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Eating a healthy diet is always a wise idea -- especially during pregnancy. It's also a good idea during pregnancy to take a prenatal vitamin to help cover any nutritional gaps in the mother's diet.

Prenatal vitamins contain many vitamins and minerals. Their folic acid, iron, iodine, and calcium are especially important and find below more details on important nutrients.

Folic Acid

Folic acid helps prevent neural tube birth defects, which affect the brain and spinal cord.

Neural tube defects develop in the first 28 days after conception, before many women know they are pregnant. Because about half of all pregnancies are unplanned, it's recommended that any woman who could get pregnant take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily, starting before conception and continuing for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Baby Benefits: Helps protect against spinal cord birth defects during the first 30 days of pregnancy, helps prevent early miscarriage and premature delivery.

Your Benefits: Prevents anemia.

Pregnancy RDA: 600 micrograms (mcg)

Best Food Sources:

Lentils, 1 cup cooked -- 358 mcg

Spinach, 1 cup cooked -- 263 mcg

White enriched rice, 1 cup cooked -- 195 mcg

Enriched spaghetti, 1 cup cooked -- 172 mcg

Broccoli, 1 cup cooked -- 168 mcg

Orange juice, 1 cup -- 110 mcg

Enriched bread, 2 slices -- 34 mcg


Calcium is also important for a pregnant woman. It can help prevent her from losing her own bone density as the baby uses calcium for its own bone growth.

Baby Benefits: Builds bones and teeth. (Your growing baby takes the calcium she needs from your body, so to keep your bones and teeth healthy, you need to get enough to replace that amount.)

Your Benefits: Protects your bone density. It may also help prevent high blood pressure while you're pregnant.

Pregnancy RDA: 1,000 milligrams (mg); don't exceed 2,500 mg

Best Food Sources:

Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 1 cup -- 415 mg

Yogurt, low-fat fruit flavored, 1 cup -- 345 mg

Milk, plain or flavored, 1 cup -- about 300 mg

Orange juice, calcium-added, 1 cup -- 300 mg

Cheddar cheese, 1 oz. -- 204 mg

Tofu, firm, prepared with calcium sulfate and magnesium chloride, 1/4 block -- 163 mg

Cottage cheese, 2% milk fat, 1 cup -- 156 mg


Iodine is critical for a woman's healthy thyroid function during pregnancy. A deficiency in iodine can cause stunted physical growth, severe mental disability, and deafness. Not enough iodine can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.

Baby Benefits: Needed for brain and nervous system development; important for preventing stunted growth, severe mental disability, and deafness; important in preventing miscarriage and stillbirth.

Your Benefits: Important for a healthy thyroid.

Pregnancy RDA: 250 mcg, do not exceed 1,100 mcg

Best Food Sources:

Cod, 3 oz. -- 99 mcg

Yogurt, plain, ¾ cup -- 58 mcg

Cottage cheese, 1 cup -- 65 mcg

Baked potato with peel 60 mcg

Cow's milk, 1 cup -- 56 mcg

Fish Sticks, 2 -- 35 mcg

Baked turkey breast, 3 oz. -- 34 mcg

Navy beans, ½ cup cooked -- 32 mcg


Pregnancy can deplete a mother's iron stores. Therefore, it is important to have an appropriate intake of iron to help build and maintain these stores. Low iron levels in early pregnancy have been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.

Baby Benefits: Helps prevent premature delivery.

Your Benefits: Wards off anemia in pregnant women.

Pregnancy RDA: 27 mg; don't exceed 45 mg

Best Food Sources:

Whole Grain Total Cereal, 3/4 cup -- 22 mg

Cheerios, 1 cup -- 10 mg

Enriched rice, 1 cup cooked -- 8 mg

Canned white beans, 1 cup -- 8 mg

Beef, 3 oz. cooked -- 3 mg

Lamb, 3 oz. cooked -- 2 mg

White meat chicken, 3 oz. cooked -- 1 mg

Some prenatal vitamins can cause nausea in an already nauseous pregnant woman. If that happens to you, talk to your health care provider. He or she may be able to prescribe a different kind of prenatal vitamin -- for example, some women may do better with chewable or liquid vitamins rather than those you swallow whole.

Author: Dr Chaminda Kandauda

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