Pregnancy is the perfect time to optimize nutrition in order to support the healthy growth and development of your baby. Now is when you want to strive to include all the fundamentals of a balanced diet, including a wide range of fruits and vegetables, along with sufficient amounts of protein and healthy fats. Ideally, you’ll eat well every day for these nine months. Realistically, though, it might be a bit of a challenge–especially in the beginning, when queasiness and food aversion can occur.
Whatever stage you’re at (including up to three months before you’re even pregnant!), taking a prenatal multivitamin is always the best way to fill in any nutrition gaps and to be sure you’re getting optimal amounts of key nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy.
When choosing a prenatal supplement, there are several nutrients you’ll want to pay close attention to. Learn more about them below, and remember to always consult with your healthcare practitioner before beginning any new supplement program.
Folate is needed to support the healthy development of the baby† The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all women planning or capable of pregnancy take a daily supplement containing 0.4 to 0.8 mg (400 to 800 mcg) of folic acid. Folate or folic acid is derived from the word “folium.” So naturally, green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, are an excellent dietary source of folate. Ideally, folate should be delivered in the methylated form (look for 5-MTHF), which is more readily utilized by many women.†
Iron is essential to make hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to all the tissues of the body. It’s estimated that during pregnancy a woman’s need for iron essentially doubles. Therefore it is vital to take a gentle, well-absorbed form of iron daily in a prenatal multivitamin.
Choline is an essential nutrient that is part of the B vitamin family. This nutrient does not receive as much focus as folate and iron, and it is not routinely included in all prenatal multivitamins. Choline is needed for healthy fetal development, particularly in the third trimester. Choline is also required to make phosphatidylcholine, a key component of cell membranes.†
Iodine deficiency is no longer a thing of the past. Iodine is a trace element that is a key component of thyroid hormones. The CDC’s 2nd National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition noted that young women (20-39 y) bordered on having iodine insufficiency. This is of particular note for women of reproductive age, due to the importance of iodine in brain development, in addition to being a crucial building block of thyroid hormones.† 
 Pfeiffer CM, et al. The CDC’s Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition in
the U.S. Population is a valuable tool for researchers and policy makers. J Nutr. 2013 Jun;143(6):938S-47S.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
Article contributed by Erin Stokes, N.D., Medical Director at INNATE Response. Dr. Stokes received her naturopathic doctor degree from Bastyr University in 2001. Shortly afterwards she began to pursue her passion for educating others by teaching Western Pathology and Psychology of Healing at Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, Colo. She combines her experience as a naturopathic doctor with an extensive background in the natural retail industry, most recently providing naturopathic consultations at an integrative pharmacy for over six years. Her personal mission is to empower people with the inspiration and tools to change their lives, and she is a frequent radio show and podcast guest. Dr. Stokes is a registered Naturopathic Doctor in Colorado, and lives with her family in Boulder, Colo.