Prenatal Vitamins Explained

Prenatal Vitamins Explained

Prenatal vitamins are a definite DO when you are in your reproductive years and when you’re pregnant. But there are so many out there, it’s hard to know which vitamin is right for you. Getting the facts about prenatal vitamins will help you avoid confusion.

Who should take prenatal vitamins?

Pregnant women, for starters. But most doctors will tell you that it’s a good idea to start your prenatal vitamin regimen before you’re pregnant, to help ensure that you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need to support your health – and baby’s – from the outset of and during pregnancy.

What should you look for in a prenatal vitamin?

Occasionally, your doctor will prescribe or recommend a specific prenatal vitamin. If he/she doesn’t, look for one that includes the following vitamins and minerals, as listed by the American Pregnancy Association.

Remember, it is important to eat a balanced nutrient-rich diet. A prenatal vitamin is meant to complement your diet; it is not a substitute for a healthy diet. The chart below also helps you know which foods provide the recommended nutrients to help maintain a healthy pregnancy.

And as always, please consult your doctor before taking any dietary supplement or if you have questions about dietary supplements and your diet.

Nutrients And Vitamins For Pregnancy

Essential Vitamin/Mineral: Why You Need It: Where You Find It:
Vitamin A & Beta Carotene(770 mcg/ 1283.33 IU) Helps bones and teeth grow Liver, milk, eggs, carrots, spinach, green and yellow vegetables, broccoli, potatoes, pumpkin, yellow fruits, cantaloupe
Vitamin D (5 mcg/ 400 IU) Helps body use calcium and phosphorus; promotes strong teeth and bones Milk, fatty fish, sunshine
Vitamin E (15 mg/ 30 IU) Helps body form and use red blood cells and muscles Vegetable oil, wheat germ, nuts, spinach, fortified cereals
Vitamin C (80 – 85 mg) An antioxidant that protects tissues from damage and helps body absorb iron; builds healthy immune system Citrus fruits, bell peppers, green beans, strawberries, papaya, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes
Thiamin/B1 (1.4 mg) Raises energy level and regulates nervous system Whole grain, fortified cereals, wheat germ, organ meats, eggs, rice, pasta, berries, nuts, legumes, pork
Riboflavin/B2 (1.4 mg) Maintains energy, good eyesight, healthy skin Meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, fortified cereals, eggs
Niacin/B3 (18 mg) Promotes healthy skin, nerves and digestion High-protein foods, fortified cereals and breads, meats, fish, milk, eggs, peanuts
Pyridoxine/B6 (1.9 mg) Helps form red blood cells; helps with morning sickness Chicken, fish, liver, pork, eggs, soybeans, carrots, cabbage, cantaloupe, peas, spinach, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, bananas, beans, broccoli, brown rice, oats, bran, peanuts, walnuts
Folic Acid/Folate (600 mcg) Helps support the placenta, and reduces the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects Oranges, orange juice, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, spinach, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, fortified cereals, peas, pasta, beans, nuts
Calcium (1,000 – 1,300 mg) Creates strong bones and teeth, helps prevent blood clots, helps muscles and nerves function Yogurt, milk, cheddar cheese, calcium-fortified foods like soy milk, juices, breads, cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish with bones
Iron (27 mg) Helps in the production of hemoglobin; reduces the risk of anemia, low birth weight, and premature delivery Beef, pork, dried beans, spinach, dried fruits, wheat germ, oatmeal or grains fortified with iron
Protein (71 mg) Helps in the production of amino acids; repairs cells Most animal foods, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, veggie burgers, beans, legumes, nuts
Zinc (11-12 mg) Helps produce insulin and enzymes Red meats, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereals, oysters, dairy products

Sources: American Pregnancy Association; Your Pregnancy and Birth, Month to Month, Fifth Ed. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Ch. 13; Institute of Medicine of the National Academies,