During pregnancy, a woman’s nutritional needs increase as she creates a new life in her womb. In this crucial time of development for her child, there is a greater need for her diet to contain the necessary nutrients, particularly the right amounts of vitamins and minerals. This can all be achieved through a balanced diet, but oftentimes pregnancy supplements play an important role.
When it comes to the needs of your growing baby, they cannot afford deficiencies in any nutrients. As they grow rapidly, these nutrients are essential in the development of vital organs. And it is for this reason that your obstetrician may prescribe you some supplements.
It is important to note that not all pregnancy supplements are necessary, and your doctor is best qualified to recommend their use. DO NOT self-prescribe any medicine or supplement. You should always take care to discuss their safety and dosage with your doctor first.
What Pregnancy Supplements Are Commonly Recommended?
1. Folic Acid Supplements
One of the most widely prescribed supplements for pregnant women is folic acid 1. It plays a critical role in preventing neural tube defects, and for this reason, folic acid supplementation is recommended even as you prepare to conceive 4. You may not realise it, but your growing baby’s brain starts developing even before your first prenatal doctor’s visit!
How much folic acid do you need? 400mcg2 of folic acid is the usual recommendation, but your doctor may decide to give a higher dose if you fall under a high risk category.
2. Iron Supplements
In addition to folic acid, an iron supplement is also generally prescribed.
Iron and folic acid, which support the formation of red blood cells, are especially important during your pregnancy. This is because the volume of your blood increases to carry oxygen and nutrients to your body tissues and your developing baby 2.
Insufficient amounts of iron can lead to iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy 3. And this condition can lead to complications such as premature birth and low birth weight.
To prevent iron deficiency, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that pregnant women take a daily supplement containing 30 to 60mg of iron 4. If you are a vegetarian, you should take precautions because you may have an increased risk of iron deficiency anemia. And if you are diagnosed with anaemia during pregnancy, your doctor may increase your elemental iron dose — 120mg until your haemoglobin rises to normal 5.
3. Vitamin D Supplements
Another commonly prescribed supplement is vitamin D. With enough sun exposure, the body is capable of producing vitamin D on its own as ultraviolet rays trigger vitamin D synthesis. However, insufficient levels of vitamin D seem to be prevalent in Asia, as people tend to stay indoors and avoid the sun.
You should be getting 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day during your pregnancy. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb two important minerals – calcium and phosphorus – which in turn, support the development of your growing baby’s bones and teeth 6.
If you are not getting enough vitamin D during your pregnancy, it may increase your risk of pregnancy related complications such as pre-eclampsia and low birth weight 7. These are serious conditions which can threaten your life or the life of your child, so a little prevention in the form of vitamin D supplements can go a long way in contributing to a healthy pregnancy.
In addition to these three supplements — folic acid, iron and vitamin D — your doctor may prescribe other vitamins and minerals and perhaps DHA supplements at their discretion.
Can I Take My Pregnancy Supplements All at Once?
Supplements provide the added nutrition you need; however, the absorption of these may be affected by the food you eat or other supplements that you are taking. It is important to follow your doctor’s prescription, including when to take your supplements.
It’s a good idea to plan a time chart for each supplement with the help of your doctor, and to follow this plan religiously.
What Supplements Should I Avoid?
A wide variety of health supplements are easily available over the counter at your local pharmacy. While this is convenient, there is a risk that you may take supplements or medication that could be harmful to your pregnancy. Not everything you can buy over the counter is safe for pregnant women.
Before taking any supplements, always read the safety label and consult your doctor first.
Avoid taking vitamin A supplements during pregnancy as this may harm the developing baby 1. As vitamin A is widely used in acne treatment, discuss your options with your dermatologist if you are planning to get pregnant or are already pregnant 8.
In addition, you should also be careful about herbal supplements. The ingredients may not always be suitable for pregnancy. Discuss these with your doctor if you plan on taking any herbal remedies.
Mums, take note that there is no substitute to a balanced diet. Add these supplements if your doctor recommends them and remember to take them with balanced, healthy meals. With the right nutritional aids, you’re well on your way to a healthy pregnancy!
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4. World Health Organization, WHO recommendations on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience. Geneva: WHO Press. 2016.
5. Daily iron and folic acid supplementation during pregnancy (guidance summary). Retrieved Sept. 1, 2020 from:
6. Vitamin D Fact Sheet. Retrieved Sept. 1, 2020 from:
7. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) (2016).Dietary reference values for vitamin D. EFSA Journal, 29 June.
8. Bozzo, P., Chua-Gocheco, A., & Einarson, A. (2011). Safety of skin care products during pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician, 57(6), 665-667.