Supplements During Pregnancy: Whats Safe And Whats Not
If youre pregnant, you may think that feeling overwhelmed and confused comes with the territory. But it doesnt have to be so confusing when it comes to vitamins and supplements.
If you did your extra credit work, we bet you already know that high mercury seafood, alcohol, and cigarettes are off-limits during pregnancy. What may surprise you is that some vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements should be avoided as well.
Information on which supplements are safe and which arent varies and can make things feel even more complicated. Weve got you, though.
This article breaks down which supplements are believed to be safe to take during pregnancy and why some supplements should be avoided.
Getting the right nutrients is important at every stage of life, but its especially critical during pregnancy, as youll need to nourish both yourself and your growing babe.
Folic Acid Before And During Pregnancy
Its important to take a 400 micrograms folic acid tablet every day before you’re pregnant and until you’re 12 weeks pregnant.
Folic acid can help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida.
If you did not take folic acid before you conceived, you should start as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
Try to eat green leafy vegetables which contain folate and breakfast cereals and fat spreads with folic acid added to them.
It’s difficult to get the amount of folate recommended for a healthy pregnancy from food alone, which is why it’s important to take a folic acid supplement.
Do Prenatal Vitamins Have Side Effects
A lot of people wonder about about prenatal vitamins side effects. Some people get nauseated or constipated from taking prenatal vitamins. If this happens to you, talk with your doctor about changing brands or the types of vitamins youre taking.
Prenatal vitamins come in tablets or capsules, so finding the kind that works best with your body can help ease side effects. Your doctor or midwife can help you find a prenatal vitamin that will work best for your body.
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Take Care With Certain Vitamins
Your body only needs a small amount of each nutrient, and higher amounts are not necessarily better. In fact, consuming more than you need can sometimes cause harm.
It’s also best to avoid foods that may be very high in vitamin A, including liver and liver products such as pÃ¢tÃ©.
Just as you need to check with your doctor before you take any medicines while pregnant, it’s best to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
Why Is Taking Vitamin A Bad For Pregnant Women
Vitamin A, also known as retinol, helps your bodys natural defence against illness, as well as your vision and your skin. When you are pregnant, do not take vitamin A supplements or supplements containing vitamin A . Too much could cause birth defects .
If you decide to take a multivitamin tablet during pregnancy, make sure the tablet doesnt contain vitamin A. You also need to avoid choosing liver or liver paté because these are very high in vitamin A . For more on foods to avoid during pregnancy, see here.
Vitamin A that your body produces from beta-carotene does not increase the risk of birth defects .
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Where To Get Pregnancy Supplements
You can get supplements from pharmacies and supermarkets, or a GP may be able to prescribe them for you.
If you want to get your folic acid from a multivitamin tablet, make sure the tablet does not contain vitamin A .
You may be able to get free vitamins if you qualify for the Healthy Start scheme.
Find out more about the Healthy Start scheme.
Dont Stop Taking Your Prenatal Vitamins
Sometimes people experience discomfort when taking prenatal vitamins. Queasiness and constipation are common complaints, and some people struggle with swallowing large pills. It might be tempting to quit but it is very important that you keep taking a daily prenatal vitamin as advised through your pregnancy. Tell your doctor about any difficulties you are experiencing and they will help devise solutions for taking your prenatal vitamins without the unpleasant side effects.
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Taking Extra Folic Acid
Your midwife or GP may ask you to take a larger amount of folic acid if:
- youve had a baby with a neural tube defect before
- someone in your close family has a neural tube defect
- youre taking medicines for epilepsy
- you have diabetes
- youre overweight and your body mass index is 30 or more
- you have sickle-cell anaemia or thalassaemia
Crucial Roles Of Vitamin B In A Healthy Pregnancy
The entire B complex of eight vitamins plays a crucial role in your strength and health while your baby is developing. During your first and third trimesters, most women feel more tired and run down than usual.Even though the B complex can come in great supplements, the best way to absorb these nutrients is through vitamin-rich foods!Vitamin B rich foods help boost your natural energy with these nourishing vitamins for your growing baby. Take a look at the roles and benefits of all the B vitamins and find out how to get enough of each to ensure a happy, healthy pregnancy.
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Importance Of Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is very common with about one billion people around the world thought to be deficient. The signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include muscle weakness and fatigue along with bone pain and weakness. Some further studies have also linked vitamin D deficiency with depression.
Vitamin D also has an essential role in supporting the immune system triggering the immune cells to produce antibodies. So people who are deficient in vitamin D may be immunocompromised and more prone to infections.
This is why the Department of Health has increased its public health messaging around the importance of vitamin D supplementation. Indeed, scientists have also recently suggested that vitamin D should be added to bread and milk to help fight COVID-19.
