pregnant woman buying vitamins

Maintaining a well-balanced diet is one of the best things you can do for your body. This is especially true now that you’re expecting a little one!

And foods rich in the eight B vitamins (known as B complex) play an important role in supporting a healthy pregnancy.

Mary L. Rosser, M.D., Ph.D., attending physician at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women’s Health at Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York, explains that, “they keep your body strong while your baby is growing. They also change food into energy, giving you that needed boost during your pregnancy.” This natural energy lift will come in very handy, especially if you’re feeling tired during your first and third trimesters.

Each of these energetic B vitamins below is packed with individual benefits for you and your growing baby.

Vitamin B-1: Thiamine

B vitamins keep your body strong while your baby is growing.
Mary L. Rosser, M.D., Ph.D.

Vitamin B-1 plays a huge part in your baby’s brain development. Pregnant women need about 1.4 milligrams of vitamin B-1 daily. Natural sources of vitamin B-1 are found in whole grain pastas, yeast, pork, peas, and even some dairy products.

Vitamin B-2: Riboflavin

Like all B vitamins, riboflavin is water soluble, which means that your body doesn’t store it. You must replace them through your diet or prenatal vitamins. Vitamin B-2 keeps your eyes healthy and helps your skin look glowing and refreshed. Pregnant women should take 1.4 milligrams of vitamin B-2 daily (as compared to 1.1 mg daily for nonpregnant women). Chicken, turkey, fish, yogurt, cornflakes, and eggs are all filled with vitamin B-2.

Vitamin B-3: Niacin

B-3 works hard to improve your digestion, ease nausea, and abate painful migraines. Doctors recommend that moms-to-be take 18 milligrams on a daily basis. A delicious lunchtime sandwich made from whole-grain bread piled high with fresh tuna salad can provide you with an excellent source of vitamin B-3.

Vitamin B-5: Pantothenic Acid

B-5 helps to create hormones and eases those irritatingly painful leg cramps. Moms-to-be need roughly 6 milligrams of vitamin B-5 on a daily basis. Breakfast can include scrambled egg yolks, or a bowl of whole-grain cereal.

Follow up with a vitamin B-5-rich lunch of hearty brown rice stir-fry with broccoli and cashew nuts. An afternoon snack of peanut butter-filled cookies topped off with a cold refreshing glass of milk can complete your daily requirements.

Vitamin B-6: Pyridoxine

Vitamin B-6 plays a vital part in your growing baby’s brain and nervous system development throughout the next nine months. It also is vital for the production of norepinephrine and serotonin, which are two of the most important neurotransmitters (signal messengers). It can come in quite handy to help you battle those not-so-pleasant pregnancy side effects of nausea and vomiting.

“We often recommend vitamin B-6 for relief of nausea in early pregnancy,” explains Amelia Grace Henning, C.N.M. at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. “Typically, between 25 to 50 mg up to three times a day.” But, doctors advise that while vitamin B-6 is likely safe for pregnant women, they should not go over the recommended daily dose. Whole-grain cereals, bananas, papayas, and beans are all natural sources of vitamin B-6.

Vitamin B-7: Biotin

The U.S. Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine recommends a daily adequate intake of 30 mcg of vitamin B-7 during pregnancy (with 35 mcg for breastfeeding women). Pregnancy can often cause a biotin deficiency, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough. Vitamin B-7-rich foods include oats, mushrooms, Swiss chard, and milk.

Vitamin B-9: Folic Acid

This is perhaps the most important of the B vitamins to take during your pregnancy. The March of Dimes recommends that women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid (vitamin B-9) every day before and after they become pregnant.

Folic acid, when taken during this time period, can help to reduce your baby’s risk for developing birth defects, including spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Once you become pregnant, your folic acid needs will increase. Folic acid is also essential for the production of red blood cells.

Taking a prenatal vitamin daily with at least 600 micrograms of folic acid, in combination with eating folate-rich foods, will ensure that you are getting the right amount. Sources of vitamin B-9 include:

  • oranges
  • grapefruits
  • green, leafy vegetables like spinach
  • broccoli
  • asparagus

Vitamin B-12: Cobalamin

B-12 helps to maintain your nervous system. Sources of vitamin B-12 include milk, poultry, and fish. The recommended amount of vitamin B-12 during pregnancy is roughly 2.6 micrograms per day.

But, doctors also believe that a vitamin B-12 supplement along with folic acid (which is found in prenatal vitamins) will not only help to prevent birth defects including spina bifida, but will fight defects that affect the spine and central nervous system.

Takeaway

VitaminBenefit
B-1 (thiamine)Plays a big part in your baby’s brain development
B-2 (riboflavin)Keeps your eyes healthy, and your skin glowing and fresh
B-3 (niacin)Improves digestion and can ease morning sickness and nausea
B-5 (pantothenic acid)Helps create pregnancy hormones and eases leg cramps
B-6 (pyridoxine)Plays a big part in your baby’s brain and nervous system development
B-7 (biotin)Pregnancy can cause biotin deficiency, so you may want to increase your intake
B-9 (folic acid)Can reduce your baby’s risk of developing birth defects
B-12 (cobalamin)Helps to maintain your and your baby’s spine and central nervous system

Routine supplementation of the vitamin B complex beyond what is included in prenatal vitamins is typically not recommended, says Henning. “While there may be some research in this area, data to date has not supported changes in routine supplementation.” Taking simple steps to eat a well-balanced diet filled with a combination of these B vitamins will keep you and your baby strong and healthy.