Although pregnancy multivitamins have been a standard for decades, recent studies have shown that they aren’t even necessary for most women. In fact, if you’re eating well and have relatively stable health, you’re probably fine. But even if the multivitamin isn’t helpful, it should be fine to take it as long as it doesn’t do any harm. After all, your body will simply process and pee out the excess.
Experts do recommend pretty much only two supplements during pregnancy: iron and folic acid. This is because the baby needs these in order to develop healthy nervous and cardiovascular system. Babies born to mothers who have deficiency in either of these two supplements have been found to have increased rates of birth defects. But the story doesn’t end there. About a third to a quarter of women may experience deficiency in one or both of these nutrients during pregnancy. This is a large number of people and so the benefits of supplementation do apply to a large chunk of the population. In addition, depending on who you ask, vitamin D is also essential but, as we’ll find out later, even that is controversial.
Vitamins that you don’t need, on the other hand are those in which deficiency is extremely rare and unlikely. They can also be those that don’t actually get passed on to your baby. In some cases they may even be harmful. To help you take a look at the multivitamin content you don’t really need, here’s a shortlist of those that you may not actually need during pregnancy.
15 Anything Out The Budget
We’re going to start out broadly here. As a general rule, those expensive multivitamins that are out of your budget that you “need” for pregnancy, are probably not necessary at all. In fact, you’re much better off taking your generic doctor-recommended multivitamin for pregnancy, which are not expensive.
If you eat a well-balanced diet, in fact, you’re pretty much covered. If you eat fruits, vegetables, dairy, legumes, grains, and nuts in proper quantity, then you have the vitamins, minerals, and protein required by the body during your term. After all, supplementation is only a “just in case” insurance to make sure you have enough of the essentials. If you still want to take these, however, do consult your doctor first.
There are now increasing numbers of multivitamins that contain herbal preparations. Many claim that these vitamins are all-in-one supplements that give you the best of both worlds: conventional medicine and alternative ones. But it’s important to know that, during pregnancy, they’re not always the best. Excess of these vitamins may do more harm to your body rather than any positive affect.
That said, if you’re taking one of these combination vitamins, avoid the ones with rosemary. This herb affects uterine blood flow level and could harm your pregnancy. Now don’t get us wrong: you don’t need to avoid rosemary in the food that you eat. It’s just that supplements usually contain high levels of this herb that could be unsafe.
13 Stinging Nettle
Nettle is found in many pregnancy teas and herbal supplements offered by different brands in the market. In fact, it’s recommended so much by peers and others that many deem it safe. However, it’s probably not a great idea to take supplements that contain it, unless you’re overdue and want to try and trigger uterine contractions to get into labor quickly and naturally.
Experts have labeled stinging nettle as likely unsafe for pregnancy. It can trigger uterine contractions, which can early on result in a miscarriage as well. So even if there’s a lot of good press on this herb for pregnancy, you might want to discuss with your doctor, and stay on the safe side and just avoid it all together.
Ginseng is one of the perennial herbs, which has fresh roots, and believed to have therapeutic effects. It is found in numerous multivitamins as a way to help you fight stress, and increase immunity. Some pregnant women even deliberately take ginseng supplements to help boost their energy, as it helps in diluting the blood in our vessels. However, it’s probably something that you don’t really need.
In fact, some researchers have found that there is a possibility that taking ginseng during pregnancy could increase the risk for birth defects during the first trimester, as its warm in nature according to Chinese medicine. This was in animal studies, however. Still, the potential benefits of ginseng just don’t outweigh this risks associated with the herb.
It’s probably OK to get an occasional cinnamon bun, if that’s what you’re craving. During pregnancy, it is recommended to keep the intake of cinnamon under 1/2 tea spoon on a daily basis. But as a supplement? Well, multivitamins with added cinnamon are popular among pregnant women, mostly because it helps relieve the discomfort of indigestion. But experts do not recommend that you take such supplements during pregnancy.
This is because chemicals in cinnamon have individually been found to increase risk for birth defects and miscarriage. In small quantities, the risk is negligible. However, since the amount of cinnamon that may be in supplements is far larger than that of your average cinnamon bun, we suggest going to the bakeshop rather than the pharmacy for your cinnamon fix.
Zinc can be found in real treats like chocolate, pumpkin seeds and beef. Some recommend taking in zinc supplements because folic acid, the quintessential pregnancy vitamin, may interfere with zinc absorption in the gut. However, during pregnancy the body is actually more efficient in retaining zinc so this may not be needed. According to Mayo clinic, a pregnant woman should limit the intake of Zinc to 11 milligrams daily, if she is at least 19 years old; and in case she is between 14 to 18 years, she should limit the intake to 13 milligrams daily
Granted, getting a multivitamin with zinc is probably OK as long as you don’t overdose yourself with it. However, studies do show that there is no significant benefit from zinc supplementation in the pregnancy outcome. So it’s basically pretty useless unless you’re really deficient in it.
9 Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a tough one because some women do need vitamin D supplementation. However, since it is fat-soluble, it can build up in the body fast and can result in toxicity. Increased levels of this vitamin in the body may lead to congenital heart problems. Besides, your body can produce vitamin D from sun exposure so most women should be fine.
