Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin used in over 100 essential processes in your body to produce amino acids and metabolize macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
This makes it a crucial vitamin to the function of nearly every aspect of your body and health, from blood cell production to brain function.
Your body can also produce niacin (Vitamin B3) from the amino acid tryptophan by utilizing B6. Some of your earliest signs and symptoms of pregnancy can be helped with enough of these vitamins.
By ensuring an adequate intake of B vitamins through a well-constructed diet, you can ensure a smoother, healthier pregnancy for you and your baby!
Why You Need Vitamin B6 During Pregnancy
Vitamin B6 is crucial to the healthy function of the brain and nervous system, and thus plays a critical role in the development of your baby. Specifically, it’s necessary for the healthy production of serotonin and norepinephrine, critical neurotransmitters.
What Vitamin B6 Does For Pregnancy
- Your baby requires a supply of Vitamin B6 for the healthy development of its brain and nervous system
- Some cases of morning sickness can be resolved by B6
- It helps you maintain healthy blood glucose levels
- It plays a role in preventing several issues in newborns, including eczema and low birth weight
Many women are first recommended B6 supplementation early in pregnancy, when nausea and vomiting are at their worst, as B6 can greatly alleviate the issue.
How Much Vitamin B6 Is Needed?
Most adult women under 50 should be taking in an average of 1.3mg of Vitamin B6 per day. A pregnant woman should aim for about 1.9 mg of Vitamin B6 daily while breastfeeding mothers should take in slightly more—about 2mg.
Pregnant women should be alert to the risks of excessive intake of Vitamin B6, as it’s frequently found in various suggested multivitamins and prenatal vitamins as well as in various fortified foods. While a slight excess is harmless, extreme intake of Vitamin B6 can lead to nerve damage, numbness, and other conditions.
It’s important to note that, with a few exceptions, it’s not recommended that you seek additional B6 beyond that found in your prenatal supplements.
Natural Food Sources of Vitamin B6
Many different foods offer natural Vitamin B6; wholegrain wheat and other cereals, seeds and nuts, fruits such as bananas or papayas, fish, and lean meats are all healthy natural sources of vitamin B6.
Many beans and legumes are especially rich in Vitamin B6—lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, and chickpeas all make great natural sources of the nutrient. There are also several pregnancy smoothie recipes rich in Vitamin B6.
Even a single serving of any of these foods with your meals greatly reduces your likeliness of experiencing a deficiency of B6. Various fortified foods, such as bread or breakfast cereal, can also provide significant amounts of B6.
Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin B6
- Sunflower seeds (smaller amounts in sesame, pumpkin, flax and squash seeds)
- Pistachios (hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, cashews)
- Fish such as safe catch elite tuna and wild salmon
- Poultry such as chicken and turkey
- Lean pork
- Dried fruit such as prunes, raisins, or apricots
- Lean beef
Vitamin B6 Rich Snack Ideas
- A single baked sweet potato makes a good snack
- If you have a favorite fortified breakfast cereal, try it dry or with milk
- Dried fruit is a great B6 snack, just be wary of excess sugar
- Pistachios or roasted hazelnuts are also good in moderation
- Sunflower seeds are a really quick, natural infusion of B6
- Natural vegetable juices can offer B6, but beware of added sugar
- Prune juice isn’t for everyone, but there’s no arguing with its health benefits
- Canned chickpeas make for a surprisingly decent snacking food
- If you’re looking for something a little more filling, some long-grained brown rice is a good place to start.
Should You Take a Vitamin B6 Supplement?
Most people can and should easily reach their daily requirements with a normal diet. Beyond that, almost every prenatal multivitamin is going to contain as much B6 as you need.
Vitamin B6 Doses for Nausea
While Vitamin B6 can work wonders for morning sickness nausea, don’t increase your dosage beyond the recommended values without speaking to your doctor first. The source of the problem may be elsewhere, and the added B6 would just go to waste.
Your doctor may recommend between 25 to 50 mg as often as three times daily for intense nausea. B6 is generally agreed to be safe for pregnant women, but you’re still best off following the recommended guidelines outside of a specific medical recommendation—remember, an excess of B6 or any other vitamin can have dire consequences for you or your baby.
Is It Safe To Take B6 While Pregnant?
B6 is generally agreed to be a safe, even necessary, vitamin for pregnant women, but supplementing is unnecessary with a balanced diet and may even push you to unsafe intake values. While it’s fine to eat a normal healthy diet and take a prenatal vitamin with 100% of the recommended daily value, be cautious if you eat a large number of fortified foods—breakfast cereals, various wheat products, etc.
Various health foods and energy drinks also include high amounts of Vitamin B6 for its energy-boosting properties; be alert to exactly how much you’re getting from these foods. You should also be alert to other intake excesses caused by such foods. While many vitamins are safe, even in great excess, you must be more cautious when pregnant as side effects can arise far easier.
The Signs of a Vitamin B6 Deficiency
Vitamin B6 deficiency can arise in a number of ways, the simplest, of course, being inadequate intake. Other causes include excess consumption of alcohol, high-sugar foods, and various processed foods. Certain illnesses and ailments can also contribute to B6 deficiency.
It’s fairly common for even a generally healthy person to have a mild B6 deficiency, especially with the increased needs of pregnancy, but severe deficiencies are uncommon. The most basic, commonly seen symptoms of a deficiency of B6 are depression and various ailments of the mouth such as tongue inflammation, sores, and ulcers.
As the deficiency becomes more severe, anemia can result due to the impaired production of blood cells, fatigue can become common, and you may experience neurological symptoms.
Vitamin B6 Deficiency Symptoms include:
- Inflammation of the skin, joints, and digestive system
- Depression and other mood symptoms
- Neurological degeneration
If you or anyone you know is pregnant and showing symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency, make an appointment with your OBGYN asap. The sooner you get help the better it is for you and your developing baby.
Being pregnant is a true blessing and taking care of the health of mom and baby is the most important goal. Feel free to contact us if you wish to speak to someone about your pregnancy or need to find a provider/resources near you.
Call the APA Helpline to discuss your pregnancy questions: 1-800-672-2296
Last updated: February 3, 2017 at 18:27 pm
Compiled using information from the following Medical sources:
1. Shrim, A., Boskovik, R., Maltepe, C., et al. [Accessed Jan 2017]. Pregnancy outcome following use of large doses of vitamin B6 in the first trimester. Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 26(8), 749-51. Retrieved from
2. AND. 2014. Practice paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition and lifestyle for a healthy pregnancy outcome. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
3. IOM. 1998. Dietary Reference Intakes for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin b6, folate, vitamin b12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies.
4. IOM. 2010. Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intake Values, vitamins and elements. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies.
5. ODS. 2016. Vitamin B6. Office of Dietary Supplements.
6. LPI. 2014. Vitamin B6. Linus Pauling Institute.
7. USDA. 2015. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. United States Department of Agriculture.