What supplement or food changes are recommended for pregnant or expecting women?

Written by and verified by the Examine.com Research Team. Last updated on Jun 13, 2012.

What foods should I include in my diet when pregnant?

Consider adding in Eggs into the diet for their Choline content. Choline has been shown to benefit unborn children through maternal consumption[1], and can either be supplemented or consumed through foods.

Fish is also a food to seek out, particularly for the Fish Oil content which is associated with increased offspring intelligence in several animal models[2][3][4]. Caution should be taken when considering mercury though, as it is a contaminant in some foods and fish oil products and is negatively associated (bad) for brain development.

What foods should I exclude from my diet when pregnant?

Attempt to exclude predatory fish such as shark, or long living fish and species such as albacore tuna, due to their higher mercury content.

Seek shorter living and non-predatory fish such as sardines, mackeral, and herring for the Fish Oil content and lesser mercury content. These select fish are also high in fat content and thus the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids (whereas leaner fish, like tilapia or tuna, have less overall omega-3s).

What supplements should I consider when pregnant?

If not already prescribed by a Medical professional, one should consider taking a Folate supplement to reduce the risk of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs)[5].

There have also been many benefits associated with an increased Choline intake, which can be supplemented or consumed through animal products (mostly through eggs). It should be noted that these have only been seen with Choline, and the similar compound DMAE is actually harmful.

Ginger, usually either in pills or made at home from ground up root (in the form of tea) is demonstrated effective in reducing morning sickness; mostly nausea but sometimes vomiting frequency as well. It has been shown safe for up to 14 weeks usage in pregnant women, so it should be considered to be used as needed during pregnancy.

What supplements should I avoid when pregnant?

There are many supplements out there that are 'teratogenic', which is a term used to indicate a compound that is able to disrupt growth and development. For unborn children, they can potentially cause birth defects.

The most well known teratogen is Thalidomide, which is no longer available. Not all teratogens are potent, and there is a chance that ingestion of a compound known to be teratogenic may not actually harm a fetus. For cautionary reasons, it is advised that women expecting a baby do not take or otherwise discontinue usage of any compounds linked to teratogenicity. These compounds include:

Some other compounds are 'Abortifacients' and cause contractions of the wall of the uterus. In worst case scenarios, they may cause premature birth and should also be avoided unless otherwise recommended by a Medical Professional, these include:


  1. Yan J, et al. Maternal choline intake modulates maternal and fetal biomarkers of choline metabolism in humans . Am J Clin Nutr. (2012)
  2. da Rocha CM, Kac G. High dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated acids during pregnancy and prevalence of post-partum depression . Matern Child Nutr. (2012)
  3. Fernandes FS, Tavares do Carmo MD, Herrera E. Influence of Maternal Diet During Early Pregnancy on the Fatty Acid Profile in the Fetus at Late Pregnancy in Rats . Lipids. (2012)
  4. Noakes PS, et al. Increased intake of oily fish in pregnancy: effects on neonatal immune responses and on clinical outcomes in infants at 6 mo . Am J Clin Nutr. (2012)
  5. Dunlop AL, et al. Maternal vitamin D, folate, and polyunsaturated fatty acid status and bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy . Infect Dis Obstet Gynecol. (2011)
  6. Jones KL. The effects of alcohol on fetal development . Birth Defects Res C Embryo Today. (2011)
  7. Giles JJ, Bannigan JG. Teratogenic and developmental effects of lithium . Curr Pharm Des. (2006)
  8. Yacobi S, Ornoy A. Is lithium a real teratogen? What can we conclude from the prospective versus retrospective studies? A review . Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. (2008)

Cite this page

"What supplement or food changes are recommended for pregnant or expecting women?," Examine.com, published on 13 June 2012, last updated on 13 June 2012, https://examine.com/nutrition/what-supplement-or-food-changes-are-recommended-for-pregnant-or-expecting-women/