Folic Acid: Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent serious birth defects of a baby’s brain or spine. These are called neural tube defects. Getting enough folic acid can also help prevent birth defects like cleft lip and congenital heart disease. These birth defects often happen before most women know they’re pregnant. Most prenatal supplements contain 600 micrograms of folic acid or more. This is the daily amount recommended for pregnant women.
Iron: Pregnant women need extra iron for the increasing amount of blood in their bodies. Iron helps keep your blood healthy and able to carry oxygen to your cells. Plus, your baby needs to store iron in his or her body to last through the first few months of life. Too little iron can cause a condition called anemia. If you have anemia, you might look pale or notice paleness under your nails, and feel very tired. Your healthcare team checks for anemia with blood tests during your pregnancy. Most prenatal supplements contain 27 milligrams of iron. This is the daily amount recommended for pregnant women.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: For pregnant and nursing women, omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, are important for the health of mom and baby. DHA is the most common omega-3, and getting plenty of it will help to support a baby’s brain and eye development and function. Women should get at least 200 milligrams of DHA every day. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish, algae oil, and fish oil. Keep in mind that pregnant women need to be careful about the kinds of fish they eat. Talk to your healthcare team about proper diet during pregnancy.
Flaxseed is another source of omega-3 fatty acids. Some animal studies have shown that flaxseed can be harmful during pregnancy. So it may be wise to avoid flaxseed if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Prenatal vitamins: Your provider will recommend a prenatal vitamin to ensure that you and your baby get balanced amounts of the vitamins and minerals you need. Further supplements aren’t usually needed, unless recommended by your healthcare team.