Just what is in a prenatal vitamin and why are they so important?

Prenatal vitamins: wellness in a bottle

Before you became pregnant you might have considered a nice chardonnay as ‘wellness in a bottle’, but times have changed! Your wellness has to come from other sources when you are busy growing a new life inside you. You probably already know that it is very highly recommended that you take a multivitamin while pregnant, but what exactly do they do? And how do you know which one?

What vitamins do you need?

When you are pregnant, your nutrient requirement roughly doubles, as of course there are now two of you. While the myth about ‘eating for two’ is sadly a myth, eating the nutrients for two is actually a very good idea. So, you don’t need to double your intake of frosty chocolate milkshakes, but do increase the amount you are getting of the following:

  • Fish oil
  • Iron
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Vitamins B12, C, D and E
  • Iodine
  • Thiamine
  • Riboflavin
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc

Sound medical research shows that you need the nutrients these supplements provide, and that you cannot get from food alone. Some nutrients are actually more easily absorbed by your body when in their processed form.

Here is a helpful list of things the prenatal vitamins do:

Make your womb stronger

Give you the energy you are going to desperately need

Reduce your chance of preeclampsia

Reduce your baby’s chance of neural tube defects

Reduce your chances of preterm delivery and low birth weight

Reduce your chances of infant mortality

Can improve your chances of getting pregnant

Replenish your body’s nutrients as you give them to the baby

Ensures you don’t get too much of the things you don’t need, like Vitamin A

It helps to start taking your vitamin before you even know you are pregnant, to give your fetus the best possible start.

Let’s look at the ingredients in a bit more detail.

Fish oil

Omega 3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, are valuable to your body at all times, but even more so when you are pregnant. This vital stuff is not created at all by your body, so you only get it from diet or supplements.

Most women will reduce the amount of seafood they are eating at this time, so your intake from food alone is even lower. Omega 3 is essential for fetal neurodevelopment and can reduce your chances of preterm or low birthweight babies.


When pregnant you need twice the amount of iron as before, because you are busy making the baby’s blood as well as pumping your own. It also keeps your lungs working well, gets oxygen through your body and keeps you from feeling tired.

Most pregnant women tend to be low in iron. You need at least 30mg a day during pregnancy. You can get it from meat, beans and legumes, soy and green leafy vegetables, but the best way to make sure you get enough is through your prenatal vitamin.

Folic acid

Folate is another very important nutrient during pregnancy, as this one prevents spinal and brain defects in your growing baby. You need between 600-800 micrograms a day of folate.


Your calcium intake will grow your baby’s bone structure, and you need 1200 milligrams of this every day during your pregnancy. You need at least three serves of dairy a day at this time, or else make sure it is in your supplement

Vitamins B6, B12, C, D and E

Altogether these vitamins help form your red blood cells, strengthen your immune system, promote healthy gut, help your body to process protein, fat and carbohydrates, help you absorb calcium and grow baby’s bones and teeth, develop baby’s eyes, and maintain your central nervous system.


Iodine helps your baby’s tiny brain to grow and develop, so this one couldn’t get any more important. Most women are low in iodine, so make sure this is in your prenatal vitamin. You need 150mcg a day while you are growing tiny brains.


Thiamin enables you – and your baby – to convert carbohydrates into energy. It also helps your nervous system, muscles, and heart function normally and is essential for your baby’s brain development. It is recommended that you get 1.4mg a day during pregnancy.


Riboflavin is a necessary vitamin that helps your body produce energy. It promotes your baby’s growth, good vision, and healthy skin and is essential for your baby’s bone, muscle, and nerve development. Again, you need 1.4mg a day of this nutrient.


Research suggests that getting adequate magnesium during pregnancy can help prevent the uterus from contracting prematurely. It also helps build strong teeth and bones in your baby. You need around 350mg of magnesium in your supplement during pregnancy.


Your baby needs zinc for cell growth and for the production and functioning of DNA, and getting enough zinc can be difficult during pregnancy because there’s so much rapid cell growth. This mineral also helps support your immune system, maintain your senses of taste and smell, and heal wounds.

Research also links zinc deficiency to low birth weight and other problems during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. You need around 11mg a day of zinc.

Which prenatal vitamin do you choose?

Eric’s has a wide range of excellent prenatal vitamins to choose from, and any of them should give you the nutrition that you need. You may want to consider which ones are easier to swallow for you, if you have trouble with larger pills, but apart from that, any on our shelves are high quality and highly recommended.

Come in and chat to our expert baby-growing advisers today for help deciding on the right supplement for you. While you are in the store, grab some organic fruit and vegetables and fortified milk products to give your diet a great boost too. We also have wonderful advice for vegan expectant mothers, and those on other dietary restrictions, so make sure you talk to one of our clever staff today.

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