Can You Take Prenatal Vitamins If You Are Not Pregnant
One of the frequently asked questions we get is whether or not prenatal vitamins are acceptable to take if you are not pregnant. The answer is simple: typically, yes. Although there are a few exceptions. But first, lets explore how prenatal vitamins are different from other multivitamins and why you would want to consider taking them even if youre not pregnant.
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B Vitamin Complex Supplements During Pregnancy
Typically, prenatal vitamins contain the perfect blend of B vitamin complex to fulfill all the recommended dosages weve outlined here. Theres no need to routinely supplement any B vitamins other than taking your prenatal vitamin simply enjoy a well-balanced diet alongside it and look forward to the arrival of your little one!If you have any questions be sure to ask your OBGYN. You and your developing babys health depend on you asking questions, staying healthy and stress-free. Enjoy being pregnant, and eat healthy for two .
Want to Know More?
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. MRC Vitamin Study Research Group. Prevention of neural tube defects: results of the Medical Research Council Vitamin Study. Lancet. 1991 338:131137.
2. Biotin. .
3. Pitkin RM. Folate and neural tube defects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 85:285S288S.
4. Harvards Nutrition Source on Vitamin B.
6. Scott, J. M. . Addition of vitamin B12 to folic acid supplements to optimize the prevention of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
7. Shrim, A., Boskovik, R., Maltepe, C., et al. Pregnancy outcome following use of large doses of vitamin B6 in the first trimester. Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 26, 749-51.
Pregnancy Increases The Need For Nutrients
During pregnancy, macronutrient intake needs grow significantly. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Youll want to be including protein in every meal and snack to meet your needs.
The requirement for micronutrients, which include vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, increases even more than the need for macronutrients.
While some people are able to meet this growing demand through a well-planned, nutrient-dense eating plan, it can be a challenge for others.
You may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements for various reasons, including:
- Nutrientdeficiencies: Some people may need a supplement after a blood test reveals a deficiency in a vitamin or mineral. Correcting deficiencies is critical, as a shortage of nutrients like folate has been linked to birth defects.
- Hyperemesisgravidarum: This pregnancy complication is characterized by severe nausea and vomiting. It can lead to weight loss and nutrient deficiencies.
- Dietaryrestrictions: Women who follow specific diets, including vegans and those with food intolerances and allergies, may need to supplement with vitamins and minerals to prevent micronutrient deficiencies
- Smoking: Although its critical for mothers to avoid cigarettes during pregnancy, those who continue to smoke have an
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Signs You Do Not Get Enough Vitamin B12
For women of childbearing age, B12 deficiencies are quite rare, but if they occur it increases the risk of your baby developing an NTD . This is similar to problems that may result from low B9 .
These serious birth defects can include:
- Anencephaly the spinal cord and brain do not form properly
- Encephalocele parts of the brain begins to push out
- Spina bifida the babys spine does not form correctly
If any of these birth defects run in the family a triple screen test will be necessary.If you believe you may have a vitamin B12 deficiency and are suffering from depression, anxiety, fatigue or insomnia, contact your doctor immediately.Brain damage can occur in severe deficiency conditions, it is very important you share all your concerns with your doctor to prevent any vitamin deficiencies from causing damage to your body or your developing babys body.
The Right Picks To Take You Through Your Pregnancy Journey
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about womens health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.
Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the bestproducts, and articles are reviewed by healthcare professionals for medical accuracy. Youcan learn more about ourreview process here.We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Verywell / Sabrina Jiang
Nutrient needs are increased during pregnancy to support the growth and development of the fetus while also supporting the health of the mother. But with so many prenatal vitamins out there, how do you make the right choice? It is important to make sure prenatal supplements have been tested by third-party labs and offer maximum transparency to consumers.
A prenatal vitamin is a multivitamin that is designed with pregnancy and breastfeeding in mind. The number of vitamins and minerals in these supplements are safe and appropriate when trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and postpartum while you are breastfeeding. Some specialized prenatal vitamins may also have other pregnancy-related additives, including DHA .
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Which Vitamins Should I Take In Pregnancy
When youre pregnant, its recommended that you take additional vitamin D and folic acid, and avoid taking vitamin A . Aim for 400mg of folic acid and 10mcg of vitamin D from your supplements . For more on pregnancy supplements and nutrition if you’re vegan or vegetarian, see our article about what to eat during pregnancy.
Should Women Take Supplements While Pregnant
It seems there’s an endless amount of online information related to what supplements a woman should take when pregnant. As a result, searching for reliable information related to supplements during pregnancy can be difficult at best.
Here’s a Q& A with some advice on which supplements you can use and those you should avoid during your pregnancy:
Are dietary supplements OK during pregnancy?
