Prenatals & Pregnancy Back »

Written by Kaylee Karsky under the direction and review of Nikki Prosch.

As your baby grows, so do the nutrition and supplemental needs for the expecting mother. A healthful diet, along with a prenatal supplement, is recommended for women of childbearing ages. Consuming the right nutrients is important for the health of the mother and the baby, especially with the baby depending upon the mother for their nutrients. A well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet is recommended that includes a variety of foods from all five food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.

Here are the health benefits of taking a prenatal supplement during different stages of pregnancy:

1. Preconception:

Folic acid is a key nutrient before and during pregnancy. During the first few weeks of pregnancy, the neural tube forms to make the central nervous system in the baby. Taking a prenatal vitamin (recommended that it contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid) before the mother is pregnant will reduce the risks of neural tube defects once pregnancy occurs.

2. Pregnancy:

Mother and baby are changing and growing at a rapid pace during pregnancy! Like the folic acid needs in preconception, the prenatal vitamin supplies the appropriate amount of folic acid for the growth and changes taking place. Other vitamins and minerals that are essential during pregnancy include vitamins A, vitamin D, B vitamins and iron.

  • Vitamin A helps vision, growth and the immune system in baby.
  • Vitamin B12 supports development of red blood cells and the nervous system in baby.
  • Vitamin D helps baby absorb calcium, which is important for the growth of teeth and bones.
  • Iron supports the baby’s growth and development. Iron also, helps prevent maternal iron deficiency, which can be common during pregnancy.

3. Postpartum & Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding mothers require more nutrients than pregnant women because of the nutrients that are secreted in the mother’s milk.

  • Maternal intakes of B vitamins, except for folic acid, including vitamin A, selenium, and iodine affect the amount of nutrients excreted in breast milk.
  • Lactating women may not be able to supply all the nutrients possible through diet alone for the baby to grow and prevent micro and macronutrient deficiencies in both the mother and the baby.
  • To learn more about information on nutritional needs for pregnant and breastfeeding mother’s access the Moms/Moms-to-be information at Choose My Plate.

In Summary

Taking a prenatal vitamin/mineral supplement every day in addition to eating a healthy diet will set both you and your baby up for a healthier life. Talk to your physician or registered dietitian on recommendations and questions regarding prenatal supplements. And remember, enjoy this special time!


  • Allen LH. Multiple micronutrients in pregnancy and lactation: an overview. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005;81(5):1206S.
  • Picciano MF, McGuire MK. Use of dietary supplements by pregnant and lactating women in North America. The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition. 2009;89(2):663S-667S.
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