When you are pregnant your body has some extra needs and vitamin supplements are a good way to meet these needs. Your eating habits and physical condition play a big role in deciding which supplements are right for you.
Folic acid (or folate, which is B vitamin essential in cell growth and reproduction) is the only supplement that is considered crucial. This vitamin drastically reduces the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Spina bifida is a serious congenital condition that causes severe disabilities. It occurs when the central nervous system fails to close completely before birth. Doctors recommend that every woman of childbearing age take a daily supplement of 400mcg of folic acid every day beginning before conception and through the first trimester of pregnancy. Folate is naturally found in many foods, especially dark green, leafy vegetables and breakfast cereals that have been fortified.
You will also require more iron (at least 27 mg each day) in order to keep up with the increased blood volume during pregnancy. Extra calcium will help keep your bones strong while you are pregnant. A lack of calcium in your diet results in the foetus leeching calcium from you, resulting in weakened bones.
Some women now also take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement like DHA, which may have a beneficial effect on pre-eclampsia, birth weight and on the development of the foetal brain and nerves during the later part of the pregnancy. But choose a supplement that is retinol free. Vitamin A in the form of retinol is not recommended for use in pregnancy. Do watch your intake of vitamins A, D, E and K as these vitamins can be toxic in large amounts.
The best way to find the right supplement for you is to take a good, honest look at what you eat and talk with your obstetrician (or a dietician if you feel that your diet is poor or inadequate for you and baby).