These 10 Vitamins Should Be In Your Prenatal

There’s more to contributing to your baby’s healthy growth than popping a gummy multivitamin, which often has more grams of sugar than actual nutrients. Here’s the scoop on the most important nutrients you should take to support your baby’s development.

By Anna Hugoboom5 min read
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Every new mama knows that you need increased nutrition for your baby in this extremely crucial period of physical formation. Not all prenatal multivitamins are created equal, though. For example, some have choline, and some don’t. Some have methylated B vitamins, and some are “regular.” Some contain iron, others don’t. Often, many multivitamins don’t actually contain all or enough of the necessary nutrients you need for optimal baby growth. 

Because not all prenatals are created equal, check the ingredients label to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need for a healthy baby! Nature’s Way, Garden of Life, and Nature’s Sunshine Products brands are personal favorites because of their quality and well-sourced, organic ingredients.

But now, you’re probably wondering which vitamins are actually the most important and what foods you should increase in your diet to make up for the missing ingredients on your prenatal label, so let’s get into it.

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Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 and is one of the most important vitamins for pregnancy. Folic acid is the synthetic form of B9, and it helps prevent neural tube defects and assists in the production of red blood cells. It’s also critical for genetic formation and facilitates protein metabolism. 

For dosage, amounts are listed as micrograms (mcg) of dietary folate equivalents (DFE). Pregnant women should consume 600mcg, and lactating women should consume about 500mg. Foods naturally high in folate include dark green leafy vegetables, beans, sunflower seeds, fresh fruit, whole grains, liver, and fish. 


Iron supports the development of the placenta and the baby. Iron also supports the thyroid and energy levels, so your metabolism needs iron to work extra hard to support the growth of a new human! 

Foods high in iron include beets, red meat, spinach and other leafy greens, and dark chocolate. Though you should be mindful to eat your chocolate in moderation, studies say very dark chocolate may benefit cardiovascular function and reduce the risk of preeclampsia. These properties are mainly due to the iron and magnesium concentration present in chocolate, so stick to organic and very dark chocolate from quality sources (not candy with tons of sugar and milk added). 


Calcium promotes healthy bone and muscle growth for the baby. Babies deficient in calcium could have bone issues and be at risk for rickets. Besides the musculoskeletal system, calcium also supports the nervous and circulatory systems, and those deficient in calcium are at risk of high blood pressure and developing osteoporosis later in life. 

According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant and lactating women need 1,000mg of calcium per day. Besides (preferably raw) dairy products, foods high in calcium include nuts, beans, salmon, shrimp, sardines, collard greens, chard, kale, broccoli, dried figs, and oranges (OJ doesn’t count unless it’s fresh-squeezed). You can also supplement calcium

Vitamin B Complex

All the B vitamins – especially B6, B9, and B12, a.k.a. the B complex – are extremely important for a healthy pregnancy and optimal growth for baby in the womb. Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is especially crucial for your baby’s healthy brain and neural development. It also helps prevent newborn issues such as skin problems and low birth weight, and it supports blood glucose balance and helps metabolize macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats). B12, or cobalamin, also supports spinal health and the nervous system; it can help prevent spinal (spina bifida) and central nervous system birth defects in your baby. 

Foods high in B vitamins include fish (salmon, cod), lean meats (beef, liver/organ meats, poultry), nuts and seeds (especially sunflower seeds and pistachios), sweet potato, garlic, whole grains like brown rice and fortified oatmeal, beans and legumes, peas, bananas, avocados, spinach, and bell peppers. 

For pregnant women, the recommended daily intake of B6 is between 25 and 50mg per day and 400-800 mcg of B9 per day. For B12, you should consult with your care provider so that you don’t overdose, especially if you’re not deficient. In addition to diet, you can supplement B vitamins. Nature’s Sunshine Products has a B-Complex or a B-Complex Balanced. Nature’s Way also has a B-Complex

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to protect cells against damage caused by free radicals, so it helps the immune system fight infections and counter toxic pollutants. Besides assisting the baby’s healthy growth in the womb, vitamin C helps reduce the risk of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and maternal anemia. Vitamin C also is a factor in iron absorption, energy production, and collagen synthesis.

