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Last Updated on August 9, 2023 by Kiersten James

Today we review nutrient requirements during pregnancy and what to eat instead of taking a prenatal vitamin.

When a woman goes for her first prenatal care visit during weeks 6 to 8 of pregnancy, one of the first directives the healthcare provider will give is to start taking a prenatal vitamin right away.

But why? Is it really necessary?

I say no.

Supplements (including prenatal vitamins) are mostly unregulated. 

Manufacturers of prenatal vitamins do not have to obtain their ingredients from high-quality sources despite reassuring product labels. 

“Certification” by third parties are often vague about their requirements and standards for passing quality assessments. 

70% of women will experience morning sickness

According to the Cleveland Clinic, 70% of women will experience morning sickness during their pregnancy. 

I was included in that 70%. The whole “not every pregnancy is the same” has never applied to me. I’m sick every time and usually until 20-25 weeks.

You had to eat before you took your prenatal to avoid resulting nausea but I couldn’t eat because I was already nauseous. Taking a prenatal vitamin was in no way realistic.

So I opted out. I opted out of taking a prenatal vitamin for my entire pregnancy.

I was able to do this because I got most of my nourishment from real food with minor supplementation where I was lacking.

Core Measures for Having a Healthy Pregnancy

Food first.

Vitamins and minerals should always come from food first with artificial supplementation (vitamins) secondary.

Shop organic.

Organic products tend to have a much higher nutritional content than those grown conventionally through industrial farming methods. 

Avoid dairy products with growth hormones and contaminants.

Pregnancy-safe dairy will have the words “No BGH” or “No bovine growth hormones” somewhere on the label.

Watch your dosages.

Vitamin dosages that are considered normal for the mother can be extremely high once it’s passed on to your rapidly developing baby. 

Try to live and eat clean.

Everything you eat passes through your bloodstream to your developing baby. 

While most meat and eggs nowadays claim to have no pesticides, antibiotics, or hormones, make sure the label reinforces this.

What to do instead of taking a prenatal vitamin

Even if you choose to opt out of taking the standard prenatal vitamin, a healthy pregnancy requires certain nutrients for baby to grow and develop like it’s supposed to.

In addition to baby, Mom also needs to stay nourished in order to support another little life growing inside of her for 41 weeks. Without a nutrient dense diet, her health will be taxed as a result.

So, if we’re not going to take a prenatal vitamin, we need to talk about what to do instead.

Vitamin Requirements During Pregnancy

The following are the recommended vitamin requirements during pregnancy that midwives generally use for their patients.

  • Vitamin E: 400 IU
  • Vitamin C: 500mg
  • Folic acid: 800mcg
  • Iron: 75mg (chelated iron)
  • Calcium: 1200mcg
  • Magnesium: 600mg
  • Zinc: 20mg
  • Fish oil: 900mg

Here Are My Vitamin Disclaimers:

Daily doses of iron should always be below 100mg daily. 

Vitamin E is fat soluble. This means that it must be taken with a fatty food to absorb properly.

Safe doses of Vitamin A and Vitamin D in pregnancy are the same minimum daily doses for women who are not pregnant.

Vitamin C taken in high dosages may result in babies that show withdrawal symptoms and signs of scurvy at birth. Don’t take more than 1,000mg a day. 500mg is best. 

Calcium and iron should not be taken together since they counteract each other. Separate iron from dairy products by at least 4 hours. 

Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron. Take iron with fruit or something that contains high ascorbic acid content.

Vitamin B-12 is usually obtained in adequate amounts in every day diet except for those who are vegan. Supplement is recommended by sublingual tablets that go under the tongue. Look for the active form listed as either cyanocobalamin or hydroxocobalamin.

Calcium dosed in high amounts in the end of the third trimester can raise the pain threshold for the mother during labor. Please don’t do this. 

Calcium is vital for muscle movement, nerve signal transmission, and the release of chemicals that affect almost every other function within the body. 

A baby used to abnormally high levels of calcium in the womb will not be able to regulate to normal amounts once born. As a result, they may be left with a condition called hypocalcemia which is abnormally low levels of calcium.

Sourcing nutrients from food instead of taking a prenatal vitamin

Iron can be sourced from cream of rice, organ meats, almonds, dried fruits, and pumpkin seeds.

Calcium can be sourced from dairy products, dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens), or orange juice fortified with calcium. 

If you are unable to eat the amount or variety of food required to get a well-rounded, nutrient dense diet, take separate supplements to obtain the minimum requirements outlined above.

Avoid fermented soy products despite their higher B-12 content.

Fermented soy products contain vitamin analogs that block absorption of the actual vitamin B-12 content. 

How Much Protein Do I need When I’m Pregnant?

80 grams of protein is recommended every day for women who are pregnant. 

To help you hit that 80-gram mark, download the Prenatal Protein Content guide.

It’s a reference sheet I put together that lists all of the most common foods, their portion sizes, and protein content listed in grams.

How Many Calories Should I Eat During Pregnancy? 

It is recommended that a woman consumes 3,000 quality calories each day while pregnant.

This number increases to 4,000 per day while breastfeeding.

How Much Water Do You Need to Drink When You’re Pregnant?

Drink at least 2 quarts (equivalent to 1/2 gallon) of water every single day.

When you are mega nauseous, it’s tough. 

Room temperature water with freshly squeezed lemon juice was the easiest to get down in larger amounts when I was in those first trimester woes. 

Only consume water that has been filtered and preferably purified.

Quality matters.

Please do not drink tap water. Like, ever. 

But especially don’t drink tap water when you’re pregnant.

We have a Berkey water filter in our house and the difference in quality and taste is not to be understated. 

Chlorine in tap water at a level of 5ig/L or less had no effects on a developing baby in the womb. 

Raise that chlorine level to 20ig/L and there was a 50-100% correlation with the formation of holes in the heart (ventricular septal defects) and anencephalus (a huge portion of the brain never forms and is always fatal). 

You can have a healthy pregnancy without prenatal vitamins if you do your part in nutrition.

Nutrition is the foundation of all health.

Many prenatal issues can be prevented altogether with proper nourishment and nutrition. 

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This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please take all direction for health matters from your family’s primary health provider. All content on is for educational purposes only.

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