Since products for supplementation during pregnancy contain numerous vitamins and minerals, it’s good to know which ones are safe and which should be avoided.
Pregnant women appreciate valid and proven information about all the necessary prenatal supplements, their functions, and recommended intake.
At this point, it’s important to clarify the term prenatal and its definition—it refers to everything that occurred, existed, was performed, or was used before childbirth.
Let us familiarize you with the most recent and valuable facts about supplement use during pregnancy.
Top 10 Intriguing Facts on Prenatal Vitamins
- A daily intake of 400 mcg of folic acid can prevent severe congenital defects of the brain and the spine.
- Prenatal vitamins typically contain 200–300 mg of calcium.
- Pregnant women need about 27 mg of iron daily.
- Pregnant women in the US generally have a low iodine intake.
- 2,000–4,000 IU of vitamin D every day during pregnancy can prevent a variety of complications.
- Maternal supplements are generally considered safe.
- Excessive vitamin A intake may have teratogenic effects.
- 97% of women aged 18–45 reported taking vitamins during their pregnancy.
- The prenatal vitamin supplements market is expected to reach $673.8 million by 2025.
- About 48% of women who are or have been pregnant seek information about pregnancy and supplementation online.
Prenatal Vitamins and Their Ingredients
1. 400 mcg of folic acid every day prevents severe congenital defects of the brain and the spine.
(CDC) (Minnesota Department of Health)
Prenatal supplements almost always contain folic acid. Before and during the early months of gestation, this ingredient can help avoid the development of neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida. In some cases, folic acid can be found in prenatal gummies.
2. As many as 7 in 10 NTDs can be prevented by using supplements with folic acid.
(March of Dimes)
About 3,000 NTDs related to the lack of folic acid occur in the US each year. Knowing which vitamins to take during pregnancy is therefore highly important since about 70% of such defects could be prevented through proper supplementation.
3. Prenatal vitamins typically contain 200–300 mg of calcium.
WHO and FAO recommend a daily dietary intake of 1,200 mg of calcium for pregnant women. However, for those women whose calcium intake is generally low or whose risk of gestational hypertension is higher, the recommended daily amount is 1,500–2,000 mg. Calcium is essential not only for the bones but also for the prevention of gestational hypertension.
4. Pregnant women need about 27 mg of iron daily.
(Mayo Clinic) (Healthline)
Before pregnancy, about 19–20 mg of iron a day is enough for normal production of red blood cells. However, during pregnancy, this need grows, and one of the reasons is the increased blood volume. Iron supplements during pregnancy are therefore a must since insufficient iron intake can cause issues such as anemia.
5. Pregnant women require an additional 400 to 550 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, of which about 225 mg should be DHA.
It’s crucial to maintain a certain balance between essential omega-3 fatty acids—DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)—and omega-6 acids. Moreover, during pregnancy, EPA can play a significant role in intracellular absorption and DHA transplacental transport.
Pregnant women have a greater requirement of omega-3 fatty acids compared to non-pregnant women. Prenatal vitamins with DHA and EPA vary in the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, but usually, one third to one half of a capsule consists of them.
6. Pregnant women in the US have a low iodine intake.
WHO established concerns about the iodine deficiency in pregnant women worldwide, including the US. The good news is that salt iodization remains the most cost-effective way of delivering iodine in the affected regions.
Pregnancy Vitamins to Avoid
7. Vitamin A toxic effects during pregnancy include congenital defects and liver damage.
Excessive amounts of vitamin A can be harmful, especially in pregnancy. Still, getting a proper amount of this vitamin is vital for immune function development.
Since an adequate diet should provide enough vitamin A, supplementation is not advised.
8. Too much vitamin E increases the risk of abdominal pain and premature rupture of membranes (PROM).
Although essential for gene expression and immune function, this fat-soluble vitamin is not one of the recommended vitamins for pregnancy. Furthermore, taking vitamin E doesn’t improve the outcome for either mothers or babies.
9. The safety of using black cohosh is highly questionable.
This member of the buttercup family is a plant used to cope with specific symptoms such as hot flashes and menstrual cramps.
However, during pregnancy, black cohosh can stimulate uterine contractions and preterm labor-inducing effects.
10. Dong Quai must be avoided during pregnancy.
This root has been used for over 1,000 years in China to treat menstrual cramps, menopausal issues, high blood pressure, etc.
