eliminate fat burners and pre-workout supplements from your daily routine because they can negatively affect your pregnancy.
Pre-workout drinks may contain stimulants that aren’t safe for your developing baby, and fat burners may interfere with the bodily changes that need to occur to support a healthy pregnancy.
Just because you are pregnant does not mean you have to cut back on all exercise supplements.
Check the Label
If you choose to continue using these supplements, it is important you seek permission from your doctor and study the nutrition labels.
The Bottom Line
There are so many different supplements you can take during pregnancy that you are probably confused as to where you should start.
A prenatal vitamin and an iron supplement are the most beneficial, and the first recommended by the majority of doctors.
It would be smart if you began taking a prenatal vitamin as soon as you find out you are pregnant or before you start trying to get pregnant. The first trimester is critical, so you don’t want to waste any time implementing it into your diet.
There are numerous benefits associated with other supplements, but you should get the approval of your doctor before you begin using any.