The most essential and beneficial multivitamins to be used during pregnancy are folate (folic acid), iron and calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins.
Oral supplements are considered an essential part of nutrition for
expecting women. Generally, pregnant women increase their food intake to meet
the nutritional demands of their developing body and their growing baby.
However, there is no such proof that simply increasing your food intake
helps in fulfilling all the requirement of all the nutrients required by your
body during pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy is a combination of: a healthy pregnancy diet and vitamin
How are prenatal vitamins different from regular vitamins?
During their pregnancy, women require more energy and more appropriate
vitamins and minerals to prevent the foetus from any possible disorders and to
have an overall safe and healthy pregnancy.
Regular vitamins consist of all the minerals and vitamins in a quantity
required to run a normal everyday life. On the other hand, in prenatal
vitamins, the quantity of such vitamins and minerals is comparatively higher
than that in regular vitamins. Their composition differs from each other.
A couple of examples of such difference in requirements are:
Requirement of Folic Acid: folic acid required in non-pregnant
women is around 200 micrograms whereas by pregnant women, the requirement is up
to 400 micrograms.
Requirement of Calcium: Calcium requirement is 1100 micrograms
by pregnant women as opposed to 800 micrograms in non-pregnant women.
Top essential prenatal nutrients
The most essential and beneficial multivitamins to be used during
pregnancy are folate (folic acid), iron and calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins.
Folate (Folic acid) - folic acid rich foods are green
vegetables, citrus fruits and vegetables. It is a key nutrient for pregnancy
which prevents the foetus from developing the neural tube defects. This means
the lack of folic acid leads to abnormal formation of brain. It is seen more
often in the women with previous pregnancy of neural tube defects such as spina
bifida. An increased dose of folic acid is required in women with
multiple pregnancy and/or previous pregnancy with neural tube defects. Read more on the benefits of folic acid during pregnancy here.
Iron- Red blood cells contain haemoglobin which is made up of iron and
protein portion. Iron helps in carrying the oxygen by the red blood cells. Low
levels of iron cause fatigue, poor concentration and weak immune system i.e.
easily prone to infections. Women are normally iron deficient because
of monthly loss of blood due to periods. So multivitamins do help them
retain a healthy life. Iron requirement doubles during pregnancy as production
of blood increases and by the last trimester foetus starts making its own blood
cells and storage of 6 months to utilize after birth.
Calcium- Calcium is a daily requirement for women to get their bones and joints
stronger. During pregnancy, an expecting mother needs stronger and flexible
bones to prevent mother from any complications during or after pregnancy.
Pregnant women need strength to bear the labour pains. Calcium requirements
also increase because of more absorption during pregnancy.
Recommended daily intake during pregnancy
During pregnancy, a woman needs to maintain the daily intake of all the
essential minerals and vitamins. A perfect prenatal supplement should contain
following elements in the quantity equivalent to recommended daily intake
Daily Intake (RDI) of Prenatal Vitamins
Unit of RDI
Should I have a balanced pregnancy diet and skip prenatal supplements?
A healthy balanced
diet may meet the requirements of the majority of the nutrients
required during pregnancy, however it is most likely that the diet may lack in
a few key nutrients. It is therefore best advised to take prenatal vitamins
along with a well balanced
Generally, a pregnant woman following a healthy diet plan,
doesn’t feel the need to take vitamin supplements other than Folate (folic
acid). Folate (folic acid) is a must for all pregnant women even if you
are following a healthy pregnancy diet. Folic acid is required by pregnant
women to prevent the possibilities of neural tube defects in the foetus.
pregnancy diet that is rich in iron, calcium, folate (folic
acid) protein and vitamin C foods should be highly followed by a pregnant
woman. On the other hand, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor
whether or not to use prenatal vitamins supplements.
When is the best time to start taking prenatal vitamins?
To be specific, it is recommended to start using prenatal supplements 2
months prior to conception. The organ development of the foetus, especially the
development of the foetus’ brain, starts to occur in the first trimester of
It is therefore essential for the pregnant woman to start taking
prenatal supplements and folic acid for the better growth of the foetus, during
How long should you take prenatal vitamins for?
As aforementioned, it is best to take supplements 2 months before
conception. However, as some pregnancies are unplanned, you don’t get tested
for pregnancy till you are two months over pregnancy, you already lose half of
the first trimester of pregnancy.
It would however be safe if you start taking vitamins as soon as you get
to know about your pregnancy and continue it throughout pregnancy.
Vitamin that you may not find in the regular prenatal vitamin
There are some vitamins that are not as widely used as the ones
mentioned so far (calcium, iron, folic acid etc.) by pregnant women. Your
doctor may sometimes prescribe these vitamins in addition to the regular
prenatal vitamins only if the doctor feels the need to. One of these vitamins
is Omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid that is generally consumed by diet.
It’s active components are Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid
These vitamins are normally found in sea food and algae. Omega-3 fatty
acids are present good quantities in fish fat, fish oil, nuts, and beans.
Omega-3 fatty acids help in supporting the cardiovascular system, brain
function and retina. It has been researched that women who do not intake enough
seafood in their diet have higher chances of being exposed to perinatal
Although highly argues, but there is no current evidence of their
positive action in reducing the risk of preterm birth and gestational
prolongation. Marine food contains neurotoxins called as methyl-mercury, which
may harm the foetus’ brain.
Therefore, ingestion of marine food has been restricted to 340 g
per week. But the capsule or tablet forms of fish oil or omega-3 are free
of these toxins. Again, it is always a better idea to discuss with your doctor
before you take any over the counter omega-3 supplements during your pregnancy.
With all the positives mentioned so far about the usage of prenatal
supplements, there is a possibility of some side effects as well. In some
pregnant women, the (excessive) usage of prenatal supplements may cause the
following side effects:
Welcome to Babyinfo – the ultimate pregnancy and newborn information guide. We are here to help you find all the pregnancy and baby info you need to make the most beautiful experience of your life even better.
Our team is comprised of an amazing mix of experienced mothers, recently pregnant women, and editors with tremendous medical knowledge in the fields of gynaecology and childbirth.
Think of us as your friendly advisors, here to give you honest, easy to understand and authentic information. We are here to be your support at this crucial time in your life, when you need it the most.
Note: This website is in no way meant to replace doctors, hospitals, or other healthcare providers that may be utilized by current mothers or mothers-to-be. All mothers are advised to see a doctor for medical advice and the appropriate care before, during, and after pregnancy.