However, this herb is not among adequate supplements during pregnancy, since it may cause uterine contractions, raising the risk of miscarriage.
11. Supplementation with Yohimbe during pregnancy is associated with many severe side effects.
Yohimbe is made from the bark of a tree native to Africa. It’s a popular herbal remedy used for problems varying from erectile dysfunction to obesity. However, during pregnancy, it can increase the risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, and seizures.
Health Benefits of Prenatal Supplementation
12. Supplementing with prenatal minerals and vitamins cannot replace a healthy diet.
By filling nutritional gaps, pregnancy multivitamins help provide additional micronutrients in high demand before and during pregnancy and lactation. Some studies have shown a reduction in the risk of preterm birth and preeclampsia.
13. 63% of pregnant women recognize folic acid as a vital nutrient.
(March of Dimes)
Other important nutrients, such as iron, calcium, and vitamin D, are identified as necessary by 36%, 33%, and 29% of pregnant women.
14. The recommended daily dose of folic acid increases to 600 mcg after pregnancy begins.
(National Center for Health Research)
Besides folic acid, all other key pregnancy supplements in the first trimester (iron, calcium, vitamin D, DHA, iodine, etc.) have been associated with babies’ healthy growth and development.
However, if a woman skips prenatal vitamins during that phase, supplementation in the following months can often compensate for the initial lack.
15. Anemia in pregnancy is one of the most common pathologies due to poor nutrition.
Since iron-deficient anemia is common during pregnancy, it’s been associated with preterm delivery and maternal depression.
Moreover, infant anemia could also develop. For these reasons, pregnant women with iron deficiency or anemia are advised to see their doctor. A medical expert may find it necessary to prescribe iron supplements for pregnancy.
16. 2,000–4,000 IU of vitamin D every day during pregnancy can prevent many complications.
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia, preterm birth, gestational diabetes, and primary Cesarean section.
Furthermore, some experts suggest much higher doses of this vitamin during pregnancy.
17. Magnesium protects against chronic hypertension and premature labor.
Studies showed that taking magnesium supplements during pregnancy might reduce the risk of complications related to the fetus, such as growth retardation and preterm birth.
18. Fish oil supplements may benefit fetal eye development.
It was shown that mothers’ DHA levels are critical for proper fetal and infant development, and for reaching the expected delivery term.
Although considered safe, experts don’t unanimously agree on whether or not to recommend supplementing with fish oil during pregnancy.
19. Studies on the use of probiotics during pregnancy are ongoing and inconclusive, but some benefits have been shown.
Pregnancy supplement statistics show that probiotics might reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, postpartum depression, and infant eczema and dermatitis.
However, more research is needed to determine and prove the full effects of probiotics on maternal and fetal (and infant) health.
Safety and Potential Side Effects of Pregnancy Vitamins
20. Maternal supplements are generally considered safe.
Studies showed that there are no pregnancy‐specific risks from excess intake with women who have a high dietary intake and take standard multiple micronutrient supplements. However, iron and niacin levels could be expected to exceed the upper limit to a certain extent.
21. Probiotics can induce systemic infections in immunocompromised pregnant women.
Probiotic and fiber supplements during pregnancy benefit digestive health, and no harmful side effects have been documented. However, there’s still a need for more controlled and extensive studies.
22. High doses of iron taken by non-deficient pregnant women may lead to complications.
Also associated with prenatal vitamins, constipation, vomiting, and abnormally high hemoglobin levels are among the most common side effects of high iron intake.
23. Excessive vitamin A intake may have teratogenic effects.
High doses of vitamin A may be teratogenic. Such effects have been reported to occur when the mother takes a daily dose of 10,000 IU of vitamin A or more.
Statistics on the Use and Sales of Pregnancy Supplements
24. 97% of women aged 18–45 report taking vitamins during their current or previous pregnancy.
(March of Dimes)
According to the same Prenatal Health & Nutrition survey conducted in 2017, only 34% of respondents said they’d been taking supplements before they knew they were pregnant. Also, about 36% of women of childbearing age stated that they weren’t using any supplements at the time.
25. Pregnancy supplement statistics indicate that the prenatal vitamin supplements market is expected to reach $673.8 million by 2025.
