Vitamin B for Baby Bump
Just because something is healthy doesn’t always mean it’s safe during pregnancy. Many foods and supplements that would otherwise be fine can raise harm for you or your developing baby. Is vitamin B complex one of these problematic dietary supplements?
Easy answer: not at all – any good prenatal vitamin will include the entire vitamin B family!
Let’s take a closer look at the B vitamins in pregnancy: why they are helpful, how much you should take, and why you shouldn’t overdo a good thing.
What Is Vitamin B Complex? (It’s Not That Complex, Don’t Worry)
Unlike vitamin A, C, D, E, or K – there is no singular “vitamin B.” The vitamin B complex is actually a series of 8 vitamins:
- B1 (Thiamine)
- B2 (Riboflavin)
- B3 (Niacin)
- B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- B6 (Pyridoxine)
- B7 (Biotin)
- B9 (Folic Acid/Folate)
- B12 (Cobalamin)
When we discuss the B vitamins, we often label them the “energy” vitamin. That’s because many of them play an important role in the metabolism of macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
But as we will see in the breakdown below, the B complex vitamins actually perform a wide range of important activities. These span from nervous system health to creating glowy skin.
Is Vitamin B Complex Safe for Pregnancy?
The B vitamins are not only safe for pregnancy, they are also essential for pregnancy.
Every human needs adequate vitamin B complex for ultimate wellbeing. But when a baby is developing inside a woman’s body, that need jumps up.
Not only will the pregnant mother need a little extra health boost for herself, but the baby will also need all the benefits offered by B vitamins for proper growth and development.
Having too little can cause problems.
In fact, B9 and B12 deficiencies specifically are two of the most harmful nutrient deficiencies a pregnant woman can face in terms of birth defects (more on that below!). So, it’s not only imperative to take your Bs while pregnant, but also before becoming pregnant.
However, none of this means you should be popping a Vitamin B complex pill.
It is better to take a prenatal vitamin that includes the 8 members of the B complex family than to take a vitamin B complex pill or general multivitamin.
The vitamin B needs you and your baby have throughout a pregnancy are going to be different than any other time in your lives. A high-quality prenatal takes these dosage recommendations into consideration.
How the B Vitamins Help Pregnant Woman and Their Babies
Let’s take a look at the specific ways each of the B vitamins helps. You will also find the ideal daily amount for pregnant women to check against your prenatal, as well as top food sources. It’s a great idea to ensure these vitamin-rich foods pop up in your weekly menus!
1. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Let’s start out with a brain-boosting vitamin B!
Thiamine is vital for the nervous system, heart, muscles, and brain development. Having adequate doses will help you turn any carbs into energy for both of your bodies to use. It also plays a role in electrolyte balance – important, considering your fluid levels have risen.
Daily Thiamine Need in Pregnancy: 1.4 mg
Top Vitamin B1 Food Sources: Pork, flax seeds, navy beans, green peas, tofu, brown rice, asparagus
2. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
No surprise here, but riboflavin is important for energy production by breaking down macronutrients. Also, it will be essential for fetal eye, skin, bone, muscle, nerve, digestive tract lining, blood cell, and growth development.
There are a handful of vitamins that, when too low, can lead to preeclampsia. Vitamin B2 is one of them. Preeclampsia is a dangerous pregnancy condition in which the mother’s blood pressure gets too high.
Daily Riboflavin Need in Pregnancy: 1.4 mg
Top Vitamin B2 Food Sources: Beef, tofu, milk, mushrooms, pork, spinach, almonds, avocados
3. Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Once again, we have a vitamin that helps with the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. On top of that benefit, Niacin also plays an important role in:
- Producing adrenal hormones
- Detoxifying the liver
- Developing the brain
It may also be good for calming a pregnant woman’s nausea.
Daily Niacin Need in Pregnancy: 18 mg
Top Vitamin B3 Food Sources: Chicken, pork, beef, mushrooms, brown rice, peanuts, avocados
4. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Here we have another B vitamin responsible for carbs, protein, and fat metabolism. Vitamin B5 also plays an important role in producing pregnancy hormones and cholesterol.
Additionally, B5 is a part of something called coenzyme A (or “CoA”). Essentially, it plays a vital role in the biochemical reactions that make the body breathe properly.
Mom will be happy to find out that B5 will help lessen muscle cramps!
Daily Pantothenic Acid Need in Pregnancy: 6 mg
Top Vitamin B5 Food Sources: Shiitake mushrooms, avocados, chicken, beef, sunflower seeds, milk
5. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Here’s a pregnancy champion vitamin. Why? It has a reputation of relieving symptoms of morning sickness! One pregnant woman said of her experience with nausea and B6:
I took B6 and it helped a surprising amount! It wasn't perfect all the time. But using B6 with ginger ale definitely helped.
According to the National Institutes of Health, two randomized, placebo-controlled studies showed this vitamin “significantly decreased nausea.”
