Once life has been created inside you, doing the best thing to help your baby grow and be healthy is always top of mind. It is no wonder that so many pregnant mothers want to know which vitamins and how much of each is ideal during this critical period in their baby’s life.
We summarized the recommendations of a few medical organizations for vitamin D, calcium, iron and folate. Discuss your specific prenatal vitamin needs with your physician, midwife or pharmacist.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is critical for your baby’s bone and teeth development. A lack of vitamin D could result in soft, deformed bones, which could result in a disease known as rickets. The North Americam recommendations for vitamin D for adults range from 600 IU to 2000 IU per day. 1,2 During the Winter months, your healthcare specialist may recommend that you take 2000 IU vitamin D per day. 3
The UK recommendations for pregnancy are slightly different. The UK national guidance identifies a daily dose of 10 micrograms (µg) (400 IU) of vitamin D for all pregnant and lactating women.4 The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has identified high-risk groups (women who have limited sun exposure, or who have darker pigmented skin or have a higher pre-pregnancy BMI), which may need a higher vitamin D dose.5
Most prenatal multivitamins may not contain an adequate amount of vitamin D based on recommendations for pregnant women. Be sure to check the ingredients list. If your brand does not include sufficient vitamin D, you can optimize the dose with standalone vitamin D products.
Calcium: Calcium also helps your baby to develop strong bones and teeth. Your body needs vitamin D to allow entry of calcium into your bloodstream, and eventually your baby’s as well.
During pregnancy, recommendations for calcium intake range from 800 mg to 3000 mg per day. 1,2
Your baby will take the calcium that it needs from your body, thus leaving you with low reserves if you are not taking extra calcium during your pregnancy. This could result in bone loss in your body, low calcium reserves in your breastmilk and possibly deformed or soft bones for your baby.6
Learn more about how vitamin D and calcium work together here.
Iron: A pregnant woman produces extra blood volume. Since iron is needed in blood, this extra amount means that you need extra iron also in order to stay in good health. A pregnant woman’s need for iron increases during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, but it is recommended that you build up your levels from the start of your pregnancy, or before if possible. The recommended dietary allowance for iron for pregnant women is27 mg/day. 7
Folate: Folate is required to help reduce the risk of nencephal and neural tube defects such as spina bifida. If possible, start taking folate before becoming pregnant up to your 12th week of pregnancy. The recommended daily folate intake is 0.4 mg (which is the same as 400 micrograms) while you are trying to conceive and until you are 12 weeks pregnant.8
A regular multivitamin may not contain folate, so double check!
Bottom line, it is a good idea to seek advice from your healthcare practitioner and check your prenatal vitamins for the levels of these important nutrients. If you are having trouble tolerating your supplements, or if swallowing becomes an issue, talk to your physician or midwife about other options.