Nutritional Supplements for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Nutritional supplements are necessary during all stages of pregnancy - preconception, gestation, and lactation.
Nutritional Supplements for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Last update: 10 September, 2021

Nutritional supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding contribute to maintaining an adequate state of health of both mother and child. This is because an optimal mother’s diet is crucial for the correct development of the fetus.

One can prevent many problems with adequate nutrition during the preconception, pregnancy, and breastfeeding periods. It’s common for a specialist to recommend nutritional supplements nowadays. These are specifically designed for each period: preconception, pregnancy, and lactation.

Nutritional supplements are important since preconception

The mother’s nutrition during the preconception period is a determining factor in achieving a healthy development process. This is because it significantly influences both fertility and the initial phase of pregnancy. In addition, the growth of the fetus is closely related to the mother’s nutritional status.

Thus, consult a doctor who can evaluate your health status and recommend an appropriate nutritional supplement if you’re thinking of becoming pregnant. This way you’ll be able to take the necessary measures.

The consumption of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, mainly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) contribute to good overall health. They support the proper functioning of the heart, lungs, immune system, and endocrine system, as stated in a publication in the Annual Review of Food Science and Technology.

A woman showing a positive pregnancy test.
The mother’s nutritional status playing a big role during the gestation.

Nutritional supplements during pregnancy

Some studies reveal the importance of nutritional supplements during pregnancy. These include nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin B12, iron, iodine, and other micronutrients.

Folic acid (vitamin B9) and vitamin B12

These are essential for proper cell development. Folic acid begins to act immediately so you might want to take it if you’re planning on having a baby.

Research shows that the intake of this micronutrient reduces the risk of problems in the development of the baby’s cognitive system, such as neural tube defects.


The requirements for this chemical element increase during the nine months of pregnancy. It’s tied to the proper growth and intellectual development of a fetus. Women must maintain adequate levels of this mineral because a deficit could lead to congenital hypothyroidism.


The need for iron significantly increases during pregnancy so take supplements on a regular basis. It’ll cover both the needs of the mother as well as supplying the baby. Iron is an important mineral as it intervenes in the transportation of oxygen to the cells.

Omega-3 fatty acids

These nutrients are essential for the body. DHA contributes to the brain, visual, and eye development of a fetus. There’s also evidence that these lipids improve the cardiovascular health of a mother and her child.

Vitamin D

This vitamin is important because it contributes to proper bone growth and overall development in children. Women must maintain adequate levels of vitamin D during pregnancy in order to be able to absorb calcium and promote proper bone development.

The components of nutritional supplements during lactation

The nutritional needs are different during this stage and actually more demanding than during pregnancy. The baby receives most of the essential nutrients from their mother’s milk. For this reason, you must provide supplements that can satisfy these needs. The most common ones for this purpose are:

Folic acid (Vitamin B9)

The mother’s vitamin B9 levels may decrease during lactation because part of it goes into breast milk. Folic acid helps reduce tiredness and fatigue.

Vitamins A and D

Breast milk is the best source of vitamin A and vitamin D. The second contributes to the absorption and use of calcium. Ensuring its supply through breast milk is a function of the mother’s vitamin D levels.

A baby breastfeeding.

Iodine is one of the crucial nutritional supplements

Breastfeeding women need nearly double the amount of iodine to ensure the necessary supply for their baby.

Calcium and iron

The mother’s need for calcium and iron during lactation increases considerably. Iron is crucial in the formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These are necessary nutrients for the organism. In fact, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) greatly contributes to the normal development of the infant’s brain and eyes. It also prevents inflammatory conditions.

Nutritional supplements can be your ally

Supplements for pregnancy and lactation are specifically formulated to meet the needs of every stage of the process. Not only should you take care of your health when you already know you’re pregnant, but also prepare for it in advance. Every situation is different and it’s sometimes necessary to evaluate the context in order to supplement correctly.

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  • Shahidi F., Ambigaipalan P., Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and their health benefits. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol, 2018. 9: 345-381.ç
  • Valentin M., Mazeau PC., Zerah M., Ceccaldi PF., et al., Acid folic and pregnancy: a mandatory supplementaion. Ann Endocrinol, 2018. 79 (2): 91-94.
  • Back M., Hansson GK., Omega 3 fatty acids, cardiovascular risk and the resolution of intlammation. FASEB J, 2019. 33 (2): 1536-1539.