FAQ Pregnancy

Important Vitamins & Nutrients During Pregnancy

Vitamins and other nutrients are an essential part of your health, and should be included in every diet regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not. But during pregnancy, they do become especially important, since certain important vitamins during pregnancy are necessary for both your health and the healthy development of your baby.

But not all vitamins or nutrients were created equal. Here’s which are essential, why, and where you can naturally get them from.

Important Vitamins During Pregnancy

These include:

  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin A and Beta Carotene
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B6 (for nausea)

Vitamin D In Pregnancy

As you probably know, vitamin D is important for our bones. More precisely, it helps the body absorb calcium. It also makes sure your muscles and nerves work. Finally, it’s an important part of your immune system, making sure you’re well-protected from infections. Vitamin D is important during the first trimester of your pregnancy, as well as later on. When it comes to your baby, Vitamin D will do what it’s mainly doing for you, too: helping their bones and teeth grow.

Natural Sources of Vitamin D

Some of the safe sources of Vitamin D during pregnancy include: 

  • Tuna fish
  • Sardines
  • Egg yolk
  • Orange juice fortified with vitamin D
  • Dairy and plant milks fortified with vitamin D
  • Fortified cereals

Vitamin B12 In Pregnancy

You may know this one as “that vitamin vegetarians lack”. And true, most of its natural sources include meat and dairy. Vitamin B12 is important during pregnancy as it plays an essential role in the proper creation of your baby’s nervous system. In fact, it may help prevent neural tube defects, given it’s very important for proper DNA synthesis.

Natural Sources of Vitamin B12

As mentioned, these include mostly meat and dairy:

  • Beef
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Fortified cereals
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese (funnily enough, body absorbs these better than the B12 found in meat)
  • Eggs

Vitamin A & Beta Carotene In Pregnancy

In short, these, much like vitamin D, help bones and teeth develop and grow.

Natural Sources of Vitamin A & Beta Carotene

There are plenty of ways to get them into your body, such as:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Yellow fruits
  • Cantaloupe

Vitamin E In Pregnancy

While you need fairly small amounts of this vitamin (15 mg/day), it’s important in helping your body create and properly use red blood cells, as well as muscles.

Natural Sources of Vitamin E

Vegans and vegetarians will love hearing that these are all plant-based:

  • Fortified cereals
  • Vegetable oil
  • Nuts
  • Spinach

Vitamin B6 In Pregnancy

While it’s not a crucial part of a healthy pregnancy, I’ve featured B6 since it may help with nausea, aka morning sickness. You can also try some natural remedies and meal ideas. And here’s more about the combination of Unisom and B6 in pregnancy to help you with nausea.

Its natural sources are plenty:

  • Fortified cereals
  • Chickpeas
  • Poultry
  • Tuna
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Papayas
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Cantaloupes

Important Nutrients During Pregnancy

Besides plain vitamins, your body needs these nutrients for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Folic acid
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • DHA
  • Iodine

Folic Acid In Pregnancy

Folic Acid is probably the most famous nutrient in pregnancy, as it’s hugely important for the healthy development of your baby. It’s advised you start taking folic acid supplements at least a month before you start trying for a baby, and continue taking them throughout. It’s crucial to take it during the first trimester in order to prevent brain and spine defects, such as neural tube defects. Some studies even show it may prevent heart as well as mouth defects (cleft lip and palate).

While folate (the naturally occurring form of folic acid) is found in many foods, it’s much better absorbed in the form of folic acid, which is why taking a supplement is advised.

Natural Sources of Folate

If you still want to add some natural sources to your diet, try:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Eggs
  • Whole grains
  • Fresh fruits & juices
  • Sunflower seeds

Liver and seafood are also good sources, though they may not always be safe during pregnancy.

Iron In Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the amount of blood your body produces will double, in order to provide a supply for your baby. Iron is a vital part of it, as it creates hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from your lungs through the rest of your body, as well as to your baby. Additionally, your baby also needs iron in order to produce its own blood.

Natural Sources of Iron

Luckily, they are many:

  • Leafy greens
  • Lean meat, poultry and seafood
  • Bread
  • Fortified cereals
  • Beans, nuts, raisins 
  • Lentils
  • Tofu
  • Dried fruit

For better absorption of iron from its natural sources, eat it with vitamin C-rich food (such as oranges or tomatoes) or drink orange juice. This is especially important if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan and get your iron from sources other than meat.

Calcium In Pregnancy

Calcium is another important link in the creation of your baby’s bones, teeth, muscles, and even heart and nerves.

Natural Sources of Calcium

These include:

  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Broccoli and kale
  • Fortified foods (flour, cereal)
  • Fortifiied drinks
  • Sardines

DHA In Pregnancy

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid. It’s especially important in the second trimester when your baby’s brain and eyes start to develop rapidly. My prenatal vitamins include them starting from week 13, but there are natural sources as well, virtually all of which come from sea life.

Natural Sources of DHA

Some of the safe options for pregnant women include:

  • Sardines
  • Shrimp
  • Seaweed and algae
  • Orange juice, milk, and eggs that have DHA added to them

Iodine In Pregnancy

In order for your body to be able to use and store energy from food, it needs thyroid hormones. Iodine helps your body create them. During pregnancy, it also helps your baby’s nervous system develop.

Natural Sources of Iodine

These include:

  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Fortified cereal and bread
  • Iodized salt
  • Seaweed
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Canned tuna
  • Cod
  • Shrimp

Should I Use Natural Sources or Go With Prenatal Vitamins?

I have been using prenatal vitamins since even before I got pregnant, so my advice would be to choose the best ones (which contain all of the important vitamins during pregnancy, as well as nutrients) and go with them. However, prenatal vitamins are only additions to a well-balanced diet, which means that including all these natural sources would be beneficial as well.

Jelena
Jelena

A 27-year-old married mom-to-be, trying to have it all. I have a full-time job I enjoy, a home I’m in love with, and plenty of hobbies I try my best to have the time for. A psychologist by vocation, with the goal of helping young women live their best lives.

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