On top of that huge benefit, vitamin B6 is also very important for:
- Developing a baby’s brain and nervous system
- Metabolizing protein and carbs
- Producing enough serotonin and norepinephrine
- Preventing low birth weight
Daily Pyridoxine Need in Pregnancy: 1.9 mg
Top Vitamin B6 Food Sources: Chicken, tofu, pork, beef, sweet potatoes, bananas, potatoes, avocados
6. Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
Biotin is often used as a “beauty” vitamin for its ability to encourage hair and nail growth, as well as improving the skin. While this can be nice for a pregnant mom who is probably dealing with hormonal skin issues, it is essential for a developing baby.
Not only will it help your little one have nice skin, adequate biotin can prevent rash, cradle cap, eczema, and infant acne.
Vitamin B7, like many of its vitamin B counterparts, is also important for metabolism.
Daily Biotin Need in Pregnancy: 30 mcg
Top Vitamin B7 Food Sources: Eggs, pork, beef, sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, broccoli, cheese
7. Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
Without a doubt, vitamin B9 is the B vitamin that gets the most attention when it comes to pregnancy.
Women who do not consume enough folic acid (also called folate in its natural form) have a much higher risk of giving birth to a baby with neural tube defects. A common one is spina bifida, where the spinal cord does not form properly.
This is so important most doctors encourage women to start taking folate/folic acid supplements well before they try to get pregnant. It is vital to keep your levels up where they need to be until delivery.
Daily Folic Acid Need in Pregnancy: 400 to 600 mcg
Top Vitamin B9 Food Sources: Edamame, lentils, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, avocados, mangos
8. Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Like folic acid, having low vitamin B12 can also lead to higher chances of neural tube defects like spina bifida or encephalocele.
This largely has to do with vitamin B12’s role in the nervous system as well as red blood cell production.
Daily Cobalamin Need in Pregnancy: 2.6 mcg
Top Vitamin B12 Food Sources: Beef, fortified cereal, tofu, milk, cheese, eggs, nutritional yeast
Are There Any Vitamin B Side Effects?
Some people experience a mildly upset stomach when the take vitamin B complex. A prenatal vitamin that contains so many different nutrients can exacerbate the issue.
When most women already experience nausea, adding more with your B vitamins is not a fun idea. You can avoid stomach upset associated with vitamin B complex or a prenatal by:
- Taking the pill with a big meal or at least a hearty snack
- Spreading out the dosage (if one day’s dose is two or three pills, do not take them all at one time)
- Switching the time of day (if you’ve been taking it the morning and feeling ill all day, try taking it before bed and see if you can sleep through it)
Severe allergic reactions to vitamin B complex is extremely rare. Of course, if you ever experience any symptom of an allergic reaction (rash, itching, dizziness, trouble breathing, etc.) during your pregnancy, seek a doctor’s care right away.
Can You Take Too Much Vitamin B?
Even though these vitamins are water-soluble like vitamin C (meaning they are not stored in the body), you should still not take more than the recommended dose.
In the case of these wonderful B vitamins, too much of a good thing is still too much. Don’t think that double doses are going to make you and your baby even healthier.
They will probably make you sicker.
One study found that women who took too much B9 (folic acid/folate) and vitamin B12 (beyond recommended dosage) had a higher chance of their baby developing autism.
Unless your doctor has directly told you to take more of the B vitamins beyond your prenatal, you should not take them on your own.
B Vitamins for Vegan Pregnancy
As you probably noticed in the list of B vitamin food sources, meat and dairy products make the list quite often. Sure, there are plant-based sources of many B vitamins, but they typically aren’t as rich.
Your prenatal should be supplying most of your vitamin B needs, but there are a few things pregnant women can do to make sure their diet is rich in the Bs as well:
- Focus on getting a large variety of produce and whole grains instead of getting stuck in an “eat the same thing every night” rut. That way you are getting exposed to many different types of vitamin B.
- Pay close attention to vitamin B12, as it mostly only appears in animal products. You can find vegan sources of vitamin B12 in fortified nut milk, plant-based yogurt, or cereal.
- Have your doctor check your vitamin levels. You will learn if you are getting enough vitamin B, or you may learn that you are just fine and don’t need additional supplementation.
Using Vitamin B for a Healthy Pregnancy
With a mixture of prenatal vitamins and a well-balanced diet with a variety of produce, protein, whole grains, and vitamins and minerals, you and your baby should be receiving all the vitamin B complex needed for a healthy conception, pregnancy, and delivery.
Here’s your action plan:
- If you are pregnant, make sure the prenatal multivitamin you have chosen gives you plenty vitamin B complex.
- If you are trying to get pregnant, it’s still a great idea to take a prenatal or vitamin B complex to ensure you have enough of the vitamins essential for preventing birth defects.
- If you are a sexually active woman of childbearing age, it is still recommended to take a B vitamin complex pill in case you were to become pregnant at some point.
The added bonus to these extra B complex vitamins is your energy, digestion, eyes, cells, skin, hair, brain, etc. will be better for it!