When you are pregnant, everything you consume matters because it will eventually reach the unborn baby. With many pregnancy vitamins and supplements available in the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right supplements. It is essential to identify the recommended vitamins, herbal supplements, and minerals. Different experts online might contradict one another on information regarding the supplements you should take and the ones to avoid. Before getting started on pregnancy supplements and vitamins, you should consult an experienced OB-GYN. If you are in Los Angeles, we at All Women's Care can guide you on choosing the right pregnancy supplements.

The Importance of Pregnancy Supplements

One of the easiest things you can do to encourage a healthy pregnancy is to take the recommended pregnancy supplements. When combined with a healthy diet, pregnancy supplements help ensure that you and the unborn baby receive vital nutrition at every pregnancy stage.

While you are pregnant, your body's nutritional requirements are unique. Pregnancy supplements help to meet the specific needs of pregnant women. It is worth noting that pregnancy supplements should not replace a healthy or balanced diet. You should combine the supplements with a balanced diet to ensure that your body receives all the nutrients it needs.

Your macronutrient intake need grows significantly during pregnancy. Therefore, your body will require a sufficient supply of macronutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. For instance, pregnant women require a protein intake of 0.5 grams per pound. This is an increase from the recommended protein intake of 0.36 grams per pound in non-pregnant women. Therefore, while pregnant, it is advisable to include protein in every snack and meal to ensure that you meet your nutrient needs.

While pregnant, your body will have an even higher demand for micronutrients than macronutrients. Therefore, you will need to increase your intake of minerals, vitamins, and trace elements. Some people can meet the growing demand for nutrients by adopting a nutrient-dense diet during pregnancy, though it is challenging for most people.

There are several reasons why you may require incorporating pregnancy supplements into your diet:

  • Your doctor may recommend pregnancy supplements if a blood test reveals that you have a mineral or vitamin deficiency. It is imperative to correct nutrient and mineral deficiencies early because they are often associated with birth defects.
  • You may require pregnancy supplements if you experience hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy. This condition is characterized by severe nausea or vomiting, leading to nutrient deficiency and weight loss.
  • Pregnancy supplements come in handy for people on strict diets, mainly vegans or people with allergies and food intolerances. The supplements will supply your body with vital minerals and vitamins to prevent micronutrient deficiencies.
  • While pregnant, it is advisable to quit smoking though some mothers continue smoking. Supplements are ideal for mothers who continue smoking during pregnancy since they have an elevated need for nutrients like folate and vitamin C.
  • Women carrying more than one child, usually known as multiple pregnancies, have a high need for pregnancy supplements. The pregnancy supplements ensure that both the mother and her babies are getting an optimal supply of nutrients. 
  • If you have genetic mutations like MTHFR, a gene that converts folate into a usable form to benefit the body, you will need supplements. You will require pregnancy supplements to help prevent complications.
  • Women who consume low nutrients or often under-eat require pregnancy supplements to meet their nutrient needs. Supplementing their diet with minerals and vitamins helps them to avoid deficiencies. 

All pregnant women should take a folic acid supplement with a prenatal vitamin. They help to meet nutritional needs and prevent developmental complications at birth.

They also help to prevent issues like spina bifida. Your pregnancy supplements needs will vary depending on your circumstances. You should have your healthcare provider direct you on the ideal pregnancy supplements.

Prescription vs. Over-the-counter Pregnancy Supplements

Pregnancy supplements are available through a doctor's prescription or over-the-counter. Most people prefer to obtain pregnancy supplements through a prescription because this assures them that the supplements are of high quality.  If you have specific dietary needs, a healthcare provider will prescribe certain supplements exclusively for you.

You might also choose to purchase pregnancy supplements over the counter.  When buying supplements over the counter, it is important to ensure that you take the time to read the labels. Reading labels will help you understand how much vitamins or minerals you are taking. You should know that it is possible to have too much of certain minerals and vitamins. You should always ensure that you understand the right dosages for you. If you are not sure about the recommended dosages of pregnancy supplements, you should consult your healthcare provider.