(Grand View Research)
What drives the market is the increasing awareness of the importance of a healthy diet and of proper medication among pregnant women.
For example, because of this demand for the best prenatal vitamins, in 2019 the global market size of these products was estimated at $409.8 million. In 2018, their market size was $377.2 million, so the market’s growth is evident.
26. In 2018, the global market was dominated by North America.
(Grand View Research)
North America accounts for 53.1% of the overall revenue, and these trends are forecasted to continue over the next few years.
27. 50% of women take over-the-counter vitamins.
(March of Dimes)
The other 50% take prescription prenatal vitamins. Approximately 88% of the women taking prescription vitamins have their insurance covering the costs.
Helpful Statistics on Taking Prenatal Vitamins During Pregnancy
28. About 48% of women who are or have been pregnant seek information about pregnancy and supplementation online.
(March of Dimes)
Internet resources that provide reliable and proven information on prenatal health can reach millions of women.
They present various types of prenatal supplements, as well as the statistics and studies about their consumption, often explaining complicated medical information in simpler terms.
29. Pregnant women should get solid medical advice before taking prenatal vitamins.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists or ACOG, prenatal vitamins should be discussed with a professional before they’re introduced into a daily routine.
This also applies to women who are planning to conceive, not just to those who are already pregnant.
Counseling helps identify and minimize potential health risks and informs women about pregnancy-related dos and don’ts.
30. Prenatal micronutrients can only be supplemented to a regular healthy diet.
(Live Science) (WHO)
Many women believe that taking prenatal supplements means they don’t have to maintain a balanced diet. This isn’t true—no prenatal vitamins dosage can replace proper prenatal nutrition.
For example, the amount of calcium in standard prenatal vitamins reaches up to 300 mg per serving (as elaborated in the book Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies). The required or recommended intake of calcium is 1,200 mg a day, and it should be delivered through food.
31. The price of a supplementation product is not a reliable sign of its effectiveness or safety.
As mentioned, prenatal vitamins available by prescription are often covered by insurance companies, while OTC vitamins are an additional investment.
But, don’t immediately assume that a product will be good for you simply because it can be bought easily or because it’s more expensive than others. This is a misconception nurtured by many.
- 77% of pregnant women express concerns about access to prenatal care.
(March of Dimes)
Concerns are mainly regarding the changes in the healthcare system that may limit access to prenatal care and prenatal supplements.
Besides, 43% of recently or currently pregnant women complain that the costs affect their decisions on seeking prenatal care during pregnancy.
Are prenatal vitamins necessary?
Prenatal vitamins are not a must. However, even if a mother’s diet is healthy and balanced, her intake of some nutrients may be insufficient. That’s why these vitamins may be beneficial.
A growing baby and an exhausted mother need a lot of additional vitamins and minerals. For instance, according to the CDC, folic acid is essential for fetal brain and spinal cord development, as well as for avoiding congenital disabilities.
Therefore, pregnant women are urged to take it in proper amounts—through good nutrition and prenatal vitamins.
When to stop taking prenatal vitamins?
The answer to this question may vary depending on the case, but the truth is that it’s not necessary to stop taking prenatal vitamins right after delivery. You can continue using them for at least four to six weeks after.
They can be helpful during breastfeeding, and in protecting mothers and babies from nutrient depletion. However, if necessary, prenatal vitamins can be switched with other formulations specific to breastfeeding, or with unique compositions which would tackle existing deficiencies. Interestingly, prenatal vitamins for men are also accepted in some cases.
When were prenatal vitamins invented?
These products were initially introduced in the 1970s when certain supplement companies began putting folic acid in their multivitamins.
Research on the relationship between folic acid deficiency during pregnancy and particular birth defects was on the rise in the 1980s.
Providing the body with proper nutrients is vital at every life stage, particularly during pregnancy. That explains why prenatal vitamins are becoming increasingly popular among pregnant and lactating women.
Prenatal supplements contain crucial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that meet even the most specific nutritional requirements. That’s what makes them important for the baby’s and the mother’s condition.
Women who rely solely on a healthy diet take risks. On the one hand, the quality of their food and their absorption of useful nutrients could be compromised.
At the same time, the fast-growing fetus needs its nutrients to develop. Pregnant women must obtain those nutrients to help that development and remain in good health.
Reading more about prenatal supplement statistics allows them to achieve that goal.