Herbs and Vitamins During Pregnancy

Herbs and Vitamins During Pregnancy

A balanced diet is the best way to receive nutrients but taking vitamins can also be beneficial. Pregnant women should only take vitamins with the approval of their health care provider. Supplements and natural herbs do not replace a healthy diet but can help ensure that a woman is receiving enough daily nutrients.

Herbs and Vitamins During Pregnancy

Vitamins and Natural Herbs

Vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, and folic acid are vital for proper fetal growth, development and healthy adult living. To help create a healthy environment in which your baby can to develop, it is important that you eat a well-balanced diet and exercise.

If your diet consists of unprocessed foods, fruits, a variety of vegetables, whole grains, and plenty of water, then you may have the vitamins and minerals your body normally needs. However, because you need more nutrients while pregnant, your health care provider will probably suggest you supplement your food intake with a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin.

While most multivitamins contain at least 100% of the daily value (DV) for nearly all vitamins, they usually do not contain some of the nutrients you need when you are pregnant because during pregnancy your daily intake requirements for certain nutrients, such as folic acid (folate), calcium, and iron, increase.  If you are pregnant (or trying to conceive) make sure to follow your health care providers recommendations regarding taking a prenatal vitamin.

Supplemental synthetic vitamins and minerals may contain higher doses in concentrated form, which can be detrimental if taken in improper amounts. Always consult with your health care provider regarding any nutritional supplements you want to take.  If you are taking additional supplements you should be aware of signs and symptoms of overdose.

Folic Acid

Folic acid, a B vitamin, helps prevent birth defects. The best way to get enough folic acid is to take a prenatal vitamin or multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid. You also can get folic acid in your diet but it is difficult to get enough every day through food alone.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that a woman consume no more than 1,000 micrograms of synthetic folic acid a day.  Folic acid is found in the following foods:

  • Fortified breakfast cereals such as Total and Product 19

  • Lentils

  • Asparagus

  • Spinach

  • Black beans

  • Peanuts (only if you do not have a peanut allergy)

  • Orange juice (from concentrate is best)

  • Enriched breads and pasta

  • Romaine lettuce

  • Broccoli

Natural herbs and vitamins

Although herbs are natural, not all herbs are safe to take during pregnancy. The FDA urges pregnant women not to take any herbal products without talking to their midwife or doctor first. Depending on what type of health care provider you see, they may recommend using herbs to help promote the health of your pregnancy. Remember, never try to self-dose or diagnose with any medications, including herbs.  The best way to use herbs is under the care of a midwife, physician, herbalist, naturopathic or homeopathic doctor.

Choosing to use herbs during pregnancy is a personal choice, but to ensure the best outcome for you and your baby, you should be well educated on the types of herbs, parts of the herb ( e.g., roots or leaves) and the way that it could be used ( caplet, tonic, tea.).  The following herbs have been rated likely safe or possibly safe for use during pregnancy: 

  • Red Raspberry Leaf - Rich in iron, this herb has helped tone the uterus, increase milk production, decrease nausea, and ease labor pains. Some studies have even reported that using red raspberry leaf during pregnancy can reduce complications and the use of interventions during birth.  You may see “Pregnancy Teas” that are made from Red Raspberry leaf to help promote uterine health during pregnancy.

  • Peppermint Leaf: Helpful in relieving nausea/ morning sickness and flatulence.

  • Lemon Balm- Has calming effect and helps relieve irritability, insomnia, and anxiety.

  • Ginger root-Helps relieve nausea and vomiting.

  • Slippery Elm Bark- (when the inner bark is used orally in amounts used in foods.) Used to help relieve nausea, heartburn and vaginal irritations.

  • Oats & Oat Straw- Rich in calcium and magnesium; helps relieve anxiety, restlessness and irritated skin.

  • Garlic-when used orally in amounts commonly found in foods.

  • Capsicum (Cayenne, hot pepper)-when used topically and appropriately

The following herbs, when used orally, are considered unsafe or likely unsafe during pregnancy:

  • Saw Palmetto

  • Goldenseal

  • Dong Quai

  • Ephedra

  • Yohimbe

  • Pay D Arco

  • Passion Flower

  • Black Cohos

  • Blue Cohosh

  • Roman Chamomile

  • Pennyroyal-when used orally or topically

The following are commonly used herbs which have a safety rating of possibly unsafe, when used orally:

  • Aloe

  • Ginseng ( American &Korean

  • Evening Primrose

  • Feverfew

  • Kava Kava

  • Senna

For additional information please visit the page Dangerous Herbs and Vitamins During Pregnancy.

Additional Information

Prenatal vitamins: how much is too much?

March of dimes: Vitamins: what you need to know

Americanpregnancy: Natural supplements


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