The majority of over-the-counter pregnancy supplements are not subject to the same scrutiny or regulation as prescription prenatal vitamins. Therefore, if you choose to buy pregnancy supplements over-the-counter, you should be sure about what you are doing. It is always good to ensure that you buy supplements from reputable brands with a proven track record. 

Herbal Supplements and Pregnancy

Herbal supplements are also popular in addition to micronutrients. A significant percentage of pregnant women in the U.S. use herbal supplements, and most do not even disclose to their healthcare providers that they are using the supplements. Some herbal supplements are safe during pregnancy, but a vast majority of them are not safe. 

Certain herbal supplements could help you get rid of pregnancy ailments like upset stomach and nausea. However, some supplements might be harmful to you and your unborn child.  There isn't adequate research on the effect of herbal supplements on pregnancy.  Therefore, most women do not know the real effect of herbal supplements on them and their babies.  To be safe during pregnancy, you should inform your doctor about any changes in your eating plan or a change in your supplements intake.

Safe Pregnancy Supplements

Pregnancy supplements are safe as long as your health care provider approves them. A health care provider ensures that the supplements are necessary or beneficial to you. They will also ensure that you take the pregnancy supplements in the right amounts. When buying pregnancy supplements, you should ensure that you always buy reputable brands approved by rating organizations like USP (United States Pharmacopeia. This ensures that the pregnancy supplements comply with the set standards and are safe to consume.

Some of the safe and recommended pregnancy supplements are:

Folate Supplements

Folate consists of vitamin B, and it plays a significant role in red blood cell production, DNA synthesis, and fetal growth and development. The synthetic form of folate found in many pregnancy supplements is folic acid. Upon consuming folic acid, it is converted into an active form of folate, beneficial to the body. It is advisable to consume a minimum of 600 micrograms of folic acid or folate per day. This helps to reduce the risk of congenital abnormalities like heart defects and cleft palate. Folate also helps to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

Folate supplements have no adverse side effects. Pregnant women who consume folic acid supplements daily have a low risk of neural tube defects. It is possible to obtain an adequate amount of folate from the diet. However, many pregnant women do not consume enough folate-rich foods, and this makes folate supplements necessary.

The consumption of folate is not just limited to pregnant women. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, commonly abbreviated as CDC, recommends that women of childbearing age consume a minimum of 400 mcg of folic per day. It is common for pregnancy to occur when you least expect it. Birth defects due to folate deficiency may occur very early before you even know that you are pregnant. Those with MTHFR genetic mutation should go for a supplement with L-methyl folate because this ensures maximum uptake.

Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins refer to multivitamins that help to meet the high demand for micronutrients while you are pregnant. You should take prenatal vitamins before conception, during pregnancy, and while breast-feeding. Supplementing your diet with prenatal vitamins helps to reduce the risk of preeclampsia and preterm birth. Preeclampsia refers to a dangerous pregnancy complication usually characterized by protein in the urine and high blood pressure.

Prenatal vitamins should not replace a healthy eating plan. Instead, you should complement a healthy diet with prenatal vitamins. The vitamins will provide the extra macronutrients required during pregnancy and will help to prevent nutritional gaps.

While on prenatal vitamins, you may not need additional mineral and vitamin supplements because prenatal vitamins have all the nutrients your body needs.     However, other mineral and vitamin supplements might be necessary if suggested by your doctor. Prenatal vitamins are often available over-the-counter and could be recommended by a doctor. 

Iron Supplements

During pregnancy, iron needs increase significantly because maternal blood rises by around 45%.  An adequate iron supply helps to ensure healthy growth and development of the unborn child in the placenta. Iron is also critical because it promotes oxygen transport. In the United States, most pregnant women experience iron deficiency, while others suffer from anemia. Anemia is the leading cause of preterm delivery, infant anemia, and maternal depression.

