11 Essential Vitamins and Minerals For Pregnancy

Pregnant women often talk about “eating for two.” This is actually an incredibly accurate statement, but not necessarily in the way we might think.

A growing baby doesn’t need a ton of extra calories – during the first trimester you do not need any extra calories, the second trimester needs an extra 340, and the third an extra 450.

essential-vitamins-and-minerals-for-pregnancy

But he- or she-to-be sure does need an extra dose of nutrients!

The gestation process is extremely complex. So many of your nutrients go straight to the baby. This means you have to ensure that:

  • There are plenty of nutrients available to the baby
  • There are plenty of surplus nutrients available for your own body

So the #1 best thing you can do for yourself before you try, when you try, and after you are pregnant is to eat a diet filled with vitamins and minerals.

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The nutrients in foods are easily absorbed and any excess can be safely discarded through our waste systems.

Then you need to give your diet a helping hand in the form of a prenatal.

Women of childbearing age can take one even if they aren’t trying yet. Of course, once you are trying to conceive, a great prenatal is essential.

Then carrying the prenatal through pregnancy and breastfeeding helps keep you and your little one healthy and happy.

So here are a list of the essential vitamins and minerals for pregnancy you should be eating plenty of and potentially supplementing through your prenatal.

11 Essential Vitamins and Minerals For Pregnancy

1. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is good for lots of different things like preventing anemia, stabilizing the metabolism, encouraging fetal eye and bone development, and developing tissue during pregnancy.

But too much of a good thing is too much. An overabundance of vitamin A can actually lead to congenital birth effects.

To help you find the balance of getting enough, but not too much, focus primarily on food sources (mentioned below).

Then make sure your prenatal vitamin has no more than 1,500 mcg (5,000 IU) of vitamin A. Any more than that, and you should find another brand.

Good Food Sources:

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  • Pumpkin/pumpkin seeds
  • Eggs
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Yellow vegetables and fruits

2. B Vitamins

Unlike the other vitamins, there isn’t only one Vitamin B. There are:

  • B1/Thiamin
  • B2/Riboflavin
  • B3/Niacin
  • B6/Pyridoxine
  • Vitamin B12
  • Folate (discussed in depth in the next section)

The collection of these vitamins has some of the most important nutrients your baby will need. And they are responsible for improving egg health and balanced hormones for conception.

As an added bonus, the B vitamins are fabulous for boosting energy – something every pregnant woman (or every woman in general) wants more of.

Good Food Sources:

  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Broccoli

3. Folate for Healthy Pregnancy

I know we just talked all about the importance of B vitamins, but one B vitamin is so important, we are going to spend a whole section focusing on it: folate, also called folic acid is the synthetic form.

Folate is the “wonder” supplement in prenatals. It prevents brain and spinal cord defects and can even decrease the odds of premature labor. It is important to have adequate folate before pregnancy too.

This is one more reason why women of childbearing age should be on prenatals even when they aren’t trying.

This nutrient is so important, doctors recommend taking a prenatal vitamin if you are of childbearing age just in case you do happen to get pregnant. Learn more here:

Aim for 400 to 800 micrograms per day in your supplement, and then focus on food sources.

Good Food Sources:

  • Spinach
  • Beans
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Oranges
  • Avocado
  • Okra
  • Brussels sprouts

4. Vitamin C

There’s a reason we take vitamin C to prevent and combat illness – it is a potent antioxidant that builds our immune systems. Whether you are trying or already pregnant, you will want your body to be as healthy as possible.

There’s no need to go overboard to get “super healthy.” Excessive vitamin C intake could potentially lead to preterm birth. Somewhere around 85 mg a day when you’re trying/pregnant should be great.

Good Food Sources:

  • Bell peppers
  • Citrus fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli

5. Vitamin D for Pregnancy

Vitamin D is helpful when you’re trying to conceive by balancing hormones and even aiding those with polycystic ovary syndrome. Once you are pregnant, it not only helps the baby’s bone development, it also can reduce the chances of preeclampsia.

Good Food Sources:

  • Fish**
  • Eggs

** Most edible vitamin D sources are fish, something that you should either avoid entirely or mostly avoid during your pregnancy (anything high mercury should always be avoided).

This means you have to rely on a good supplement and….

Sunshine! Though it is important to stay sun-safe to prevent skin cancer, our bodies were made to get nutrients from the sun. If you’re stuck inside most of the day, be intentional about going outside for a 5- to 10-minute walk. Or fill your weekends with outdoor activities.

RELATED: 10 Best Natural Fertility Boosters and Herbs For Women 

6. Vitamin E for Pregnancy 

Vitamin E just so happens to be a key nutrient for fertility and overall female reproductive hormones.

It can thicken your uterine lining, improve glucose/insulin, and reduce PMS symptoms.

Once you are pregnant, vitamin E can reduce miscarriage, support IVF success rates, and strengthen the amniotic sac. Pregnant women deficient in vitamin E are at risk for preeclampsia.

Large doses of vitamin E, on the other hand, can actually harm the baby. So stick with the small amount in a prenatal or talk to your doctor about the ideal dose. Choosing to up your intake of these food options below is always a safe bet.

