Best Pregnancy Supplements
Whether you’re trying for a baby, have a bun in the oven, or are a new mum, there’s a huge list of vitamins and minerals that can support you during your pregnancy.
Blackmores Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding Gold contains 20 vital nutrients - including folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D - to support you and your bub’s health and development.
Minimal side effects
Gave expectant mothers energy
No bad aftertaste
Ovitae Pre-Conception Support can help prepare your body for conception by providing you with some of the essential nutrients needed for a healthy reproductive system.
Gentle on stomach
Aftertaste isn't unpleasant
What supplements should you take during pregnancy?
Pregnant women are often at the receiving end of unsolicited advice from friends and strangers alike. While it’s often well-meaning, it can overwhelm expectant mothers with information and make it difficult for them to cut through the noise and know what is actually important when it comes to their own health and that of their baby.
There are no specific supplements you “should” be taking, however they can aid your own health as well as the growth and development of your child. The truth is, every pregnancy is different, and whether certain supplements will actually benefit you can depend on a variety of factors.
If you are considering taking any supplements during pregnancy, consult with your doctor first to talk about your specific health requirements.
Antenatal (or prenatal) supplements will usually contain a combination of the following vitamins and minerals:
Folic acid (folate)
Folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) aids in the development of a foetus’ nervous system and helps protect against neural tube defects (including spina bifida), so pregnant women should ensure they’re getting enough of this important vitamin.
It’s generally recommended to take a daily folic acid supplement of 500 micrograms if you’re planning a pregnancy or are in your first 12 weeks of pregnancy. You should also eat foods high in folate - this includes green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, legumes and nuts.
Some women are at a higher risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect. This includes women who have already had a baby with a neural tube defect, women with a neural tube defect or close relative with the condition, those who take medication for seizures or epilepsy, and women who have type 1 diabetes.
If this is you, you may need a higher dose of folic acid, however higher doses must be taken under medical supervision.
The recommended daily intake of iron for pregnant women is 27mg per day (this is 9mg a day more than for women who aren’t pregnant). While this requirement increases, pregnant women don’t experience as much iron loss as they don’t menstruate.
It’s still important to eat iron-rich foods (such as red meat, seafood, beans, and fortified cereals), however having low iron levels during pregnancy is common, and so iron supplements may be needed. Often vegans, vegetarians, and teenagers (as they’re still growing themselves) who are pregnant greatly benefit from iron tablets.
If you decide to take iron supplements as well as a general antenatal supplement, it may be a good idea to take them at different times of the day. This is because iron absorption can be inhibited by nutrients commonly found in multivitamins, such as calcium and zinc.
Iodine helps reduce the risk of a condition called cretinism in your baby, which causes a reduction in mental capacity and physical deformities or abnormalities.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women require more iodine, particularly during the first 20 weeks, and so it’s recommended to have 150 micrograms of iodine supplementation per day if you’re planning a pregnancy, pregnant, or breastfeeding. Foods that are iodine-rich include seafood, seaweed, eggs, meat, and dairy products.
If you’re iodine-deficient, your doctor may recommend supplementation prior to conception, as it can take up to 5 months of mineral supplementation for your body stores to return to a healthy level.
Vitamin D3 is vital for hormone and immune function and helps build and maintain healthy bones and teeth by assisting with calcium absorption for both you and your bub.
Since most of our vitamin D3 intake comes from the sun, women with darker skin, women who wear concealing clothing (for religious or personal reasons), and women who don’t spend much time outdoors may be at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency.
A blood test can determine your vitamin D levels, and your doctor may recommend vitamin D3 supplements if these results are low.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids help with the development of your baby’s brain, vision, and nervous system. DHA is a particularly important omega-3 fatty acid that is marine-based, and so supplementation might be important if you don’t eat oily fish such as salmon or trout multiple times a week.
If, like many other pregnant women, you have an increased sensitivity to taste, you can find odourless fish oil to help you get your omega-3s without having to deal with a fishy aftertaste.
