Last update: April 18, 2024

7 minute read

The Health Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins

Learn how these nutrients support fetal development, maternal health, and overall well-being during pregnancy.

Stephanie Wright

By Stephanie Wright, RN, BSN

Edited by Dr. Dimitar Marinov, MD, MBA, PhD

Learn more about our editorial standards

During pregnancy, a woman's nutritional needs change dramatically to support her growing baby. However, daily vitamins and a balanced diet can often take a backseat when you're juggling morning sickness, food cravings, general discomfort, prenatal care, and ongoing preparations for the impending arrival. Luckily, prenatal vitamins can help pregnant women everywhere get enough nutrients for their bodies and what their babies need!

    What are prenatal vitamins?

    Prenatal vitamins are a collection of nutrients designed for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive. While these are not a replacement for a healthy diet, they help to fill nutritional gaps and encourage a smooth pregnancy and a healthy baby. Some of the key nutrients to look for when choosing your prenatal vitamin include:

    • Folic acid
    • Iron
    • Calcium
    • Vitamin A
    • Vitamin C
    • B-Complex vitamins
    • Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Choline
    • Zinc
    • Copper
    • Iodine
    • Vitamin D3

    Health benefits of prenatal vitamins

    Ever wonder why prenatal vitamins are a big deal for expecting moms? These special formulations aren’t just ordinary multivitamins.

    They're tailored to meet the unique nutritional needs of expecting mothers and their growing babies. Let's take a closer look at why they're so good for you.

    1. May reduce pregnancy complications

    Taking a comprehensive prenatal supplement may help to reduce the risk of preeclampsia. This dangerous form of high blood pressure occurs in about 2–8% of pregnancies.

    Unfortunately, it can be fatal for the mom and the baby. Research suggests multivitamin supplements containing folic acid, vitamin D3, and antioxidants like vitamin C and E are important supplements for potentially reducing the risk of preeclampsia.

    2. May lower the risk of birth defects

    A prenatal supplement provides key nutrients like folic acid (vitamin B9) which are vital within the first trimester of pregnancy. They help the baby grow strong and healthy from the start.

    Extensive research has found that supplementing with at least 400 mcg of folic acid before conception or during early pregnancy may help to prevent spina bifida, a birth defect that results in incomplete spinal cord development.

    The right vitamins help the baby's spine and bones grow strong while in utero. Multivitamins can also help with the baby's brain development. The right folic acid supplements and prenatal care are essential for the baby's growth throughout your pregnancy.

    3. Helps to increase iron levels and blood volume

    During pregnancy, soon-to-be-moms need extra iron to stay healthy.. Unfortunately, iron deficiency is common in pregnancy and has been linked to premature labor and low infant birth weight. Plus, low iron levels make you feel even more tired.

    Expecting moms need more folic acid, iron, and B12 to help make healthy blood cells. This helps carry oxygen and gives you energy.

    VitaRx Tip

    If you're not getting enough from foods, prenatal vitamins add some iron to support both you and your baby.

    4. Promotes healthy fetal nervous system development

    Omega-3 fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and phospholipid choline are vital during pregnancy. They play an important role in the healthy development of the baby's brain, nervous system, and eyes.

    Research has found that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation helps to improve mental development and intelligence in childhood. Omega-3s help give your baby the best start. They promote healthy growth during and after pregnancy when nursing. Prenatal vitamins contain omega-3s to help fill any gaps.

    How do they work?

    Prenatal supplements are designed to meet the nutritional needs of expectant mothers and lactating women. These vitamin supplements contain ideal levels and ratios of certain key nutrients like zinc, iron, iodine, folic acid, calcium, and vitamin D3.

    Each of these key vitamins is essential for cell growth and development, nervous system development, and the formation of a strong skeletal system for your fetus. Prenatal vitamins help create an optimal environment to support a healthy pregnancy, reducing the risk of defects or negative side effects after birth.

    Taking prenatal vitamins may also improve the health of your baby. Studies show taking vitamin supplements to maintain optimal nutrition levels during pregnancy may support childhood asthma, dental caries, and retinopathy as your child grows.

    When should I take prenatal vitamins?

    Prenatal supplements are ideal for women during three phases of life: preconception, pregnancy, and lactation. While not all women plan their pregnancy, if you are trying to get pregnant it's best to optimize your nutrient intake at least one month (ideally three to six months) in advance with dietary supplements.

    An interesting study found that adequate vitamin and mineral levels correlate with improved egg quality and maturation, fertilization, and implantation. Don't wait until you become pregnant to start your prenatal multivitamins, especially if you're trying to conceive. Pregnant women often need extra vitamins to support both their health and their baby's growth.

    Taking daily prenatal vitamins can provide essential nutrients for the baby's development. These vitamins are also great for breastfeeding moms, ensuring the baby gets all the nutrients from breast milk.

    If you're vegan, vegetarian, or have digestive issues, you might need these supplements even more. Always chat with your doctor to see if prenatal vitamins are right for you. They can help you choose the best one for your health and lifestyle.

    Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    Final thoughts

    It's crucial to prioritize the health of both mom and baby during pregnancy and motherhood. Prenatal vitamins are essential in ensuring that all your nutritional needs are met, supporting a baby's healthy development. With so many options out there, making the right choice can be overwhelming. So, make sure you're choosing the best care for both you and your little one.



    Stephanie Wright avatar

    Stephanie brings over 13 years of diverse nursing experience to the table, having honed her expertise in critical care, mental health, and utilization management. Her journey as a registered nurse across these various healthcare sectors underscores her adaptability and deep commitment to patient care.

    Fact checker

    Dr. Dimitar Marinov avatar

    Dr. Marinov has years of experience in scientific research and preventive and clinical medicine. His publications in peer-reviewed journals are on nutritional status, physical activity, and musculoskeletal disorders among adolescents.

    At VitaRx, we're not just passionate about our work — we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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