Pregnant women should have a daily iron intake of 27 milligrams. Most women can comfortably meet this intake through prenatal vitamins. However, women who suffer from anemia or iron deficiency might need additional iron doses managed by their doctors. You should not take more than the recommended intake of iron if you are not iron-deficient. Taking more than the recommended dosage of iron could have adverse side effects.  Some of the adverse side effects of excessive iron include abnormally high hemoglobin levels, vomiting, and constipation. 

Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium is a crucial mineral, often involved in numerous chemical reactions in the body. It plays a primary role in enhancing muscle, immune, and nerve function. Having a magnesium deficiency during pregnancy might increase your risk of premature labor and chronic hypertension. Supplementing your diet with magnesium could lower the risk of complications like preterm birth and fetal growth restriction. 

Vitamin D Supplements

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important in boosting the immune function, promotes cell division and bone health. DURING PREGNANCY, Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a high risk of cesarean section, preterm birth, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes. 

Pregnant women should have a daily intake of vitamin D of 15mcg or 600 IU daily during pregnancy. However, some experts point out that pregnant women require a much higher supply of vitamin D. You consult your healthcare provider regarding the proper vitamin D supplementation as well as screening to determine whether you have vitamin D deficiency.

Ginger Supplements

Other than serving as a spice, ginger is also a crucial pregnancy supplement. Ginger in supplement form comes in handy in treating nausea caused by pregnancy. Ginger is safe and effective in treating nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

Even if ginger effectively treats nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, it is always crucial to safely check with your doctor before starting the dosage.  The medical expert will help you determine the maximum safe dosage of the supplement. 

Probiotics Supplements

Many pregnant women turn to probiotics due to the increased awareness of gut health.  Probiotics refer to living microorganisms that help to benefit digestive health. Probiotics are safe to consume during pregnancy and do not have any harmful side effects.  The only inherent risk is probiotic-induced infection.

Probiotic supplementation helps to reduce the risk of postpartum depression, gestational diabetes dermatitis, and infant eczema.  Research on the use of probiotics during pregnancy is still ongoing, including the role of probiotics in fetal and maternal health. 

Fish Oil

Fish oil is also a vital pregnancy supplement that contains DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). These acids are essential fatty acids that play a crucial role in developing a baby's brain. Supplementing your diet with DHA and EPA while pregnant will boost your baby's brain development during pregnancy. These supplements could also help to reduce the risk of maternal depression. 

There is a notable improved cognitive function in the children whose mothers consumed fish oil during pregnancy though the study is still ongoing regarding this concept. Mothers who supplement their diet with fish oil during pregnancy get children with higher cognitive abilities than those who do not consume fish oil.

Supplementing your diet with fish oil also helps to reduce the risk of preterm delivery. Fish oil also helps to boost eye development. Adequate maternal DHA is crucial because it promotes proper fetal development. It is safe to supplement your diet with fish oil during pregnancy, and there are no recorded side effects. 

You can also get the recommended DHA and EPA components from fish; you do not have to restrict yourself to fish oil. You should consume fish that are low in mercury like sardines, salmon, and Pollock during pregnancy. 

Choline Supplements

Choline plays a crucial role in a baby's brain development and helps prevent abnormalities of the spine and the brain.  The recommended daily intake of choline during pregnancy is 450mg per day. However, experts point out that this amount of choline is inadequate, and women should have a daily intake of choline of up to 930mg per day.

It is important to note that prenatal vitamins do not contain choline. In most cases, your doctor will recommend a separate choline supplement. 

Unsafe Supplements During Pregnancy

Even if it is safe to supplement your diet with certain herbs and macronutrients during pregnancy, some supplements are unsafe and should be avoided. Some supplements do not require complete avoidance, but you should avoid taking them in high amounts. If you are taking prenatal vitamins, you should always consult with your doctor before adding additional supplements to your diet.  Some of the pregnancy supplements that you should be careful with are:

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is present in most prenatal vitamins, and it plays a crucial role in the body during pregnancy. Vitamin A helps to boost immune function and enhances fetal vision development. However, too much vitamin A can be harmful. Vitamin A is fat-soluble, and the body stores excess fats in the liver. The accumulation of too much fat could harm the body and lead to liver damage. Too much vitamin A during pregnancy could lead to birth defects.

