Nutritional Supplements for Pregnant Women

It's important that pregnant women get the nutrition they need for themselves and their developing babies. In today's article, you'll discover the key nutritional supplements for pregnant women.
Nutritional Supplements for Pregnant Women

Last update: 19 July, 2019

If you’re thinking of having a baby or you’re worried about nutrition during your pregnancy, today’s article is for you. Here, you’ll find an overview of nutritional supplements for pregnant women.

In a stage as important as pregnancy, nutrition plays a key role. From the point of conception, a woman’s body undergoes a multitude of physiological changes. Each of these changes takes place in order to host and provide developing babies with all they need for their healthy development.

Pregnancy is a time when a woman’s need for energy and, even more so, her need for micronutrients, is on the rise.

It’s important to emphasize the importance of adjusting and adapting to the nutritional demands of gestation. Here, we’re not referring only to the general needs associated with pregnancy, but those of each individual woman as well.

The excess or lack of certain nutrients can contribute to preeclampsia, congenital defects, miscarriage, and other consequences.

Given that a woman’s diet isn’t always enough to cover nutritional recommendations, many resort to nutritional supplements. Of course, this should only take place under the supervision of a professional.

Below, we’ll go over the main micronutrients that women need during pregnancy :

Folic acid and vitamin B9

A deficiency in these nutrients during embryonic development can contribute to neural tube defects (NTDs), congenital heart disease and miscarriage, among other complications.

If a woman is looking to get pregnant, she should start to take supplements one month before possible conception. She should also continue to take these supplements until the end of the first trimester.

Nutritional Supplements for Pregnant Women

The recommended dose during a normal pregnancy is 0.4 milligrams per day. This amount will increase to up to 5mg per day in at risk patients .

We should keep in mind that folic acid doesn’t accumulate in our bodies. This means that if we want to see the benefits of folic acid, we should consume it on a daily basis.

Furthermore, whether or not she takes supplements, every pregnant woman should consume foods that are rich in folic acid, such as:

  • Leafy greens (spinach and chard)
  • Legumes
  • Fruits
  • Yeast
  • Nuts

Don’t forget that folic acid is very sensitive to cooking, which can produce major loss of nutritional value. Therefore, it’s best to eat fruits and vegetables raw .

Nutritional supplements: Iodine

Iodine is an essential micronutrient for the synthesis of thyroid hormones. These hormones are necessary for proper brain and mental development, as well as bone, lung and heart maturity for the fetus and newborn.

Iodine deficiency is the principal preventable cause worldwide of brain injury in fetuses and nursing babies. It’s also the main cause of delays in psychomotor development of small children.

During pregnancy, a woman’s iodine requirements are 20% higher. Therefore, experts recommend that pregnant women should take 200mg per day, as well as use iodized salt regularly.


Iron makes up part of our hemoglobin and, therefore, is essential in the transport of oxygen, among other functions.

During gestation, hematological changes occur that increase a woman’s need for iron. A lack of sufficient iron, therefore, can lead to the most common condition in pregnant women: iron deficiency anemia.

This iron deficiency is related to premature birth, reduced physical and neurological development in newborns, infectious disease, and increased perinatal mortality.

Therefore, women should take iron supplements during their second and third trimester. This will help prevent the depletion of their iron supply.

This being said, only a doctor can decide whether or not a woman needs iron, and how much. Taking iron supplements when unnecessary can also lead to risks.

Calcium, another important nutritional supplement

This is one of the most abundant elements in our bodies. Calcium deficiency is associated with premature birth, insufficient bone mineralization and preeclampsia.

Although women have an increased need for calcium during pregnancy, their bodies absorb 40% more during gestation. Therefore, calcium supplementation is only recommended in pregnant women with insufficient calcium absorption .

Nutritional Supplements for Pregnant Women


When it comes to the use of multivitamin supplements, experts are no longer recommending their use during pregnancy. There is no evidence that suggest that they provide greater benefits than individual supplements.

Furthermore, some nutrients interact with one another, which could interfere with their absorption.

Other nutritional supplements

It’s important to point out that there are micronutrients, like vitamins A, D, C, E, etc., whose requirements are also greater during gestation. But, as a general rule, doctors don’t recommend their supplementation. Women can usually meet these nutritional requirements easily through a healthy diet.

Finally, it’s also important to mention that an excess of certain vitamins (like A and D) can have a toxic effect. This is true both for the mother and for her baby. Therefore, pregnant women should never take supplements without the supervision of a specialist.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Zhou SJ, Gibson RA, Crowther CA, Baghurst P, Makrides M. (2006). Effect of iron supplementation during pregnancy on the intelligence quotient and behavior of children at 4 y of age: long-term follow-up of a randomized controlled trial.Am J Clin Nutr 2006 ;83(5):1112-7
  • Martínez García RM. (2016). Supplements in pregnancy: the latest recommendations. Nutr Hosp. 2016 Jul 12;33(Suppl 4):336. doi: 10.20960/nh.336. Review. Spanish. PubMed PMID: 27571855
  • López MJ, Sánchez JI, Sánchez MC, Calderay M. (2010). Suplementos en embarazadas: controversias, evidencias y recomendaciones. Inf Ter Sist Nac Salud 2010; 34: 117-128.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.