Nutrition Needs Before, During, and After Pregnancy

AngelaRD, LDN, CBS

Read time: 3 minutes

What to know about getting the right nutrients while trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy, and postpartum

  • Learn which nutrients are important for conception, pregnancy, and postpartum

  • Learn how to include these key nutrients in your diet

Healthy eating and nutrition before, during, and after pregnancy is incredibly important for both you and your baby.1 Eating a balanced and varied diet based primarily on whole foods will help keep you well-nourished and provide your baby with the nutrients they need to grow and develop.2

A number of vitamins and minerals are particularly important during these exciting stages of life, with each one playing a unique role in the body.3 Focusing on getting the right amount of nutrients during every stage will help support the health of you and your baby for a lifetime.

Do I need a supplement to help meet my needs?

While you can meet most of your nutrient requirements through food alone, for some, supplements may be recommended.2 It’s important to discuss your needs with your healthcare provider to see if they suggest a supplement.

Know that there is no need to overwhelm yourself with tracking every nutrient. This task would be quite stressful! Instead, focus on getting a variety of foods from all different groups: Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins including low-mercury seafood, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, and beans. Each type of whole food has a different array of vitamins and minerals that will help you get the nutrients you and your little one need.4,5,9

If you are wondering if your diet is meeting your nutrition needs, our team of registered dietitians, fellow moms, and lactation specialists, are available from Monday – Friday 8 am – 6 pm (ET) and Saturday – Sunday 8 am – 2 pm (ET) to help figure out what may be going on. Chat now!

Here is a guide for recommended nutrients during preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum

Preconception nutrient needs

Preparing your body for pregnancy with the right nutrition can help increase your chance of a healthy pregnancy and child.9,9

Here are your nutrient needs while trying to get pregnant:

  • Folate: 400 micrograms/day11

  • Iron: 18 milligrams/day12

  • Calcium: 1,000 milligrams/day13

  • Vitamin D: 600 IU/day14

  • Vitamin: A 700 micrograms retinol activity equivalents (RAE)/day15

  • Zinc: 8 milligrams/day16

  • Iodine: 150 micrograms/day17

  • Choline: 425 milligrams/day18

  • B6: 1.9 milligrams/day19

  • B12: 2.4 micrograms/day20

  • Omega 3 fatty acids: 1.1 grams/day*21

Read more: How Can I Optimize My Diet While Trying to Get Pregnant?

Prenatal nutrient needs

During pregnancy many of your nutrient needs increase to help your baby grow and develop.7 Meeting these needs will also help you meet your own needs during this very demanding time.

Here are your nutrient needs while pregnant:

  • Folate: 600 micrograms/day11

  • Iron: 27 milligrams/day12

  • Calcium: 1,000 milligrams/day13

  • Vitamin D: 600 IU/day14

  • Vitamin A: 770 micrograms RAE/day15

  • Zinc: 11 milligrams/day16

  • Iodine: 220 micrograms/day17

  • Choline: 450 milligrams/day18

  • B6: 1.9 milligrams/day19

  • B12: 2.6 micrograms/day20

  • Omega 3 fatty acids: 1.4 grams/day*21

Read more: What Nutrients Do I Need During Pregnancy?

Breastfeeding postpartum nutrient needs

Just like during pregnancy, many of your nutrient needs are increased while breastfeeding. This helps you not only recover from pregnancy, but also make sure you’re giving your baby the nutrition they need for rapid growth and development.8,9

Here are your nutrient needs while breastfeeding:

  • Folate: 500 micrograms/day11

  • Iron: 9 milligrams/day12

  • Calcium: 1,000 milligrams/day13

  • Vitamin D: 600 IU/day14

  • Vitamin A: 1300 micrograms RAE/day15

  • Zinc: 12 milligrams/day16

  • Iodine: 290 micrograms/day17

  • Choline: 550 milligrams/day18

  • B6: 2 milligrams/day19

  • B12: 2.8 micrograms/day20

  • Omega 3 fatty acids: 1.3 grams/day*21

Read more: What to Eat While Breastfeeding

Postpartum (not breastfeeding) nutrient needs

Even if you are not breastfeeding, your nutrition is important! Your body just went through the rigorous task of growing a little human, and ultimately that little baby took their nutrient needs from you, potentially leaving you depleted. Eating healthfully and getting the right nutrition will help your recovery.10

Here are your postpartum nutrient needs:

  • Folate: 400 micrograms/day11

  • Iron: 18 milligrams/day12

  • Calcium: 1,000 milligrams/day13

  • Vitamin D: 600 IU/day14

  • Zinc: 8 milligrams/day16

  • Iodine: 150 micrograms/day17

  • Choline: 425 milligrams/day18

  • B6: 1.9 milligrams/day19

  • B12: 2.4 micrograms/day20

  • Omega 3 fatty acids 1.1 grams/day*21

Read more: Healthy and Easy Postpartum Snacks

*Note that there is not yet enough data to establish a recommendation for daily omega 3 fatty acid intake. The amounts listed above are adequate for the average American in each stage.

Tips to help meet your nutrition needs in each stage: Preconception, Pregnancy, and Postpartum

Discover what your needs are and how to meet them

If you are interested in learning more about your needs during each stage, or about a particular nutrient, check out the Happy Family Learning Center.

Learn about:

Prenatal Nutrition Guide

How Much Should I Eat While Pregnant?

How Much Should You Eat While Breastfeeding?

Read up on specific nutrients:

Why does Vitamin D Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama

Why does Iodine Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama

Why does Choline Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama

And check out some sample Meal Plans for more ideas:

Meal Plan: Key Nutrients of Pregnancy

Meal Plan: Getting the Right Nutrition While Breastfeeding

Meal and Hydration Plan for Supporting Milk Supply

Get a variety of foods from all groups to help meet your nutrient needs

Fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit, choose whole grains most of the time, and get a variety of proteins, such as seafood, beans, nuts, seeds, low fat dairy, poultry, and lean beef.5,22

Choose healthy fats (like those found in nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado) and emphasize water.

Chat with your health care provider about a supplement

To help fill any gaps and ensure you and your baby are getting the nutrients you need, speak with your health care provider about any supplements that may be needed.

Let's Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET), and Saturday - Sunday 8am-2pm (ET). Chat Now!

Read more about the experts that help write our content!

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Healthy Weight Gain in Pregnancy and Why it’s Good

Meal Plan to Help Manage Morning Sickness

Which Foods Should I Avoid While Breastfeeding?