By: Natasha Lowe Osho MD, FACOG, NASM-CPT, Pre/Postnatal Performance Training Specialist
Having a balanced and nutritious diet helps to supply our body’s with vitamins, minerals, and energy needed to function. Taking a daily multivitamin helps to “fill in the gap” when we don’t get enough of these essential nutrients in the food we eat. The following is a list of important vitamins and minerals that you should look for when choosing a prenatal vitamin:
Folic Acid: Folic acid is important for baby’s nervous system development during pregnancy. In fact, this development begins during the first 3-7 weeks of pregnancy with the neural tube. The neural tube is the origin of the brain and spinal cord. It is recommended that all women ages of 15 to 45 take 400-800 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid daily. For women with seizure disorders or history of a baby with a neural tube defect, it is recommended you take 4 milligrams of folic acid each day. According to the CDC, taking a multivitamin with the recommended amount of folic acid before pregnancy can decrease the risk of neural tube defects by 50-70%.
Iron: Iron is used by red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. During pregnancy, the transport of oxygen must be adequate for both mom and baby. According to the CDC, 1 in 6 pregnant women have iron deficiency or low iron levels. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia. For mom, anemia can cause tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath with activity, and pale skin. For baby, anemia during pregnancy can cause poor fetal growth and preterm birth. Iron also has a key role in the development of baby’s nervous system. It is recommended that pregnant women have at least 27mg (milligrams) of Iron each day.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A is important for the eyes and immune system. It is recommended that pregnant women have 770mcg (micrograms) of Vitamin A each day. Vitamin A is fat soluble so it can be toxic if taken in excessive amounts.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for bone health, the immune system, and functioning of muscles and nerves. It is also needed for the body to absorb calcium. It is recommended that pregnant women have 15mcg (micrograms) or 600IU (international units) of Vitamin D each day.
Calcium: Calcium is important for bone health, muscle, and nerve function. It is recommended that pregnant women have 1000mg (milligrams) of Calcium each day.
Iodine: Iodine is important for metabolism and thyroid function. It also plays a role bone and brain development during pregnancy. It is recommended that pregnant women have 220mcg (micrograms) of Iodine each day.
Zinc: Zinc is important for the immune system. It is recommended that pregnant women have 11mg (milligrams) of Zinc each day.
B Complex Vitamins: B Complex vitamins includes Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), and Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin). They are important for metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins for the body’s production of energy. The following daily amounts are recommended:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) = 1.4mg (milligrams)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) = 1.4mg (milligrams)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin) = 18mg (milligrams) of niacin equivalents (NE)
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) = 1.9mg (milligrams)
- Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) = 2.6mcg (micrograms)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in plant oils. EPA and DHA are found in seafood. Omega-3 fatty acids are important in the function of the immune system, endocrine system (which regulates hormones), heart, and lungs. It is recommended that pregnant women have a total of 1.4g (grams) of Omega-3 Fatty acids each day.
There are many more vitamins and minerals which play important roles before, during, and after pregnancy. A well-balanced diet in addition to use of a daily multivitamin can help to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of nutrients for both you and your baby.
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) “Guidelines for Perinatal Care,” Eight Edition