Should I take supplements when pregnant?

Should I take supplements when pregnant?

Pregnancy is the time when a woman receives maximum advice on health and diet. No doubt that pregnancy is an important phase which requires utmost health care. A pregnant woman’s nutritional needs are higher, but it does not require doubling your food intake. As your baby grows in your womb, you would have to increase your consumption of both macronutrients and micronutrients.

A well-balanced diet should meet your demands of both macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins etc. and micronutrients like iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, magnesium etc. Though micronutrients are required in much lesser quantities than macronutrients, they play a major role in the body functions of a pregnant woman and in the healthy growth of the foetus.

As a pregnant woman, your diet should be enriched with the right amounts of macro and micronutrients. You should intake enough nutrients through your diet so that you do not become deficient in any of them.

However, it is always likely that you can get deficient in certain micronutrients due to various reasons like morning sickness, allergies, food intolerances etc. If you are following any restrictive diets like a vegan or paleo diet – then also you can fall short of the nutrient requirement. Also, no matter how well-balanced your diet is, it is difficult to determine if you are getting the required amount of micronutrients.

So, what should you do?

Take prenatal vitamins!

Also Read: 13 Pregnancy myths and facts

What are the important prenatal nutrients a pregnant woman needs?

A pregnant woman needs many micronutrients which may not be fulfilled by diet alone. Some of the essential micronutrients are:

#1. Calcium

The requirement for a pregnant woman is 1000 mg of calcium per day. Calcium is one of the most essential nutrient during pregnancy. It not only helps in the bone and teeth development of the baby but also ensures that the mothers’ bones stay strong after delivery and subsequent breastfeeding.

Effect of Deficiency
Calcium deficiency can cause brittle bones or deformed bones and teeth in the baby.

#2. DHA

The requirement for a pregnant woman is 300 mg of DHA per day. DHA aids in visual and cognitive development of the baby. It contributes in development of eyes, brain etc. Since DHA is not synthesized by your body, you have to supplement it through pills or diet.

Effect of Deficiency
DHA deficiency can contribute to impaired development of brain and eyes.

#3. Iron

The requirement of Iron is 27 mg for a pregnant woman per day. Iron is used by the body to produce extra blood for you and your baby. It also helps in moving oxygen from your lungs to other parts of your body and to the baby.

Iron deficiency causes anemia which can make you tired during pregnancy and also, cause complications during delivery due to blood loss.

Effect of Deficiency
Iron deficiency can also cause premature birth of a baby.

#4. Folic Acid

The requirement of folic acid in pregnant woman is pegged at 600 mcg per day. Folic acid is a super nutrient for pregnant women. It helps the body to make new proteins which are essential for the development of the fetus. It also prevents neural-tube defects during the early stages of pregnancy.

Effect of Deficiency
Folic acid deficiency may cause anemia in the mother and may also cause birth defects in the brain and spinal cord of the baby.

Also Read: Importance of folic acid during pregnancy

#5. Iodine

The requirement of iodine for a pregnant woman is 220 mcg per day. Iodine is essential for production of thyroid hormones which are important for healthy development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. It also regulates your body’s as well as your baby’s metabolism.

Effect of Deficiency
Iodine deficiency can cause mental impairment in babies.

#6. Vitamin B6

1.9mg of Vitamin B6 is recommended for a pregnant woman per day. Vitamin B6 helps your baby to metabolize proteins and carbohydrates. For many women, additional dose of Vitamin B6 help in reducing symptoms of nausea and vomiting.

Effect of Deficiency
Deficiency of Vitamin B6 in pregnant women can result in poor absorption of Iron which may result in anemia.

#7. Vitamin B12

A pregnant woman requires 2.6mcg of Vitamin B12 per day. Vitamin B12 helps in keeping your body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. It aids in making DNA which is essential for the development of the baby.

Effect of Deficiency
Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can lead to neural tube defects in the baby such as underdeveloped spine, missing parts of brain and skull etc.

#8. Vitamin C

A pregnant woman requires 85 mg of Vitamin C per day. Vitamin C is needed by you and your baby to make collagen that is a component of cartilage, tendons, bones, and skin. For a mother, it is essential to intake Vitamin C as it is essential for tissue repair and wound healing. It also helps the body to fight infections.

