Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for tissue growth and repair in the body. Therefore, it is safe to consume vitamin C during pregnancy and is also recommended to help fetal growth and development. The vitamin is water-soluble, and hence a fresh supply is required every day as the body cannot store excess amounts. However, it is wise not to consume vitamin C in mega doses during pregnancy to be on the safe side. In this post, we explain the importance of vitamin C in pregnant women, its recommended doses, deficiency disorders, and more.
How Much Vitamin C Do You Require During Pregnancy?
The recommended daily amount (RDA) is 85 milligrams (mg) for pregnant women who are 19 years and above; and 80mg for women of 18 and below.
As per the US Food and Nutrition Board of the Insititute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences, the tolerable upper intake level (UI) is 2,000mg per day for women of 19 and above; and 1,800mg for women 18 and below (1).
Why Do You Need Vitamin C When You Are Pregnant?
During pregnancy, it is necessary to have vitamin C (also referred as ascorbic acid) in right amounts in the body. It is essential for the:
- maternal health
- development of the fetus
- removal of any cosmetic defects in the mother and baby
- The antioxidant property of vitamin C fights infections and protects your body from toxins and any damage (2).
- It helps in tissue repair, wound healing, bone growth and repair and having healthy skin (3).
- It is vital in making collageniXIt is the most abundant protein found in the skin, bones, and connective tissues production , a structural protein which is a component of cartilage, bones, tendons and skin (4).
- It helps the body absorb iron from food (mostly vegetarian sources). Iron keeps hemoglobin levels normal and protects you from anemia. Iron rich food along with a glass of orange juice aids better absorption (5) of the mineral. Vitamin C increases the iron absorption from the intestines. Iron requirements increase in the second and third trimester and thus supplementing vitamin C in your diet will help to fulfill the requirements.
- Vitamin C prevents bleeding gums, thus reducing subcutaneous hemorrhagesiXBleeding that occurs under the skin when small blood vessels break and leak blood into the surrounding tissue (6).
- Vitamin C helps you deal with varicose veins as it arrests cholesterol buildup and removes any toxic substances.
- Ascorbic acid aids in the proper development of the fetus and placental function. It helps in the formation of baby’s tissues, strengthens the blood vessels of the placenta, thereby providing more oxygen to the fetus, and lowers the risk of placental abruptioniXA pregnancy complication characterized by the detachment of the placenta from the uterus before delivery, causing severe complications (7). Placental abruption is prevented by vitamin C by improving adhesiveness of the placenta.
- It is also an excellent remedy for constipation and is useful for easy bowel movements (8).
- It improves the skin’s elasticity, therefore lessening the stretch marks, and they disappear post pregnancy (9).
Sarah, a mother of three, recounts her journey of using vitamin C to diminish stretch marks. She says, “I continued to take vitamin C before I became pregnant this last time and throughout my last pregnancy. I am still taking it now. Throughout this time, I noticed that the stretch marks from my first pregnancy continued to reduce. Although I did get some new stretch marks from this recent pregnancy, they were much less pronounced than the ones from the first one (i).”
- According to the book 100 Best Foods For Pregnancy, Vitamin C benefits nails and hair of both the mother and fetus.
- Vitamin C maintains intravascular pressure, and thus helps in maintaining hydration.
Food Sources Of Vitamin C
The primary sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, but even leafy greens and several fruits and vegetables contain this vitamin. Fresh foods are the best sources as heat can destroy the vitamin. Cereals and juices are also fortified with this vitamin.
Vitamin C foods can be divided into various categories:
Fruits – It is found in citrus fruits like orange, lemon, and tangerine and also in apples, apricots, persimmons, peaches and berries such as strawberries, sea buckthorn and blackcurrant. They can be taken fresh or also in the juice or compote forms.
Vegetables – Tomato, beets, pepper, fresh potatoes are good sources. Cabbage, especially in fermented form, is a high vitamin C source.
Green leaves – Parsley and sorrel are excellent sources.
Animal sources – Both meat and fish have enough amount of ascorbic acid to help meet your daily requirement.
Briar (thorny bush) – It can be brewed and taken in tea form. It tastes good when mixed with honey.