In addition to general fruits and veggies, foods especially high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries (especially strawberries), acerola cherry powder, kiwi, bell pepper, tomato, cruciferous vegetables, and white potatoes. Cooking or canning reduces the content and potency in produce, so the best food sources for vitamin C are raw. 

You can supplement Vitamin C if you’re not able to consume enough through diet. NSP has a high potency one and a chewable one. Cymbiotika has Vitamin C in delicious flavored packets. Nature’s Way has vitamin C options, including their C-boosted prenatal vitamin. Pregnant women under 18 years should consume 80mg per day, and those older than 18 should consume at least 85mg per day.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, both of which are needed for building bone and general homeostasis. Also vital for the immune system, Vitamin D can help reduce cancer growth and prevent disease, as well as fight infections and reduce inflammation. 

Vitamin D is strongly correlated with mental health and is considered a major factor in reducing symptoms of depression and negative emotions. Literally from sunshine, vitamin D is the happy vitamin. Sunlight exposure stimulates your body’s natural production of vitamin D in your system. This is why seasonal depression is a thing during winter months when there is less sunlight and why sunny states like Florida are considered some of the happiest and healthiest places to live in the U.S.

The few foods naturally high in vitamin D include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), liver and red meat, eggs, mushrooms, spinach, and dairy products. You can also supplement with fish oils, such as cod liver oil (like this one), or vitamin D3. The recommended intake amount for adults is 600 IU (15 mcg) of vitamin D daily. Many adults may be deficient, especially if they live in an area that’s not very sunny, is they don’t spend much time outdoors, or if they don’t consume animal products. Studies suggest that vegans are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency and thus depression than those who consume fish/animal products. You can ask your medical provider to test your vitamin D levels with a blood test and see how much you need to supplement. 


Iodine supports healthy brain growth and function. Maternal iodine deficiencies can cause neurodevelopmental problems and thyroid deficiencies in offspring. Smoking depletes your body’s iodine levels, so women who smoke are at a higher risk of deficiency.

Foods high in iodine include seaweed (nori, kelp, wakame), fish (cod, shrimp), iodized table salt, dairy products (preferably raw), beef liver, eggs, and chicken. The maximum recommended intake for pregnancy is 1,100 mcg daily. If you may not be consuming enough iodine through your diet, then be sure any prenatal supplements you take contain iodine. It is possible to overdose on iodine and trigger thyroid issues, so ask your medical provider to test before self-prescribing extra iodine.


Among its many benefits, magnesium supports the nervous system, bone and muscle development, and good digestion. Foods high in magnesium include spinach and leafy greens, broccoli, sweet potatoes, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, avocados, brown rice, edamame, and black beans. 

Omega Fats

Omega-3 fats are essential to certain physiological functions such as blood pressure, hormonal balance, immune response, and nerve transmission. They’ve also been shown to play key roles in preventing heart disease, improving brain function, and regulating inflammation. 

For pregnancy, omega-3 fatty acids are very important for both the health of the mother and the baby, and they help promote the baby’s brain and eye growth and early development. They are important building blocks for growth, yet our bodies cannot make these fatty acids on their own, so we have to access them through diet. 

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include eggs, fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, mahi mahi), walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds. You can supplement omega-3 fatty acids with fish oils like this one or this one from Garden of Life. You can also take prenatal DHA supplements like this one from Thorne or this one from Nordic Naturals. Pregnant women should consume 200-300mg of omega-3 per day.


Last but definitely not least, choline is important during pregnancy for brain and neurotransmitter development as well as for gene expression. Choline is key for early neurodevelopment and lifelong mental health and supports the synthesis of DHA and fatty acids like omega-3s. Choline deficiency could cause vision and neurocognitive problems in your baby.

You can eat your choline mostly in lean protein foods. Foods high in choline include liver, eggs, beef, chicken breast, fish, dairy, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. You should consume about 450mg of choline per day when pregnant. 

Closing Thoughts 

It’s no small feat to grow another human being from its beginnings inside you. Your body is working so much harder than normal, and your metabolism is competing with that of an Olympian athlete! Be mindful of your cravings – they usually mean you need a nutrient in that food you might be deficient in (like menstruating girls craving dark chocolate because they need the magnesium and iron in it). Drink plenty of water infused with raspberries, cucumber, or mint to help with nausea. Be sure to consume plenty of quality protein and a variety of produce to get good nutrients for yourself and your tiny human!

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