It’s recommended that women should not use dietary and herbal supplements during pregnancy. In addition, dietary and herbal supplements should be used with caution in women of reproductive age due to the risk of taking these supplements before knowledge of pregnancy.
Unlike prescription drugs, dietary supplements are not reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safety and effectiveness. As a result, they may contain contaminants, like metals, pesticides, chemicals or bacteria, which may pose risks for pregnancy. Also, most supplements are not thoroughly studied, which can lead to issues related to quality standards for ingredients and strength. For example, vinpocetine an ingredient found in a number of dietary supplements, including those marketed for weight loss, enhanced memory, focus, mental acuity or increased energy is not safe during pregnancy. Other commonly used supplements that may cause harm during pregnancy include melatonin and St. John’s wort.
What about meal replacement shakes?
What supplements are OK to take?
What about vitamins during pregnancy?
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Can Vitamins Help Get Pregnant With Twins
Specific vitamins have been linked with multiple births. Specifically, the vitamin responsible for twins is folic acid or vitamin B 9. This vitamin is known to stimulate both fraternal and identical twins in women who take sufficient amounts of it before and during the pregnancies.
Folic acid and other vitamins responsible for twin births can be found in supplements or specific foods.
Supplements To Avoid While Pregnant Or Breastfeeding
While the vitamins and supplements above are generally considered safe for pregnant and nursing mothers, others should be avoided.
Certain vitamins, plants, and herbs can potentially be harmful while pregnant or breastfeeding. Thats why you must always let your doctor know about any supplements you take.
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Vitamin D Supplementation And Preeclampsia Risk
Preeclampsia is a placenta-dependent disorder with a worldwide prevalence of 28% . According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines preeclampsia is defined by the identification of high blood pressure with proteinuria or the presence of elevated liver enzymes, high platelet count, headache, or visual disturbances after 20 weeks of gestation . It is a multifactor disease with altered immune and endocrine responses in which both defective placental trophoblast invasion and dysfunction of maternal vascular endothelium occur. Since vitamin D exerts potent immunomodulatory properties, and results of observational studies suggested that lower vitamin D levels could be associated with higher preeclampsia risk , some intervention studies have tried to evaluate this association. However, the results of meta-analyses on intervention studies on vitamin D and risk of preeclampsia are still controversial.
Vitamin B9 Or Folic Acid Essential In Pregnancy
Vitamin B9, better known as folic acid is the most important of all vitamins. It is recommended to consume 400 mg of this nutrient every day for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. However, there are some who take it throughout the entire pregnancy.
To give you an idea, proper and adequate intake of folic acid helps prevent spinal problems and a condition known as spina bifida. A baby with spina bifida could end up with paralysis, mental retardation or other serious diseases.
You can find vitamin B9 in:
- Prenatal vitamin supplements.
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach or broccoli.
- Citrus fruits.
In our article on ‘What is folic acid good for?’, we elaborate on the importance of this nutrient.
What To Ask Your Doctor
Although many fertility supplements help improve fertility, they may not work for all. They are effective but can also lead to serious side effects. Hence, consulting a doctor before taking any supplement would be a wise decision. So, speak with your doctor about the potential benefits and risks of a particular supplement, then only go ahead with it. The doctor will ask you about your medical history and any pre-existing medical conditions. She will even ask you if you are on some medication. Provide the right information, and she will guide you the best.
Opting for the best fertility supplements to get pregnant may not be as easy as it seems. Just like medication, care needs to be taken while choosing the right ones. Furthermore, taking supplements alone wont improve your fertility levels. Following a healthy diet, leading a good lifestyle, and exercising will work in your favour too. Consult a doctor before you start with any supplements, she will guide you the best. Furthermore, keep trying soon, you will have your little angel in your arms.
Best Dha: Nordic Naturals Prenatal Dha
Docosahexaenoic acid is one of the three main essential omega 3 fatty acids, the others being alpha-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid . DHA is found primarily in seafood.
During pregnancy, DHA is especially important for a babys healthy cognitive and visual function and overall brain development. A reference intake for the amount of DHA that should be consumed per day hasn’t been set yet, but health experts agree that pregnant and lactating women should consume at least 200 milligrams of DHA per day. Others believe that pregnant women should up their intake to 300 milligrams of DHA per day.
Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA provides 480 milligrams of DHA and 205 milligrams of EPA per serving and is the official omega-3 supplement of the American Pregnancy Association. All of Nordic Naturals products are non-GMO, use wild-caught fish, and are third-party tested, surpassing the strictest international standards for purity and freshness. Note that this is not a complete prenatal multivitamin, but rather an additional supplement for your routine.
SmartyPants Organics Prenatal Formula gummy vitamins are free of artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and the top eight allergens. Smarty Pants does not use synthetic colors or artificial flavors in their gummies, and each batch is third-party tested for purity.
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