Listed below are some of the best sources of vitamin C and the quantity:
- 6oz orange juice – 62 to 93mg
- 6oz grapefruit juice – 62 to 70mg
- 1 kiwi – 91mg
- 1/2 cup sweet bell pepper (raw; chopped) – 95mg
- 1 medium sized orange – 70mg
- 1 cup whole strawberries – 85mg
- 1/2 medium sized grapefruit – 38mg
- 1/2 cup broccoli (cooked) – 51mg
- 1 medium sized tomato – 16mg
- 1 medium sized potato (baked) – 17mg
- 1 cup spinach (raw) – 8mg
- 1 cup kale or collards – 70mg
- 1 cup broccoli or cauliflower – 45mg
- 1 cup Brussels sprouts (cooked) – 96mg
- 1 cup raspberries – 30mg
Vitamin C Deficiency During Pregnancy
Deficiency of vitamin C will lead to major complications in both the mother and baby.
- Vitamin C deficiency prevents the fetus’ brain from optimal development. According to a study conducted at the University of Copenhagen, pregnant women should make sure to include vitamin C in their diet from the beginning because taking it after the damage is done to the baby’s brain will not help. The study has found that fetal brain damage could happen very early in the pregnancy.
- It will also cause bleeding gums, which disrupt the capillary veins (small blood vessels) beneath the skin. If this condition persists, it may cause scurvy.
- Deficiency in vitamin C can also cause rough and dry skin, and slow the healing of cuts, bruises and brittle hair.
Do You Need Vitamin C Supplements During Pregnancy?
It is quite easy to get the daily requirement of vitamin C from foods. Therefore, most pregnant women do not need supplements. A glass of orange juice (especially calcium-fortified) during breakfast helps you get the required amount.
Research shows that vitamin C supplementation helps prevent premature rupture of choriomaniotic membranes (PROM) (10).
It is advisable to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements containing vitamin C as they can risk premature labor and preterm birth.
It is advisable to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements containing vitamin C as they can risk premature labor.
Side Effects Of Excess Vitamin C
- The vitamin C intake should not exceed the recommended daily allowance, especially during pregnancy. It may lead to the following complications if taken in excess amounts.
- Continuous consumption of vitamin C above two grams every day can aggravate gout condition and develop kidney stones (11).
- Women who are highly dependent on a high dosage of vitamin C may show its deficiency symptoms when they abruptly stop taking vitamin C. It is advisable to cut down the amounts gradually.
- High doses of vitamin C will lead to abdominal cramps, nausea, fatigue, gut blockage, insomniaiXA sleep disorder that makes it difficult for one to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get a sound sleep , headaches, diarrhea, hot flashes and rashes.
- Advanced side effects include inflammation of the esophagus, Parkinson’s disease, red blood cell complications, discomfort at the injection site, thickened blood vessels around heart, skin irritation, problems of digestive tract and urinary tract complications.
- It may increase the risk of hypertensive disorders and gestational diabetes, and diabetic women will experience a spike in their blood sugar levels. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2 to 10% of pregnant women are affected by gestational diabetes yearly in the US. Also, the delivery hospitalizations due to hypertensive disorders in the US increased from 13.3% to 15.9%, noted CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) 2017-2019. Thus, taking the necessary precautions to avoid such complications for the mother and the baby and having a healthy pregnancy is important.
- A few reports say that intake of excessive vitamin C supplements prevents scurvy, a disorder associated with vitamin C deficiency (12). But again according to the American Pregnancy Association, too much of vitamin C taken when pregnant can cause newborn scurvy (baby will be born with vitamin C deficiency). When you take more, your kidneys will excrete the excess amount of vitamin C, thus causing resistance or intolerance to it in your baby and hampering infant health.
Diuresis (increased production of urine) and excess fluid intake helps rule out some of the above conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can you take vitamin C cough drops and cold medicine during pregnancy?
Doctors say that it is perfectly fine to take vitamin C cough drops (like HALLS Defense) or common cold medication during pregnancy. It is like supplementing your body with an essential nutrient, which your body and your newborn needs. You should avoid taking extra doses and check with your doctor before you start taking them.
2. Can vitamin C affect pregnancy tests?
Eating vitamin C rich foods or taking its supplements is not known to affect the home pregnancy test, which tests for the hCG hormone. It is a myth that mega doses could lead to miscarriage as it is not scientifically proven. Also, there is no evidence regarding vitamin C interference with hCG levels.
3. Does vitamin C cause abortion?
Excess intake of vitamin C can cause miscarriage, which instigates some women to use this vitamin for abortion. Some believe vitamin C stimulates menstrual cycle, thus resulting in a miscarriage. But no evidence shows its abortifacient nature.
4. Can I take Blackmores Vitamin C supplement during pregnancy?
Blackmores supplement combines the benefits of vitamin C, zinc and magnesium to support the immune system and general wellbeing. However, you should consult your doctor before taking it when you are pregnant.
