Between “morning” sickness that can last all day, exhaustion and the myriad of aches and pains that can happen during pregnancy, sometimes eating healthy foods, exercise and rest aren’t enough or even doable.
Although prenatal vitamins are necessary, supplements may be just what your body needs to quickly feel better.
Before taking any kind of supplement however, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s compatible with your prenatal vitamin, how much you should take and how to find a reputable brand.
Here are nine of the most common pregnancy complaints and the best vitamin and mineral and supplements to relieve symptoms.
1. Morning sickness
Between 70 to 80 percent of pregnant women will experience nausea and vomiting, especially during the first trimester when hormones are in full force.
Although you can try things like ginger, bland crackers or acupressure, one of the most effective and safe supplements you can take is vitamin B6. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends between 10 to 25 milligrams taken three or four times a day.
Although it’s common to feel tired when you’re pregnant— you’re growing a human after all— certain supplements can give you a boost of energy.
Iron is a good one to start with since many women are already iron deficient when they become pregnant because of menstruation or a lack or iron in the diet, said Dr. Arielle Levitan, a board-certified internal medicine physician in Chicago, Il., co-author of “The Vitamin Solution,” and co-founder of Vous Vitamin.
The deficiency can worsen during pregnancy because your baby depletes your iron stores further, which also lowers your energy.
Ask your doctor to check your iron levels and recommend a type of iron that won’t cause upset stomach and constipation such as carbonyl iron, Levitan said.
Other supplements that can help include B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and iodine. Iodine supports the thyroid gland, which regulates energy and metabolism.
3. Acid reflux
Acid reflux is common during pregnancy and up to 45 percent of women complain of heartburn, indigestion and belching. Eating small meals throughout the day, avoiding large meals before bedtime as well as spicy and acidic foods can help. Yet if acid reflux persists, digestive enzymes taken with your meal can also help ease the burn.
Pregnancy hormones coupled with food aversions to vegetables and cravings for carb-heavy fare can make it hard to go. What’s more, although it’s important to get enough iron during pregnancy it can also make you constipated.
Vitamin C can help improve iron absorption, which may mean you can take less iron. Higher doses can also work as a stool softener when needed, said Helen Saul Case, the Lockport, NY-based author of “Vitamins & Pregnancy: The Real Story.” Or consider magnesium citrate because it also acts as a laxative.
Constipation, straining and the pressure from your baby on your rectum and perineum can cause hemorrhoids or make them worse. Although the best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, high-fiber foods, and drink water, vitamin E applied topically can help reduce the pain, burning and itching.
Pain in your lower back, muscle aches and round ligament pain are all common during pregnancy and one of the best supplements that can alleviate the pain is magnesium.
“Magnesium is such an extremely important mineral for absolutely everybody [but] about half of us aren’t getting half of the recommended dietary allowance of magnesium in our diets,” Saul Case said.
That’s because it’s nearly impossible to get enough through diet alone since only about 50 percent of what you eat is absorbed.
Another way to get your dose of magnesium is to soak in a warm bath with Epsom salt to relax sore, tense muscles.
Vitamin C, which strengthens ligaments and tendons, also eases pain. Saul Case recommends 4,000 milligrams a day during the first trimester, 6,000 milligrams during the second trimester and 10,000 to 15,000 milligrams in the third trimester.
This high-dose vitamin C therapy pioneered by Dr. Frederick R. Klenner, has been shown to prevent postpartum hemorrhages, cardiac fetal distress, shorten labor and reduce labor pain.
7. Leg cramps
A magnesium supplement is also the best supplement for leg cramps. Other supplements to consider include vitamin C, calcium, selenium and zinc. Studies show vitamin E may also help ease leg cramps but high doses should be avoided, Levitan said.
The intense pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound can make migraine headaches during pregnancy downright miserable and they may be due to vitamin deficiencies.
In fact, research recently presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American Headache Society found that people who suffer from frequent migraines were more likely to have low levels of vitamin D, riboflavin (B-2) and CoQ10.
Niacin (vitamin B3), taken at the onset of pain is one of the most effective ways to ward off a migraine, although it can create a “flush,” and make your skin red and itchy.
“I have found that niacin is not only effective at getting rid of the migraine, the side effect is less uncomfortable than getting a full-blown migraine,” Saul Case said.
9. Bleeding gums
Although it’s common for your gums to bleed a bit when you brush or floss, vitamin C can help prevent it altogether.
“If the capillary walls weaken they tend to bleed and vitamin C strengthens the bond and holds cells together,” Saul Case said.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.