If you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant, congratulations! This can be an exciting time in your life, and you definitely have a lot on your mind. You’ve probably thought of everything, from a new nursery and tiny clothes to changing dirty diapers and sleepless nights.  Something you may not have thought about are the prenatal vitamins that are crucial in supporting both you and your child.  There are a lot of things to consider when getting ready to become pregnant and the health of yourself and your baby should always be a top priority.

The purpose of prenatal vitamins is to provide both mother and child with essential vitamins and minerals needed for growth and success during pregnancy. When determining what supplements you may need, it is important to start with a healthy diet and consider your dietary intake and the various nutrients you get from your food. Further supplementation of nutrients is often needed to meet the amounts necessary during pregnancy, even with a healthy diet. Although there are standard doses of many prenatal vitamins, everybody is different and you should always check with a health care provider to help determine what supplements and doses are best for you and your baby.  Things such as past neural tube defects, low iron, age and many other factors can influence the recommended doses of different vitamins.

There are many different options when looking for a prenatal vitamin and choosing the right product can be overwhelming. When deciding what product to pick, there are a few key vitamins and minerals you should ensure are included.

Folic Acid:

Folic acid, a form of vitamin B, is arguably the most important vitamin to take during pregnancy, as your body needs it for growth and development. Adequate amounts of folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects.  These defects can be serious, as they may result in spinal cord and brain abnormalities.  Folic acid should ideally be started 3 months before you become pregnant, as the defects associated with low levels often occur before you know you are pregnant in the first couple of weeks of pregnancy.


Iron is essential in supporting brain and cell development in your baby and helping to prevent anemia in the mother.  Iron is also important in the delivery of oxygen to the baby. Iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach, but it may cause an upset stomach and can be taken with food to help minimize any nausea if needed.


Calcium intake during pregnancy is important for both mother and fetus.  It helps to prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia in the mother while helping to support bone development in the baby.  In order to absorb calcium, your body also needs vitamin D and it can be found in many supplements and foods containing calcium for this reason.


Iodine is important in fetal neurologic development and thyroid function of both mother and baby.

Vitamins to avoid:

High doses of vitamin A have been shown to increase the risk of birth defects.  Although vitamin A is an important vitamin in everyday life, doses higher than 10 000 units/day could potentially lead to birth defects.  Vitamin A may be contained in various prenatal vitamins at a healthy level but it is important not to take more than the recommended amounts.

Becoming pregnant is an exciting part of your life and with so many things to look forward to, keeping yourself and your future baby healthy is very important.  Reach out to your health care provider and pharmacist to see what prenatal vitamins may work best for you.