We’re here to give you simple and straightforward answers on what supplements and vitamins are safe for pregnancy, and what supplements to avoid.
If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes a well balanced diet and intake of necessary vitamins and minerals. With a countless variety of supplements, oils, herbs, and prenatal vitamins on the market, it can be daunting trying to figure out what’s right for your body and what isn’t. We’re here to give you simple and straightforward answers on what supplements are safe for pregnancy, and what supplements to avoid.
What constitutes a “dietary supplement”
As defined by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which became law in 1994, a dietary supplement is a product that:
- is intended to supplement the diet
- contains one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and other substances) or their constituents
- is intended to be taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid
- is labeled on the front panel as being a dietary supplement.
Unfortunately, no mandatory system exists for reporting the harmful effects of dietary supplements. And although the DSHEA gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the right to ban harmful dietary supplements, the burden of proof is on the FDA and not the manufacturer. Medications, on the other hand, must prove their effectiveness and safety first, and manufacturers are required to report any harmful effects. Because of this, supplements should be taken with caution and only from reliable, GMP-certified manufacturers, and should always be discussed with your doctor.
There are some supplements that are necessary for a healthy pregnancy and healthy fetal development. A great example of this is a prenatal multivitamin, which contains many necessary vitamins and minerals that contribute to the health of your baby. Folate is also an important supplement that reduces the risk of neural tube defects. Omega DHA is essential for improved heart health and the development of neural tissue.
Safe and effective supplements for pregnancy
Other supplements that you can take safely while pregnant include:
- Iron is vital for the growing fetus, and supports the dramatic increase in blood volume during pregnancy. The CDC recommends universal screening for iron deficiency anemia in pregnant women and universal iron supplementation to meet the iron requirements of pregnancy. This recommendation is especially true if you’ve opted for a gummy prenatal, since gummy prenatal vitamins contain no iron at all.
- Peppermint leaf is also safe for pregnant women and can be used to help with nausea and vomiting
- Ginger root is another safe and effective option for alleviating morning sickness and nausea.
- Vitamin B12, along with folate, greatly reduce the risk of spina bifida and spinal cord abnormalities.
- Vitamin D is needed for adequate muscle and skeletal development and for a healthy metabolism. Some data also suggest that it can potentially improve fertility and reduce rates of miscarriage. Pregnant women are commonly vitamin D deficient and require additional supplementation beyond their prenatal vitamin.
- Omega 3s (which are in our Prenatal for her regimen) ensure adequate brain, eye, and neuron development in the fetus.
Supplements to avoid during pregnancy
A Supplements you should not take while pregnant include but are not limited to:
- Black and blue cohosh can induce labor.
- Boldo can damage the organs and fetus.
- Dong quai is possibly unsafe for the baby as it seems to affect the muscles of the uterus.
- Ephedra is classified by the FDA as having unreasonable risk, thus should be avoided.
- Feverfew can also cause contractions and induce labor.
- Goldenseal can cross the placenta and cause life-threatening conditions.
- Juniper has potential negative effects when used during pregnancy.
- Licorice can lead to poor fetal health outcomes.
- Passion flower can cause uterine contractions/induce labor.
- Pennyroyal should be avoided as it’s been known to cause organ failure and could result in a miscarriage.
- Red clover can interfere with pregnancy hormones.
- Saw palmetto interferes with hormones and has been deemed unsafe for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Shepherd's purse can potentially cause miscarriage.
- Turmeric may be unsafe for use during pregnancy in amounts greater than those commonly found in food.
- Yarrow can also potentially cause miscarriage.
- Yohimbe has been associated with heart attacks and seizures.
- Excessively high doses of vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin D or vitamin E can be dangerous. So if you’re taking these supplements, in addition to your prenatal vitamin, discuss your total dosage with your OBGYN provider to ensure you're within a safe range.
Supplements are plentiful and it’s important to note that this is not a complete list of all potentially harmful substances. Always consult your doctor before taking any medicine, herbs, or supplement. For other questions about your pregnancy, check out our pregnancy blog for more resources and helpful information.