By ensuring an adequate intake of B vitamins through a nutritious diet, you can enjoy a smoother, healthier pregnancy for you and your baby! 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. Consuming enough Vitamin B6 is crucial 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 will alleviate with enough of these vitamins.
Why You Need Vitamin B During Pregnancy
Vitamin B6 is crucial for 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, key neurotransmitters.
- Your baby requires a supply of Vitamin B6 for the healthy development of its brain and nervous system
- B6 can resolve some cases of morning sickness
- 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 significantly alleviate the issue.
How Much Vitamin B Do I Need?
Most adult women under 50 should be taking between 2.5 to 25 mg of Vitamin B6 per day. It is commonly used to help manage nausea or morning sickness. In a health report from the University of Michigan, a pregnant woman may experience nausea relief by taking 10 to 25 mg of Vitamin B6 3 times a day.
Expectant mothers should be alert to the risks of excessive intake of Vitamin B6, as it’s frequently found in variously 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. Individuals should avoid taking over 100 mg of Vitamin B6 in a day. Research from the National Library of Medicine reports that there appears to be no association between excessive Vitamin B6 and birth defects or malformations.
It’s important to note that, with a few exceptions, your doctor will not recommend that you add B6 beyond what is in your prenatal supplements.
Natural Food Sources
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 excellent 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 significantly 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
- A single baked sweet potato makes a perfect 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 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 quickly reach their daily requirements with a balanced 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 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 While Pregnant?
Since B6 is agreed to be safe, even necessary, a 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 balanced, 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 insignificant excess, you must be more cautious when pregnant as side effects can arise far easier.
The Signs of Vitamin B6 Deficiency
Vitamin B6 deficiency can occur in many ways, the simplest, of course, being inadequate intake. Other causes include excessive 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 healthy person to have a mild B6 deficiency, in particular 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.
If the B6 deficiency develops severely, anemia can result due to the impaired production of blood cells. Extreme cases of anemia can cause fatigue, and in extreme cases, one 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 real 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
Want to Know More?
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.
8. National Library of Medicine, Pregnancy outcome following use of large doses of vitamin B6 in the first trimester
9. The University of Michigan, Vitamin B6 for Morning Sickness