Effect of Deficiency
Vitamin C can cause brain damage to the baby in the early stages of development. It can also result in weak bones and cartilages resulting in deformities.

#9. Vitamin D

A pregnant woman requires 600 IU of Vitamin D per day. Vitamin D is required for absorption of calcium and phosphorus which is needed for proper development of baby’s bones and teeth.

Effect of Deficiency
Deficiency of this vitamin can lead to fractures, abnormal bone growth or rickets in the newborn.

#11. Zinc

11 mg of Zinc is recommended for a pregnant woman per day. Your baby requires zinc for cell growth and for the production of the genetic blueprint – DNA. This also helps in developing immunity and wound healing for the mother.

Effect of Deficiency
Deficiency of zinc can result in lower immunity after birth and impaired brain function.

#12. Magnesium

360 mg of Magnesium is recommended for a pregnant woman per day. Magnesium helps in building strong bones and teeth in your baby. It also prevents the uterus from contracting prematurely. It also helps in regulating cholesterol and irregular heartbeat in to-be-mothers.

Effect of Deficiency
Deficiency of Magnesium can result in preeclampsia, preterm labor, infant mortalities and congenital disabilities.

The nutritional requirement may vary from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy. Your nutrient requirements will be more if you are carrying twins or multiples.

When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?

As soon as you decide to plan for a baby! You should start on these vitamins at least 10-12 weeks before you try to get pregnant. Your body needs the right nutrients to release a healthy egg and your baby might need nutrients like folic acid, as early as 4 weeks.

It is always better to consult a doctor and ask her to prescribe prenatal vitamins needed for a pregnant woman.

Also Read: 8 Things to Consider while Choosing the Right Gynecologist for You

Can the required nutrients be consumed through diet alone?

Well, though it is not impossible, it is better to be safe than sorry. There is no pill that can compensate a well-balanced and nutritious diet. However, there is no way to find out how much micronutrients are entering your body through your regular diet and if it is creating a deficiency or not.

To derive all the required nutrients, you must consume a wide variety of food which may not be possible if you follow restrictive diets.

For example, vegetarians usually are deficient in DHA. Though nutritionists recommend eating flax seeds to derive DHA, the quantity that needs to be consumed is very high to meet the requirements.

Can you take any multivitamin pill available over-the-counter?


It is better to avoid OTC drugs as the nutrient types and quantities in them may or may not suit a pregnant woman.

For example, Vitamin A in excess can cause birth defects in the fetus such as malformation of eyes, lungs, and skull. You can also ask your doctor to prescribe you herbal/natural supplements instead of lab-manufactured ones.

Does taking prenatal vitamins ensure that I deliver a healthy baby?

Well, prenatal vitamins do ensure that your baby gets all the nutrients to develop well, but sometimes factors such as genetics, chromosomal abnormalities, habit of smoking etc. may cause birth defects in babies.

By consuming the prenatal vitamins, you are just ensuring that your baby is not born with defects due to nutritional deficiency or your own body does not weaken due to deficiencies.
It is also important to be aware that prenatal vitamins are not “magic pills” which can boost your baby’s intelligence or make them attractive or turn you into a super-mom after delivery.

Also Read: What could bleeding mean in pregnancy? Should I visit to the doctor?

Final Words

Dear Moms-to-be, it is highly important that you get the required quantities of all the essential nutrients. Deficiency in any of the nutrient can result in many complications for you as well as affect the development of your baby.

Even if you have a nutritious and well-balanced diet, it may not meet your nutritional requirements for various reasons. So, it is better to take a doctor recommended supplement during pregnancy.

However, always remember that taking supplements does not obviously indicate that you will deliver a healthy baby. Defects and deformation in newborn babies can occur for various causes other than nutritional deficiencies. By taking these supplements, you are just ensuring that your baby does not face developmental defects due to lack of nutrients.

Also, it is important to understand that taking prenatal supplements should not be an excuse for you to stop following a well-balanced diet regimen.

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