Supplements Vitamin Pregnancy

When a woman becomes pregnant, her body will require different amounts of vitamins than it normally would to sustain functioning while supporting the growth of the fetus. Specifically, pregnancy causes a woman’s body to experience drastic hormone changes, to take on added strain and to, at times, develop other medical conditions (such as gestational diabetes), all of which will affect the type of vitamins a pregnant woman needs and should take.

However, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increases its recommendations for specific vitamins, it warns against taking other supplements, namely certain herbal supplements, to prevent pregnancy complications from developing.

As a result, talk about the best possible pre-natal vitamins you can take. Your doctor can inform you of which vitamins are safe and which put you and your fetus at risk for developing health problems.

Recommended Vitamin Intake During Pregnancy

The FDA has categorized all possible vitamins and drugs into five different categories that describe the degree to which each is safe or unsafe for use by pregnant women. The categories range from A (safe substances) to X (substances that cause serious harm). Because overdosing on healthy vitamins can cause health problems, the FDA classifies all vitamins in category B, meaning that they are safe when the proper doses are taken.

The following chart outlines the amount of essential vitamins and minerals a pregnant woman should ingest each day.

Type of Vitamin or Mineral

Recommended Intake

Mg=milligrams

Mcg=

micromilligrams

How this Vitamin Supports Pregnancy Health

Foods That Contain This Vitamin

Vitamin A

700 mcg

Promotes healthy bones, teeth

Broccoli, carrots, eggs, milk, liver

B1-Thiamin

1.4 mg

Boosts energy, controls nervous system

Whole grains, legumes, pork, eggs

B2-Riboflavin

1.4 mg

Boosts energy, sustains eye and skin health

Meat, fish, dairy products

B3-Niacin

18 mg

Sustains healthy skin, promotes healthy digestion

Meat, fish, dairy products, nuts

B6-Pyridoxine

1.9 mg

Prevents blood disorders and morning sickness

Bran, broccoli, fish, carrots, soy products, legumes, nuts

Folic Acid

600 mcg

Strengthens the placenta, prevents severe birth defects (i.e., spina bifida)

Broccoli, cauliflower, legumes, oranges, legumes, nuts

Vitamin C

85 mg

Promotes iron absorption, boosts immune system

Broccoli, tomatoes, citrus fruits

Calcium

1300 mg

Strengthens muscles and bones, promotes healthy circulation

Dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables

Vitamin D

5 mcg

Promotes calcium absorption, strengthens bones

Fish, milk

Vitamin E

15 mcg

Prevents blood disorders, promotes muscle health

Spinach, nuts, vegetable oils

Iron

27 mg

Prevents premature birth and blood disorders (i.e., anemia), promotes healthy birth weight

Spinach, wheat germ, beef, pork

Protein

60 mg

Promotes amino acid production

Meat, dairy products, legumes, nuts

Zinc

12 mg

Stimulates insulin and enzyme production

Dairy products, legumes, red meats, nuts

Your doctor can recommend a safe, effective pre-natal supplement that can provide you with the adequate amounts of the above vitamins. Keep in mind, however, that getting these nutrients from food is the best option. If you are worried that you aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals from your diet or you have food restrictions, then consider taking a doctor-recommended supplement during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Complications from Vitamin Overdoses

While taking vitamins is a good way to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy fetus, keep in mind that you need to stick to the above recommendations for pregnant women’s vitamin intake. If you somehow happen to overdose on vitamins while pregnant, you will likely experience some combination of the following symptoms:

  • arrhythmias
  • blurred vision
  • diarrhea
  • dry, peeling skin
  • excessive bleeding
  • general fatigue
  • headaches
  • increased disposition to bruising
  • lowered blood pressure
  • nausea
  • vomiting.

Because these symptoms can be general or may indicate other conditions, be sure to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you have overdosed on vitamins. Unchecked vitamin overdoses can cause pregnant women to develop any of the following conditions or complications:

  • gestational diabetes
  • low birth weight
  • miscarriage
  • premature birth
  • stillbirth.

Similarly, a mother’s vitamin overdoses will cause the fetus to suffer from serious health problems, including:

  • facial abnormalities
  • heart defects
  • nerve system disorders (such as multiple sclerosis)
  • newborn scurvy
  • retardation (both physical and mental).

Herbs to Avoid During Pregnancy

While pregnant women should limit or increase the amounts of some vitamins they take, they also need to avoid specific herbs to promote the optimum health for them and their unborn babies. Keep in mind, however, that the way you ingest the herb can affect whether or not that particular herb is a health risk.

For example, while eating Rosemary in foods is safe for pregnant women, taking medicinal amounts of Rosemary in supplements can stimulate menstruation, causing pregnancy complications.

Here is an outline of which herbs to avoid, regardless of form, along with the reasons why pregnant women should avoid them:

Herb

Complications

Barberry

Triggers contractions

Blue Cohosh

Can induce labor, causes overactive bladder

Don Quai

Stimulates menstruation

Mistletoe

Is toxic to the fetus

Peruvian Bark

Can cause blindness, coma

Pokeroot

May cause birth defects

Sassafras

May cause birth defects

Saw Palmetto

Stimulates inappropriate hormone activity

Wormwood

May cause birth defects

If you are considering starting an herbal or multivitamin supplement while pregnant, talk to your doctor first to make sure that it is safe and won’t cause any health problems for you or your fetus.

Resources

American Pregnancy Association (n.d.). Essential Nutrients and Vitamins For Pregnancy Use. Retrieved November 9, 2007, from the APA Web site: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/nutrientsvitaminspregnancy.html.

Babycentre (n.d.). Herb and Drub Safety Chart. Retrieved November 9, 2007, from the Babycentre Web site: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/pregnancy/isitsafeto/herb