What Should Be in Your Prenatal Vitamin – How Do You Know?
If you are pregnant, chances are you’ve spent some time – and by some, I mean too much time – in the vitamin aisle at the pharmacy. But we do it because we want to know what we are taking and we hope we’re making the right decision for our growing baby.
The problem is that most people aren’t sure what is supposed to be in a prenatal. There isn’t much information available about what you should be taking if you are pregnant or trying. It’s a difficult market to navigate, but we’ve outlined some basic nutrient intake info to arm you with exactly what you need to know: what should be in your prenatal vitamin.
What Should be in Your Prenatal Vitamin
If you are reading our content, you’ve heard us mention the daily 30 quite a bit. These are 30 essential vitamins and minerals that your body cannot make and must get through food or supplements. Pregnancy does not change this requirement, but there are key vitamins that should be in your prenatal to support a healthy development of your baby and support you at the same time.
Your baby needs calcium to support the growth of strong health bones and teeth, and you both need it for just about every move you make. Calcium triggers muscle contraction. So to simply chew the food you’re eating or to watch your sweet growing baby suck his or her thumb, you need calcium.
Dark leafy green vegetables and diary (optional) can be included in a pregnancy diet. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for pregnancy is 1,000 mg if you are reading the vitamin label for what should be in your prenatal vitamin.
Iron helps to deliver red blood cells to your baby and helps distribute normal levels of oxygen to both you and your little pea (or possibly grapefruit). Iron is so important, in fact, that the RDA for pregnancy nearly doubles compared to the recommendation for non-pregnant women. Many women struggle with iron related issues in pregnancy. Too little iron intake or absorption can lead to anemia related issues and constipation can often arise when taking high doses. It’s a delicate balance and based on your specific needs.
Heme-iron from red meat is most readily absorbed, but plant-based diets offer iron as well. Pairing vitamin C with iron (especially when consuming plant-based sources) helps to improve absorption and functional use of iron and can decrease GI issues related to iron intake. Stick to the RDA of 27mg for pregnancy and have your physician monitor your anemia status as throughout your pregnancy.
Iodine is an essential nutrient that promotes healthy brain development for your baby and can decrease that term people float when you become pregnant- ‘mommy brain’ or ‘brain fog’. But, actually, it’s a reality for some.
For most Americans you get enough, because table salt and breads are often fortified with iodine. High blood pressure is a real risk in pregnancy, so don’t start upping your salt intake. You can get all you need through food and your prenatal. Ocean caught fish is naturally rich in iodine. Other food sources include dairy, eggs and vegetables grown in iodine rich soil. Iodine should be in your prenatal, so look for it on the label. What should be in your prenatal vitamin in regards to iodine? The RDA for pregnancy is 220 mcg per day. Aim to get a combined value in that range by consuming a healthy pregnancy diet and prenatal to support you and your baby.
What’s that? That’s the question almost everyone asks us when we mention choline. Choline is important for the development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Yes, it’s not just folate. That means you should be taking this daily even before you are pregnant.
You can get choline in milk, beef liver (not sure many are eating this??), peanuts and soy products. It turns out that eggs are a great source of nearly all of the critical nutrients required during pregnancy, including choline. For those with diets that do not include these foods sources (which is a large number of pregnant women), choline intake through food alone is fairly limited.
The RDA for pregnant women is 450 mg/day. I challenge you to make sure this is on your label. You would be surprised how many prenatals do not include this nutrient. However, choline should be in your prenatal.
This is one vitamin to keep in check. Vitamin A is necessary for a healthy pregnancy, but too much can be an issue. Vitamin A helps with healthy skin formation, eyesight development and bone growth. Food sources include carrots, green leafy vegetables and sweet potatoes.
The RDA for pregnancy is 770 mcg RAE. It should be in your prenatal, but keep in mind that you are looking for a combined intake to meet the RDA.
If you eat citrus frequently, you’re probably getting enough vitamin C to support your needs. But, when you’re growing a new baby in there, your little pea needs some too. Foods like oranges, strawberries, broccoli and tomatoes all have vitamin C. Depending on the time of year (unless you live in a sunny state like Florida), these may not be readily available.
It’s pretty incredible that your body adapts when you become pregnant to direct nutrients to the baby first then you get what is left over. That’s why your baby can be growing at a healthy rate, but you feel tired all of the time. If left unchecked, it would likely start to affect your little one as well. Nearly all pregnancy related nutrients are necessary in slightly higher doses than when you aren’t pregnant. Vitamin C is no exception. The RDA for vitamin C in pregnancy is 85 mg.
