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Vitamin B6 in your pregnancy diet

Why you need vitamin B6 during pregnancy

Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, helps your body metabolize protein, fats, and carbohydrates. It also helps form new red blood cells, antibodies, and neurotransmitters, and is vital to your baby's developing brain and nervous system.

Research shows that extra vitamin B6 may relieve nausea or vomiting for some women during pregnancy, though no one knows for sure why it works.

How much vitamin B6 you need

Pregnant women: about 1.9 mg per day

Breastfeeding women: 2.0 mg

You don't have to get the recommended amount of vitamin B6 every day. Instead, aim for that amount as an average over the course of a few days or a week.

Food sources of vitamin B6

Beans, nuts, lean meat, and fish are good sources of vitamin B6. (Note that a 3-ounce serving of meat or fish is about the size of a deck of cards.) Fortified breads and cereals can also be good sources (check the labels).

Here are the amounts in some common foods:

  • 1 medium baked potato, flesh and skin: 0.74 mg
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas: 0.57 mg
  • 8 ounces prune juice: 0.56 mg
  • 3 ounces farmed salmon, cooked: 0.55 mg
  • 3 ounces lean pork loin, broiled: 0.49 mg
  • 3 ounces roasted chicken (light meat):  0.46 mg
  • 1 cup cooked spinach: 0.44 mg
  • 1 medium banana: 0.43 mg
  • 3 ounces pork loin, cooked: 0.39 mg
  • 1 cup cooked long grain brown rice: 0.28 mg
  • 1/2 avocado: 0.26 mg
  • 1 ounce sunflower seeds, dry roasted: 0.23 mg
  • 1 ounce hazelnuts, dry roasted: 0.18 mg

Should you take a vitamin B6 supplement?

You should be able to get all you need from a varied diet. Most prenatal vitamins also contain at least 100 percent of the recommended amount.

If you're suffering from morning sickness, check with your healthcare provider before taking additional B6 supplements. She can tell you how much to take. (Don't take more than your provider recommends. Too much may not be safe for you or your developing baby.)

Can you get too much vitamin B6?

Yes. Some high-potency multivitamins contain vitamin B6 in large amounts. And even without taking a supplement you can get too much B6 in your diet if you eat a lot of fortified foods. Read the labels of energy drinks and bars, for example – they sometimes have several times the RDA for B6.

Excessive amounts of vitamin B6 can cause numbness and nerve damage. The tolerable upper intake level for the vitamin – the maximum amount considered safe by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine – is 100 mg for women (including pregnant and nursing women) 19 years and older, and 80 mg for women 18 years and younger.

The signs of a vitamin B6 deficiency

Inflammation of the tongue, sores or mouth ulcers, depression, and anemia may signal a deficiency. Mild deficiencies are not uncommon, but severe deficiencies are rare.

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