The supplements that are “safe” for pregnancy

Pregnancy requires specialized nutrition for healthy baby development and the overall well-being of the mom. The general consensus is to consume all those healthy minerals, vitamins and nutrients through food first, but supplements—like prenatal vitamins—are a common and useful way to help fill in any nutritional gaps. It can be difficult to weed through all of the information about supplements, wondering which truly are safe and which to avoid. A good rule is to talk to a healthcare provider who specializes in pregnancy care to determine what you need, but here are a few general tips about supplements during pregnancy.

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Supplements generally deemed “safe” 

Prenatal vitamins are designed with mom and baby in mind. However, not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. Just because a prenatal vitamin sits on the shelf of your local grocery store (or the virtual shelf of an online store), does not mean it’s the ideal—or even safe—choice. Anytime you are rummaging through prenatal vitamins and other supplements, look for best ones through each stage of pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers a helpful list of recommended amounts of minerals and vitamins that should be included in a prenatal vitamin. 

Another indicator of safety is a seal of independent verification, meaning the prenatal vitamin has met safety and quality standards. You can also look for food-based, plant-based, organic and even vegan options, but again, look for transparent and independent verification.

Common ingredients found in a prenatal vitamin include calcium, folic acid, B12 and zinc, among others. In addition to prenatal vitamins, here’s a general list of safe supplements:

  • Folate (some women may have a problem related to the MTHFR gene and folic acid)
  • Vitamin D
  • Iron (too little or too much can be problematic, so get your level checked)
  • Magnesium
  • Ginger root
  • Probiotics
  • Omega-3s/fish oil (some prenatals may have DHA included)
  • Red raspberry leaf (stick to second and third trimesters)

Supplements to avoid

A deficient or excess amount of minerals and vitamins can cause issues in both the baby’s development and the health of the mama. Too much vitamin A or vitamin E can be problematic for development, and an excess of iron can lead to physical symptoms, such as constipation. And no one—we mean no one— wants that. So, what should you generally avoid?

  • Goldenseal
  • Saw palmetto
  • Black cohosh
  • Blue cohosh
  • Dong qui
  • Yohimbe
  • Yarrow
  • Angelica
  • Ephedra

There are other supplements to avoid beyond what’s listed above. Herbs can be used during pregnancy, but only certain ones. When using herbs during pregnancy—or any other supplement—discuss and follow the guidelines of an expert. 

At the beginning of your pregnancy journey, remember to speak up about any supplements you are taking—including herbs. A healthcare professional, including herbalists or homeopathic physicians can assess if you need to make any changes to your supplement regimen, and guide you on a safe pregnancy path.