Vitamin D is involved in nearly every process in your body, including immunity. For your health and the health of your baby, getting enough vitamin D is a must. The majority of the US (94% in fact) are deficient in vitamin D due to the fact that they either do not consume enough through food, do not get enough sun exposure daily or they cannot convert it into the usable form- vitamin D3. A large body of building evidence suggests that vitamin D deficiency is significantly associated with many of the chronic disease and autoimmune disorders that Americans (and our global community) face. Ensuring it is available in the earliest days of development can help set the stage for healthy outcomes later in life.
Your baby uses vitamin D for bone and teeth development, healthy skin and vision and immune health. It’s a nutrient that should be included in your prenatal. You need 15 mcg daily during pregnancy to meet the RDA. This is one of the few recommendations that stays consistent across nearly all of your adult life, even during pregnancy. So, making sure you always have a pulse on your vitamin D status is important.
Nutrient intake during pregnancy involves the birds and the B’s in more ways than you thought. Vitamin B6, also listed on the label as pyridoxine, is one of several B vitamins necessary for a healthy pregnancy. It helps your baby form red blood cells, use macronutrients- protein, fat, and carbohydrates- and supports brain and immune health. Dietary patterns that include beef, liver, pork, ham, whole-grain cereals and bananas will be rich in B6.
If you’re not part of the lucky 50% of pregnant women, then it’s likely that you may experience some or significant nausea during the first trimester. B6 supplements can help with pregnancy related nausea, but should be taken under the supervision of your OBGYN. It’s responsible for more than just controlling nausea, so it should be in your prenatal if you are pregnant. The RDA is 1.9 mg.
Creating a healthy nervous system for your baby from the very start involves taking in enough vitamin B12 while pregnant. B12 is also involved in red blood cell formation, iron delivery and appropriate oxygenation. Meat, fish, poultry and milk all offer some B12- but to ensure adequate intake for both you and your growing baby- make sure your prenatal includes vitamin B12 on the ingredient list. Methylcobalamin is the usable form of vitamin B12. If you have absorption issues, make sure you are taking the right type.
Vegetarians, vegans and those on a plant-based diet (low dairy, reduced animal protein) may have difficulty getting enough B12 through diet alone, depending on dietary patterns. For B12 during pregnancy, supplementation during pregnancy is a must. The RDA of 2.6 mcg should be adequate.
All women of childbearing age should get enough folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube deficiencies. This issue develops very early in pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. The National Academy of Medicine encourages folate intake throughout childbearing years.
Those diagnosed with MTHFR- a genetic variation that inhibits conversion of folate to the usable methylated form- should select a prenatal that offers folate as methylfolate to reduce the likelihood of NTD.
The NIH recommends that all women of childbearing age meet the RDA of 400 mcg through supplementation or fortification in addition to a varied diet. The RDA increases to 600 mcg during pregnancy.
Other nutrients that should be in your prenatal
Omega-3, DHA and probiotics are also important to include in your prenatal regimen. Omega-3 helps with cellular structure. DHA helps with brain development. Probiotics help with gut health. All three of these nutrients play a supportive role to the nutrients listed above and create an optimal environment for your baby to thrive. These additional nutrients should be in your prenatal regimen. Sometimes they are included in the prenatal multi, so you only need to take one pill. However, if your prenatal does not include this trifecta, then they will likely need to be supplemented additionally to meet your needs.
Prenatal Intake is Personal
We are all human and need basically the same types of nutrients to survive. When it comes to nutrition, one thing is abundantly clear. Vitamin intake is personal. All the things in research, not just the trends but the real, actual research, shows us that achieving optimal nutrient intake requires a personal strategy. The evidence has been around for decades and science (and technology) is finally catching up to what we know to be the best approach.
What should be in your prenatal vitamin, how much you need and what form you need, is all dependent on your genetic makeup and how your process each nutrient. It’s that simple. So, the next question you ask right after what should be in your prenatal vitamin is “Which prenatal is exactly right for me?”
Meet Your Match
Though dosage requirements for nutrient intake increase during pregnancy, intake is nuanced and can be different for every person. Tailoring your nutrient intake to your individual needs is the best strategy for a healthy pregnancy. That’s where Vitamin & Me comes in – our custom vitamin quiz matches you with prenatal vitamins that fit your specific needs. Talk to your doctor about what vitamins and minerals to prioritize in your pregnancy and leave the guesswork to us. We offer a range of the highest quality prenatal vitamin brands so you can have a happier, healthier pregnancy.
Tell us all the things you want more of and we’ll deliver