If you’re a soon-to-be mama, trying to stay on top of all the latest information to ensure a healthy pregnancy can be a bit overwhelming! First off, let me tell you this: you’re probably already doing an amazing job taking care of that growing bundle of joy in your belly.
Second, I wanted to share some tips I learned along the way when it comes to key vitamins for pregnant women. I know sometimes the medical handouts can be a bit confusing, so hopefully, this will help break it down for you in an easy-to-understand way!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Viactiv. As always, all opinions are my own.
While every nutrient is important, there are three key vitamins for pregnant women that become even more important at this stage of life…
Why do you need calcium during pregnancy?
Your growing baby needs calcium to help develop healthy bones and teeth – just like we need it for that purpose throughout life. Also, calcium is involved in proper heart and muscle function for your little one.
If you don’t get enough calcium during pregnancy, your body will actually take it from your own bones to provide to your baby. This ensures the baby develops properly, but it puts you at risk for weak bones and potentially osteoporosis down the road.
How much calcium does a pregnant woman need?
Pregnant women, as well as women who aren’t carrying babies, need 1300 mg of calcium per day. The requirement doesn’t increase during pregnancy – it’s just super important to meet those needs to ensure both you and your baby have good bone health.
What’s the best way to meet calcium needs?
Calcium is found primarily in dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese – as well as in certain plant-based foods like broccoli, dried figs, tofu, and sesame seeds. (This chart has a really handy breakdown of how much calcium is in various foods!).
While you can meet your calcium needs through food sources alone, many women struggle to do so – especially during pregnancy, when morning sickness or cravings can throw off our normal healthy diet. I know for me, I was not gulping down glasses of milk or eating tons of broccoli in that first trimester.
One great way I found to help supplement calcium intake was with Viactiv Calcium Soft Chews. They come in flavors like milk chocolate and caramel – yes, please! – and each chew provides 650 mg of calcium. That means you could take two a day and you’d meet your daily needs.
Plus, I like that they’re a bit more balanced compared to some of the other calcium gummy supplements. They’ve got 30% more calcium and half the sugar.
Of course, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to become pregnant, you’ll want to speak with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements. It’s just always good to double check with them first!
2. Folic Acid
Why do you need folic acid during pregnancy?
Folic acid is a man-made form of a B vitamin (folate), which is essential for helping reduce the risk of neural tube defects during pregnancy. Neural tube defects refer to problems with a baby’s brain or spinal cord. The two most common examples in our country are spina bifida and anencephaly.
Here’s what I learned that’s so interesting – because there’s so much rapid development happening in the first month of pregnancy, that’s when folic acid is most important for reducing the risk of those neural tube defects. That means it’s important to take folic acid before you start trying to get pregnant, so you have the right levels in your body from the start.
Of course, if you just found out you’re pregnant and you haven’t been doing that yet – don’t freak out. Just start making sure you meet your needs now.
How much folic acid does a pregnant woman need?
The CDC recommends that women who are planning to get pregnant, or who are currently pregnant, take 400 mcg of folic acid each day. Some medical groups recommend increasing this to 600 mcg once pregnant.
Oh, and a quick tip I discovered! Most medical professionals recommend staying below 1000 mcg of total folic acid, as high intake can sometimes “hide” signs of another vitamin deficiency.
One exception: If you’ve previously had a baby with neural tube defects and are pregnant again, the CDC and other medical organizations recommend talking to your doctor about higher dose folic acid supplements.
What’s the best way to meet folic acid needs?
For most women, the best way to ensure you’re meeting your needs within that early pregnancy time frame is by taking a supplement. Most prenatal vitamins contain around 600-800 mcg, so you’ll meet your needs just fine with those!
It’s of course also wise to include good food sources of folate and folic acid in your diet. Folic acid is found in fortified foods like cereals and bread. Folate is found in dark green vegetables and beans/lentils.
3. Vitamin D
Why do you need Vitamin D during pregnancy?
Vitamin D works in partnership with calcium for bone health, both for you and your baby.
Research suggests a lot of pregnant women may be deficient in Vitamin D, and that achieving good Vitamin D levels may have other benefits during pregnancy in addition to bone health (though it seems these are still being studied!).
How much Vitamin D does a pregnant woman need?
According to the Institute of Medicine, most pregnant women should aim for around 600 IU of calcium each day. Some doctors may suggest higher levels if you already have a Vitamin D deficiency, which many women do. It’s best to check with your doctor for your specific needs!
According to the NIH, the current upper limit for Vitamin D intake among pregnant women is 4000 IU per day, which means you wouldn’t want to exceed that amount.
What’s the best way to meet Vitamin D needs?
You can get Vitamin D from some food sources, like egg yolks, fatty fish, and some fortified dairy products. Your skin also makes Vitamin D from sunlight when you go outside.
I don’t know about you, but I can have a tough time meeting my needs these ways. I don’t eat enough fatty fish and egg yolks to get what I need, and up here in Massachusetts, it’s not like we’re basking in sunlight for most of the year.
If that’s you too, it might be worthwhile to check out supplement options that have Vitamin D as well. Some prenatal vitamins contain Vitamin D, and others may not.
I like those Viactiv Calcium Soft Chews I mentioned earlier as an adjunct to the prenatal since, in addition to the calcium, they also contain 500 IU of Vitamin D per chew.
Want to Find Out More About Viactiv?
If you’ve been reading this post and thinking about trying the Viactiv Calcium Soft Chews, be sure to visit their website and poke around to learn more about their supplements. I feel like for many moms, taking their prenatal along with one Viactiv is great to help them really ensure they’re meeting their nutrient needs for all three of the vitamins in this post!
If you want to scope ’em out for yourself, you can buy them at major retailers like CVS and Target – you can find the specific locations near you using the Viactiv store locator.
Other Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
In addition to those three vitamins for pregnant women, there are so many other aspects to a healthy pregnancy. Here are just a few other tips that I found helpful when I was pregnant:
- Get enough sleep each night. People would always say “sleep now because you won’t sleep when the baby gets here” – but sleeping during pregnancy can be tough too! Instead of stressing about it, just try to get as much sleep as you can when possible.
- Stick with your exercise plan! If you were active prior to pregnancy, it’s really beneficial to stick with most forms of exercise during pregnancy.
- Be careful about certain foods. There’s a bacteria called listeria that’s dangerous during pregnancy, and it can be found in certain foods like lunch meat and soft cheeses. But, there are steps you can take if you still want to enjoy these! For lunch meat, simply heat it up until it’s steaming hot. For soft cheeses, look for varieties that are pasteurized.
- Eat more foods with fiber. Sometimes with all the hormones and physical changes, constipation can happen. Eating foods with fiber and drinking lots of water will help with this.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice.