Nutrients you need during pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body requires more than 30 different nutrients. "Seven nutrients, namely vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are especially important as they help with your baby’s development as well as maintain your health," says Ms Kellie Kong, Dietitian ​from the ​Department of Nutrition​ & Dietetics at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Their recommended dietary allowances (RDA) per day, functions and food sources are detailed in the table below.

NutrientRDAFunctionFood Sources​Important Notes
Vitamin A2500IU/dayVitamin A ​promotes growth of cells and tissues and prevent night blindness.
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Red and yellow fruits and vegetables (papaya, mango, pumpkin, carrots)
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach and broccoli).

In the first trimester, more than 10,000 IU/day of vitamin A can harm the foetus.

As liver is a concentrated source of vitamin A, limit to 2 tablespoons (50g) per week during this period.

Iron19mg/dayIron is needed for formation of red blood cells and prevention of anaemia in pregnant women.

Heme iron:

  • Red meat (beef, mutton, lamb)
  • Liver
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Fish

Non-heme iron:

  • Eggs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Wholegrain cereals
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dried apricots
  • Almonds

Iron is present in two forms in food - heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is better absorbed by the body than non-heme iron.

Eating vitamin C-rich foods at the same meal as non-heme iron foods will increase iron absorption.

Vitamin C100mg/dayVitamin C enhances non-heme iron absorption. It is also required for bone and ligament formation.
  • Fresh fruits (e.g. papaya, kiwi, guava, orange, strawberries)
  • Fresh or lightly cooked vegetables (capsicum and broccoli)
Folic Acid600mcg/dayFolic acid helps in preventing neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the foetus and anaemia in pregnant women.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach)
  • Citrus fruits and juices (e.g. orange juice)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts
  • Fortified cereals
Calcium1000mg/dayCalcium helps build your baby’s bones and teeth.
  • Milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Fish with edible bones (ikan bilis, sardines)
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Fortified food (high calcium soy bean milk)
Vitamin D400IU/dayVitamin D is required for calcium absorption.
  • Fortified milk
  • Fish (sardines)

Also manufactured by our skin cells upon exposure to sunlight. About 10-15 min a day of sunlight on our arms at 10am or 2pm is adequate.

However, people with darker complexion may need longer exposures to manufacture adequate Vitamin D.

DHA (Docosa-hexaenoic acid)There is no RDA for DHA, but the ISSFAL (the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids) recommends 300 mg DHA dailyDHA is an omega-3 fatty acid required for brain and eye development.
  • Deep-sea fatty fish (e.g. salmon, herring, sardine​)
  • Eggs

Pregnant women who are vegetarians can obtain pre-formed DHA from microalgae-derived DHA supplements.

They can also consume more foods containing alpha-linolenic acid (another omega-3 fatty acid which can be converted into DHA by the body) like flaxseed, canola oil and walnuts.

Reference: Healthy Start for Your Pregnancy - Health Promotion Board, March 2012

See previous page to find out how to have a healthy diet during pregnancy​.

See next page to find out if you are eating enough for pregnancy​.

Ref: O17