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Nutrition During Pregnancy - Topic Overview

Folic acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy reduces the chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect or other birth defects.

  • Women of childbearing age should get 0.4 mg (400 mcg) to 0.8 mg (800 mcg) of folic acid from fortified food, supplements, or a mix of food plus supplements.2 This amount is found in most once-a-day multivitamins.
  • Women who are pregnant with twins or more should take 1 mg (1000 mcg) of folic acid daily.3
  • Women who have a family history of neural tube defects, who have had a baby with a neural tube defect, or who are on medicines for seizures should take additional folic acid: a daily dosage of 4 mg (4000 mcg) of folic acid is recommended. Do not try to reach this amount of folic acid by taking more multivitamins, because you could get too much of the other substances that are in the multivitamin.4


You will need twice as much iron in your second and third trimesters as you did before pregnancy. This extra iron supports the extra blood in your system and helps with the growth of the placenta and the fetus. Your iron requirements are slight during the first trimester of pregnancy, and taking iron supplements in the first trimester may aggravate morning sickness.

After the first trimester, take a daily supplement containing 30 mg of iron (most prenatal vitamins include iron). A woman with a multiple pregnancy is advised to take 60 mg to 100 mg of iron daily.3 Iron supplements can cause an upset stomach and constipation. Taking your iron at bedtime may decrease the chance of stomach upset. Your body absorbs iron best in small amounts when you eat it with vitamin C, so you may want to take your iron throughout the day.


Calcium is needed for the development of the fetus's skeleton. You can get enough calcium in your diet by eating or drinking 4 servings from the dairy (milk) group each day. Good sources of calcium from nonmilk sources include:

  • Greens (such as mustard and turnip greens), bok choy, kale, and watercress.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower.
  • Tofu that is "calcium-set."
  • Corn tortillas made with lime.
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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