Consuming too much vitamin A during pregnancy could lead to congenital birth abnormalities. As long as you take a balanced diet and the recommended prenatal vitamins, get an adequate amount of vitamin A. It is not advisable to seek an additional supplementation of vitamin A outside your prenatal vitamins. 

Black Cohosh Plant

The black cohosh plant is a member of the buttercup family, and it is mainly used for several purposes, including controlling menstrual cramps and hot flashes. During pregnancy, it is unsafe to take this herb. The black cohosh could cause contractions that might induce preterm labor. In some people, the black cohosh plant causes liver damage.

Vitamin E Supplements

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in the body, mainly in the immune function and gene expression. Even if vitamin E plays a vital role in our bodies, medics advise against vitamin E supplements.

Vitamin E supplementation does not improve the outcomes for unborn children or their mothers. Instead, excessive consumption of vitamin E supplements increases the risk of abdominal pain. Excessive consumption of vitamin E supplements also increases the risk of amniotic sac rupture.

Goldenseal Plant

It is advisable to avoid goldenseal plants during pregnancy. People use the goldenseal plant as a supplement for treating diarrhea and respiratory infections. However, there is minimal information regarding the plant and its effects on the body.

Why should you avoid the goldenseal plant during pregnancy? Goldenseal contains a substance known as berberine that worsens jaundice in children. The components of the goldenseal plant can also lead to a condition known as kernicterus. Kernicterus is a rare type of brain damage in children that can turn out to be fatal.

Yohimbe Supplements

Yohimbe supplements are made from the bark of a tree native to Africa. Yohimbe supplements serve as herbal remedies for a wide range of conditions like obesity and erectile dysfunction. You should never use the Yohimbe herb during pregnancy. The herb has adverse side effects, including high blood pressure, seizures, and heart attacks.

Dong Quai Root

The Dong Quai root is a popular Chinese herbal medicine that has been in use for over 1000 years. The root is used to treat several conditions, including high blood pressure and menstrual cramps.  However, there isn't much evidence regarding the safety of the Dong Quai root.

During pregnancy, it is advisable to avoid Dong Quai. This root may stimulate contractions and raise the risk of having a miscarriage.

Additional Herbal Supplements to Avoid During Pregnancy

There are some additional herbal supplements that you should avoid during pregnancy. The other unsafe products to avoid are:

  • Tansy
  • Saw palmetto
  • Angelica
  • Red clover
  • Wormwood
  • Yarrow
  • Pennyroyal
  • Blue cohosh
  • Mugwort
  • Ephedra

During pregnancy, you should make health and nutrition a top priority to enhance your well-being and that of your unborn child. Your goal should be to provide the best source of nourishment for your little one. Pregnancy supplements will help you meet the nutrient requirements of your body during pregnancy.

However, as much as pregnancy supplements are crucial to the body, they might have some dangerous side effects for you and your unborn child. You should note that supplements are not meant to replace a healthy diet or lifestyle. You should only rely on pregnancy supplements to fill nutritional gaps that you can't fill through diet.

In addition to using safe pregnancy supplements, you should nourish your body with a rich diet. You should also ensure that you get adequate exercise, rest, and minimize your stress levels. These practices are the best way to enhance a healthy pregnancy and the well-being of you and your baby.

Even if most pregnancy supplements are safe, it is always advisable to contact your doctor before getting started on pregnancy supplements. You should mainly contact your healthcare provider before consuming over-the-counter pregnancy supplements.

Find a Women’s Medical Care Clinic Near Me

One of the best ways to promote healthy birth is to have a healthy pregnancy. If you are pregnant, especially a first-time pregnancy, you may not understand the best pregnancy routine. At All Women's Care in Los Angeles, we will provide you with support and guidance for a healthy pregnancy and childbirth. We will prescribe safe pregnancy supplements and advise you regarding the supplements to avoid. Contact us at 213-250-9461 and speak to one of our gynecologists.