There are so many vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids needed for a healthy pregnancy and baby. Think of all those individual cells in your body, and your baby’s, that need fuel to divide and replicate and grow with strength, accuracy, and 100% functionality.
In a perfect world, you’d get all the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy from the food you eat. But thanks to morning sickness, indigestion, pregnancy food cravings, and the hectic, hurried way so many of us live our lives, it’s the rare mom-to-be who can be sure she’s getting all the vitamins and nutrients she and her baby need.
Doctors recommend prenatal vitamins
Because nutrition is so important for your developing baby as well as for your health, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)—along with most doctors, midwives, and dietitians—recommend that pregnant women supplement their diets with the following important vitamins and minerals:
- folic acid
- vitamin D
The March of Dimes also notes how important Omega-3 fatty acids, and iodine are to a healthy pregnancy and baby’s healthy development.
Doctors and moms know that taking a prenatal vitamin is the best way to be sure you’re getting all the nutrients you and your baby need.
The most important ingredients in prenatal vitamins
Now that you have the list of the most important ingredients that should be in your prenatal vitamins, let’s look at the recommended amounts you should be taking.
Folic acid is essential in the first trimester—especially during the first month of pregnancy. Folic acid helps to prevent serious neural tube birth defects like spina bifida. ACOG recommends that pregnant women, as well as women who are trying to conceive, take at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day.
Iron is essential for forming red blood cells and for preventing anemia—a common pregnancy condition that will make your feel fatigued, tired and irritable. ACOG shares that the recommended dose of iron for pregnant women is 27 mg.
Calcium is essential for proper bone growth. ACOG recommends that all women—not only pregnant women, but all women—get 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Because calcium is bulky, you probably can’t get enough in your daily prenatal supplement. Consider taking a separate calcium supplement like Peapod Cal-Mag. Peapod Cal-Mag also includes magnesium which not only helps prevent premature delivery, but can also decrease leg cramps that many women get during pregnancy.
Vitamin D – 600 IU
Having enough vitamin D is important for your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Vitamin D also supports your immune system, bones, nerves, and muscles. Those same things are true for your developing baby. Pregnant women should take 600 IUs (international units) of vitamin D daily. DHA Omega-3 – 200 mg
Omega-3 fatty acids support brain, heart, and eye development. They also decrease the odds of a premature delivery. You can get DHA omega-3 fatty acids in fish, nuts, and flaxseed, but most women in the U.S. don’t get nearly enough DHA from diet alone. The March of Dimes notes that pregnant women should have 200 mg of DHA daily to ensure your baby’s healthy brain development. Since most prenatal vitamins don’t include this ingredient, it’s important to take a separate omega-3 DHA supplement.
Iodine – 220 mcg
Iodine is an important nutrient for pregnant women because it’s needed for your thyroid, hormonal regulation, and nervous system—and your baby’s. The March of Dimes points out that pregnant women should get 220 micrograms (mcg) of iodine daily and that most prenatal vitamins don’t contain any of this important ingredient—so look for it when you’re comparing brands.
How to compare prenatal vitamins
Not all prenatal vitamins are created alike. When you’re trying to choose a prenatal vitamin, you’re shopping for the best combination of important ingredients, along with cost, convenience, safety of manufacturing, and additional benefits.
When comparing prenatal vitamins, make sure you get a brand that has:
- the most important ingredients noted above
- no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
- a delivery method that works best for you (whether that’s once a day, 2x a day, or several times throughout the day)
- easy-to-swallow sized pills
- no constipation side effects
- gentle on stomachs so it won’t make your morning sickness worse