5. How is Vitamin C and bioflavonoids related?
Both are potent antioxidants, which keep your eyes and body healthy. Citrus fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamin C, are also good sources of bioflavonoids. They have a complimentary effect and work efficiently together. Researchers believe that benefits accredited to vitamin C alone could actually be a combined effect of both vitamin C and bioflavonoids
6. Is it safe to take Lypo spheric or Celin vitamin C during pregnancy?
These vitamin C drugs contain nutrients essential for both the mother and baby. However, you should consult your healthcare provider before planning to take them.
7. Do vitamin C creams treat pregnancy mask?
Vitamin C creams are antioxidants and are safe in pregnancy when topically applied. Melasma, also known as pregnancy mask, is a common complaint among most of the pregnant women. Vitamin C creams and serum are the best treatment options.
8. Can I take 500mg of vitamin C daily during pregnancy?
The daily recommended amount of vitamin C during pregnancy is 80-85mg, while the upper limit is 2,000mg (15). Therefore, you may take vitamin C in moderation and with the advice of your doctor.
9. How does vitamin C affect the baby during pregnancy?
There is no scientific evidence to show that vitamin C taken alone or with other nutritional supplements significantly affects fetal development or other pregnancy-related issues (16). Hence, it is better to take vitamin C only according to your doctor’s advice.
10. Can I take Emergen-C while pregnant?
The manufacturers claim that certain Emergen-C products contain around 1,000 mg of vitamin C (17), while the recommended daily amount (RDA) for pregnant women ranges from 80-85 to 2000mg (15). Therefore, you may take Emergen-C only after consulting your doctor.
11. Can I take vitamin C and zinc while pregnant?
Both vitamin C and zinc have positive health effects during pregnancy (15). However, it is recommended to talk with your doctor before taking any supplements.
Vitamin C is essential for a healthy pregnancy, fetal growth and development, and the prevention of cosmetic defects in the mother and baby. While foods such as citrus fruits and vegetables, green leaves, and some animal sources can readily provide the daily requirement of vitamin C during pregnancy, it is important to monitor the amount consumed. Both a deficiency and an excess of vitamin C might harm your pregnancy; thus, consult your doctor and prepare a diet chart to ensure that you meet your adequate dietary needs.
Infographic: Why Do You Need Vitamin C When You Are Pregnant?
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in supporting various functions in the body. During pregnancy, it is important to ensure adequate intake of vitamin C. The following infographic presents a list of benefits of incorporating this nutrient into your diet. However, it is always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before taking any new supplement that has vitamin C.
- Pregnant women typically need up to 85 mg of vitamin C from natural sources to maintain proper skin, bone, wound healing, and immunity.
- Vitamin C can help prevent stretch marks, enhance nail and hair health, maintain hydration, and protect against conditions such as anemia, varicose veins, gum bleeding, hemorrhage, placental abruption, and infections.
- Deficiency of vitamin C can lead to problems in optimal fetal brain development, improper healing, scurvy, dry skin, and brittle hair.
- Excessive consumption of vitamin C may cause complications such as gout, kidney stones, abdominal cramps, insomnia, headaches, diarrhea, and hot flashes.
- It is recommended to seek medical advice to understand the appropriate dosage and intake of vitamin C during pregnancy.
Personal Experience: Source
- Vitamin C; NIH
- Hiten D. Mistry and Paula J Williams; (2011); The Importance of Antioxidant Micronutrients in Pregnancy; National LIbrary of Medicine
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid); Mount Sinai
- R B Findik et al.; (2016); Effect of vitamin C on collagen structure of cardinal and uterosacral ligaments during pregnancy; Pubmed
- Recommendations to Prevent and Control Iron Deficiency in the United States; CDC
- Common symptoms during pregnancy; Florida Health Finder
- Eric Jauniaux et al; (2006); Placental-related diseases of pregnancy: involvement of oxidative stress and implications in human evolution; Pubmed Central.
- Constipation: Get Your Gut Moving; Arizona Health
- Juliet M Pullar et al.; (2017); The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health; National Library of Medicine.
- Nayereh Ghomian et al.; (2013); The Role of Vitamin C in Prevention of Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes; National Library of Medicine.
- Kidney Stones; Medline Plus
- Vitamin C; National Institute Of Health
- Vitamin C.
- Vitamin C supplementation in pregnancy.
- Pregnancy Vitamins and Nutrients
- Vitamin C supplementation in pregnancy
- EMERGEN-C FOR EVERYDAY NUTRITIONAL SUPPORT