Prenatal vitamin and mineral supplements

  • A healthy diet, in combination with prenatal supplements, will provide the nutrition you and your baby need.
  • If you’re a vegetarian, having more than one baby, or are avoiding various food groups, taking prenatal supplements is especially important.
  • Folic Acid or Folate, especially important during the first trimester, helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects.
  • The increased blood volume from you and your baby requires more Iron to sustain it.

Pregnancy has specific nutritional needs for supporting your baby’s healthy development and maintaining your well-being. What you eat during pregnancy and while breastfeeding directly influences fetus development and your baby’s future health. It can be difficult, even with a healthy diet, to meet all the nutritional requirements of pregnancy. Taking a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement, as recommended by your obstetrician, helps ensure that you and your baby are getting the nutritional support you require.  

Getting enough Folic Acid and Iron

Folic Acid (Folate) is a B Vitamin that plays an important role as your baby’s neural tube develops into the spine and brain. This occurs very early in pregnancy (often before you’re even aware you’re pregnant), so it’s a good idea to start prenatal supplements while or when you’re trying to get pregnant.  

Iron is needed in extra supply because, between you and your baby, there’s a big increase in blood volume. More blood means more red blood cells that depend on Iron; not enough can lead to anemia. Don’t take more Iron than your obstetrician recommends; a mega dose of Iron can cause problems such as a Zinc imbalance.   


If you don’t eat dairy foods or only eat them in limited amounts, a daily Calcium supplement is essential. But don’t count on a prenatal supplement to have all the Calcium you need, which is 1,000 mg daily. Taking a Calcium supplement separately, split into 300 mg several times a day, can help you get the Calcium you need. Don’t overdo the Calcium, as a large amount can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb Iron.  

DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid

There is growing evidence that the DHA supply in your body, while pregnant, may affect the early childhood growth and development of your baby. This fatty acid helps support your baby’s  brain and eye development. Naturally occurring in fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, a more consistent way to get DHA is through a supplement. The recommended daily amount is 300 mg DHA, typically available as fish oil or a marine algae-based supplement. 

Test your knowledge

How much do you know about prenatal nutrients? Find out with the Prenatal Nutrient Quiz.

What about probiotics?  
Probiotic microorganisms are friendly bacteria which, when consumed in adequate amounts, can have beneficial effects. Talk to your obstetrician about what type of probiotic may be most useful for you.  

With or without food?
Prenatal supplements are best when taken with food or right after eating. The nutrients are better absorbed with food.    
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