Vitamin B12 helps the body absorb folate, promotes nervous system health, and aids the formation of DNA and red blood cells in your baby. Because it’s generally obtained from animal foods, including animal by-products (such as dairy and eggs), B12 supplementation may be particularly important for vegan and vegetarian expectant mothers.
B12 supplementation can benefit mothers during pregnancy as well as while they’re breastfeeding.
How about herbal supplements?
Some herbal supplements, such as red raspberry leaf and ginger root, are thought to be beneficial for the health of pregnant women and their babies. However, just because herbs are natural, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily safe to take.
Talk to your doctor about any herbal supplements you’re considering taking. Don’t assume that because your doctor gives you the OK to take a herbal supplement, that that means you can take other kinds of herbal supplements during pregnancy.
Tips for taking pregnancy supplements
- Ensure you take your supplements during meals to maximise absorption and reduce the chance that they’ll upset your stomach and cause nausea.
- Check the ingredients of multivitamins against supplementation your doctor has recommended, taking note of the dosage of each active ingredient. Keeping track of these can help you achieve a blood test result with healthy levels across the board.
- Don’t assume that more of a nutrient equals more health benefits. Some vitamins and supplements can be dangerous when taken in large amounts (such as vitamin A, vitamin B6, or vitamin C, to name a few), so ensure you seek medical advice before taking them.
- Sometimes the iron in antenatal vitamins can cause constipation. To prevent this, drink plenty of fluids, eat more fibre-rich foods, and ask your doctor about using a stool softener.
Are antenatal and postnatal vitamins the same?
Because many of the nutritional requirements are the same or similar between pregnancy stages, many pregnancy supplements are formulated to also accommodate the needs of women trying to conceive as well as new mothers in the postpartum stage. This eliminates the need for you to switch supplements between stages and start that whole new painful process of trial and error each time.
There are however supplements specifically for the postnatal period - these are often marketed as for breastfeeding mothers, as the nutrients are generally geared towards newborn development and sometimes contain ingredients that assist with the production of breast milk.
Certain herbs, such as fenugreek and fennel, are touted as helping with lactation and preventing hair loss, and are sometimes included as ingredients in postnatal supplements for this reason. More often than not, the support for these ingredients is anecdotal rather than scientific - this isn’t necessarily a reason to steer clear of them, but as you should with anything you ingest, take hearsay with a grain of salt.
Commonly asked questions
When should I start taking pregnancy supplements?
Ideally, you should start taking pregnancy supplements before conceiving, when you start trying for a pregnancy. Of course, not all women who fall pregnant have the luxury of planning on their side, so discuss with your doctor as soon as you know you are pregnant so you can start taking any needed vitamins for early pregnancy as soon as you can.
How long should I take antenatal vitamins for after delivery?
Generally speaking, you can continue to take your antenatal or postnatal supplements for at least 6 months postpartum to replenish and maintain your nutrient stores, or for the whole breastfeeding period if you are breastfeeding your baby. Check the packaging of your antenatal supplements to see whether they are also suitable to take after delivery.
Can certain vitamins and supplements help me conceive?
There’s no conclusive evidence that taking a certain supplement can help with conception, however there are plenty of men and women who swear that certain pre-pregnancy vitamins helped them get a positive pregnancy result. If you do decide to take fertility or preconception supplements, remember to not put all of your faith in a tablet.
The bottom line
Vitamins and supplements should never replace a healthy, balanced diet. You can’t out-supplement poor nutrition.
This article provides general information about taking supplements while pregnant. You and your doctor know your specific health requirements, and so you should discuss with them for individualised advice so you know what to try and what to bump.
Preconception, pregnancy, and the postpartum period can be a difficult time, particularly when you’re trying to navigate your body’s physical and emotional changes as well as meet its increased nutritional needs.
If you’re worried about not being able to find a pregnancy supplement that’s right for you, rest easy - it’s completely normal, and good things take time.