Good Food Sources:

  • Spinach
  • Nuts
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Avocadoes
  • Sunflower seeds

7. Calcium for Pregnancy

Since we were kids, our parents told us to eat our calcium for healthy bones.

Your growing baby needs the same sort of nourishment. If they need the calcium, it could be leached from your bones – which puts you at risk for bone density issues like osteoporosis.

Aim for 1,000 mg of calcium a day.

If you are a teen mom, however, you’re going to want to bump that up to 1,300 mg. Interestingly enough, your bones are still growing too – so you need to have enough calcium for the both of you!

Sometimes supplement forms of calcium are not as effective as a calcium-rich diet, so eat up!

Good Food Sources:

  • Dairy products
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Okra
  • Almonds
  • Oranges

8. Iron

Iron deficiency is a common problem among pregnant women – mostly because pregnant bodies need 2 times the amount of iron than a non-pregnant woman needs.

Why?

Your baby needs oxygen.

Your blood supply (boosted by iron) brings oxygen to your baby

The ideal iron consumption is 27mg a day. So try to get some of those from food sources. Then you can supplement with your prenatal. If you are heavily deficient, your doctor may suggest an extra iron supplement on top of the prenatal. (But never start one on your own!)

Good Food Sources:

  • Meat
  • Spinach
  • Beans
  • Nuts

9. Manganese

Manganese is not talked about nearly as much as minerals like magnesium or calcium, but it is still vital for pregnant women. It helps with both bones and cartilage, it prevents cell damage, and it helps your metabolism.

You don’t need a ton of it for a healthy baby; 2 mg a day is perfectly fine. Then add a few of these food items into your weekly rotation.

Good Food Sources:

  • Pecans
  • Pineapple
  • Brown Rice
  • Spinach

10. Selenium/Chromium

These are examples of trace minerals that are great for supporting the body’s overall health.

Studies on selenium have shown to support the “mother’s defense systems against the toxicity of environmental pollutants and the constituents of cigarette smoke.”

And chromium does things like: help you maintain normal glucose during pregnancy and aide in the building of your baby’s body tissue.

Good Food Sources:

  • Brazil nuts (Selenium)
  • Turkey (Selenium)
  • Brown Rice (Chromium)
  • Meat (Chromium)
  • Broccoli (Chromium)
  • Mushrooms (Chromium)

11. Zinc for Healthy Pregnancy

There are many connections between zinc and female hormone balances like irregular periods and poor egg quality, so it’s really important for conception.

Then once you are pregnant, zinc can help with the baby’s DNA production, cell growth, and immune system.

Good Food Sources:

  • Meat
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Cheddar cheese

A Note On Vitamin Overdose

A general prenatal is normally filled with small amounts of many different vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

While you should always do you research first, most prenatals will not give you nearly enough dosage for any toxicity concerns.

But if you start taking any additional supplements (say an extra calcium or an extra vitamin D) on top of your prenatal, you could very well be entering the “danger zone” for both you and your growing baby.

One of the big problems is that signs of vitamin overdose are often similar to things you’d normally experience with pregnancy. So you could easily mistake these symptoms as normal pregnancy woes:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Eye irritation

To avoid this confusion entirely, you should never take any sort of additional supplementation without talking to your doctor first.

He or she may end up prescribing extra vitamins if you are deficient. But you should never do this on your own. Just stick to your general prenatal and a healthy diet.

A “Real Food” Diet + Healthy Supplementation

As you can see, most of these essential pregnancy vitamins and minerals are consumed through meat, produce, nuts, and beans. Clean eating is key for women trying to conceive and pregnant women.

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, talk to your doctor about any additional supplementation you may need during your pregnancy.

Same goes for any diet that cuts out a food group (like gluten-free, dairy-free, etc.).

Then choose a quality prenatal supplement – especially one that includes the B vitamins and vitamin D.

The EU Natural Conception Female Fertility Prenatal also includes herbs that are fabulous for helping you conceive – like vitex and stinging nettle.

If you are nervous about taking a supplement, talk to your doctor about the correct levels for you.

It can be very helpful to have a blood panel to see if you are deficient in any of these vitamins or minerals. This can help guide your extra supplementation choices too.

Read Next: Scientific Studies Reveal The Best Natural Fertility Remedies For a Healthier Pregnancy 

 

Sources:

http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/pregnancy/prenatal-wellness/healthy-weight-during-pregnancy
http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/nutrients-vitamins-pregnancy/
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-nutrition/art-20045082?pg=1
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00127
https://www.babycenter.com/0_manganese-in-your-pregnancy-diet_750.bc
http://natural-fertility-info.com/vitamin-a.html
https://www.babycenter.com/404_is-it-safe-to-take-vitamin-c-during-pregnancy_1246889.bc
http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/vitamin-d-and-pregnancy/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15261784
https://www.babycenter.com/0_chromium-in-your-pregnancy-diet_663.bc
http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/vitamin-overdose/
http://natural-fertility-info.com/vitamin-e-essential-to-improve-fertility.html
http://www.cochrane.org/CD004069/PREG_vitamin-e-supplementation-pregnancy