However, the catch is that if you don’t get much sun exposure, or if you’re a person with very pigmented skin living in an area where you don’t get a lot of light, your doctor may recommend supplementation. At an average, a pregnant woman should consume 400 IU of vitamin D daily. So with this vitamin, it really depends.
Another thing you that’s pretty useless in multivitamin supplements during pregnancy is copper. This is because, like zinc, your body retains more copper during pregnancy. You probably don’t need to add on to that. Besides, copper and zinc often compete with each other in the body, causing an imbalance. Even the daily recommended dosage of copper during pregnancy is 1 mg per day. And this requirement can easily be fulfilled if you store and drink water from brass vessel.
In addition, actual copper deficiency is extremely rare. This is because your actual daily requirement of copper is pretty low. In fact, any deficiency is really only caused by either a zinc overdose or gastrointestinal surgery that interferes with its absorption.
Manganese is an important mineral for daily function. It plays a role in the nervous system, in the skeletal system and in metabolism. It also helps in the formation of cartilage and bones. Additionally, it helps in increasing metabolic rate of cholesterol, amino acids and carbohydrates. However, it’s probably not something you want to take too much of, considering that it’s also neurotoxic in high doses. It can also compete with other important trace minerals for absorption.
The recommended dosage for manganese is 2 mg per day. And like most items on this list, it’s best to get it straight from your diet. It can be found in whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seafood. So it’s not that hard to get as long as you eat up!
If you’ve getting in enough calcium in your diet, you probably don’t want to take any more supplements. Supplementation may be OK during the last trimester, when your baby’s bones are growing, but not before. According to U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance, a pregnant woman requires only 1000 mg of calcium per day. In fact, taking too much calcium may block your absorption of other nutrients, including iron and zinc. As you can imagine, that can make pregnancy nutrition rather fiddly.
Fortunately, calcium can be found in many foods. The obvious ones are milk and dairy products. But it can also be found in leafy greens, beans and some fruits. Between all that goodness and the pill, go for real food. After all, 3 portions (cups) of dairy per day can fulfill the required dosage easily.
5 Vitamin K
Vitamin K is very important for functioning of a body efficiently, as it helps in making a blood clot. Vitamin K deficiency is pretty rare, and your dietary requirement of it won’t really increase during pregnancy. This is because very low levels of this vitamin actually pass through the placenta. In fact, no matter how much you take in your baby will be given a routine vitamin K shot.
This is because she does not yet have adequate amounts of gut bacteria to help her synthesize vitamin K. Low levels of vitamin K at birth can increase the risk for a dangerous condition for Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding or VKDB. But, really, supplementation really isn’t going to help with that.
Although pregnant women require higher levels of iodine however, unless you live in a place where iodine deficiency is prevalent because there are very little food sources of it, you probably do not need iodine supplementation. Currently, the US daily recommended allowance for pregnant woman is only 22 mcg (micrograms) per day, which can be easily fulfilled as iodine can be found in seafood, meats, eggs and iodized salt. It’s really not that hard to get the right amount of it.
Excess iodine during pregnancy can affect the function of the thyroid gland. One 2012 case study of mothers who took pregnancy herbal supplements contaminated with iodine found that the babies become more susceptible to congenital hypothyroidism. During pregnancy, dietary iodine and not supplementation is the way to go.
3 Vitamin C
Vitamin C boosts the immune system, and we do need to replenish our body’s levels of this vitamin every day. The trouble with it is that sometimes we’re advised to take increased doses of vitamin C when we have a cold. Probably it is OK in some situations, but not so in pregnancy.
It is advisable to limit the intake to 85 milligrams of Vitamin C per day if you are 19 years and older, and 80 mg in case you are between 14 to 18 years old. Taking supplements with increased levels of vitamin C in your blood, especially early in pregnancy, can actually trigger your baby to continuously pee it out of her body. Early in life, this excess excretion of vitamin C can cause scurvy which is, incidentally, the deficiency of vitamin C.
2 Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which is protective against free radicals that can cause damage to your cells. However, it’s important to note that vitamin E deficiency is pretty rare as it can be found in many nuts and animal oils like soybean, corn, and sunflower, and green vegetables like spinach, meat, poultry, and whole grains. The recommended dosage of Vitamin E is 15 milligrams per day. So you probably don’t need any more than you’re taking into your diet.
Need another reason to avoid vitamin E during pregnancy? Some studies do suggest that excessive vitamin E may increase risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes. These studies suggest that it could negatively affect the placenta, as well as increase your baby’s risk for asthma.
1 Vitamin A
While vitamin A is needed in the body for good eyesight, you might want to skip any multivitamin supplement that contains it during your pregnancy. In fact, your pregnancy multivitamin should not have any vitamin A at all. Even the U.S. recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin A is 3300 IU, i.e, 1000 RE of retinol during pregnancy.
We’ve known for years that excessive consumption of vitamin A, especially in the form of retinol and retinoic acid, is associated with increased rates of birth defects. This excess can cause malformations in the bones, the cardiovascular system and the nervous system. However, it’s perfectly OK to keep foods with vitamin A in your diet like carrot, dark green vegetables, sweet potato, apricots and melon etc. But just steer clear of anything additional.