How Much Choline Should You Take For Pregnancy?

Jul 12, 2022 , Pregnancy Tips

How Much Choline Should You Take For Pregnancy?

Quick Health Scoop

  • Found in many foods, Choline helps support healthy brain and nervous system function.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women and teens need extra Choline.
  • The best way to get Choline is from dietary sources such as beef, chicken, eggs, low-mercury fatty fish, and milk.
  • Not all prenatal multivitamins contain Choline, so check the ingredient label to see if it contains this key nutrient.

 Choline is an essential nutrient needed for healthy brain and nervous system function as well as other important functions in the body. Although your body can make choline in small amounts, it is not enough for the amount your body needs, so you must get choline from your diet. Choline is a structural component of all cell membranes (phosphatidylcholine) as all animal cells need choline to preserve their structural integrity. Choline is needed to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter important for memory, mood, muscle control, circadian rhythm and other brain and nervous system functions.

While choline is needed throughout all life stages, during pregnancy choline is especially important to support the development of baby’s brain and spinal cord. Moms transfer large amounts of choline to their baby via the placenta, and later, via breastmilk. The demand for choline increases as pregnancy progresses, so to make sure you have adequate choline intake, it’s especially important to get what you need every day through dietary choline, or through choline supplementation.

What's the recommended daily amount of choline? Everyone needs daily choline intakes for optimum health. But the amount of choline you need daily really depends on your sex, age, and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. While women (ages 19+) need 425 mg of choline per day, experts recommend prenatal choline levels as follows: pregnant teens and women take 450 mg of choline per day. And breastfeeding teens and women need even more: 550 mg of choline per day. [3]

[5]

What Trimester Is Choline Important?

Choline is among the key nutrients (including Folate, Iron, Iodine, DHA, Zinc, Vitamin A, D, B6 and B12) that support baby's neurodevelopment from conception through the first two years of life. [4] Because choline delivers health benefits during and after pregnancy, women of childbearing age need to ensure adequate intake before, during, and after pregnancy. Keep in mind, however, that fetal DHA requirements peak in the third trimester, as the brain and eyes rapidly develop. [5]

What Happens If You Don't Have Enough Choline?

Actually about 9 in 10 US adults do not consume enough choline in their diets. In women of child-bearing age, 96% of women ages 15-30 years and 94% of women ages 31-50 years are not consuming enough choline through their diet.[7] The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans notes the importance of choline during pregnancy and lactation for healthy brain and spinal cord development, and that most women do not meet recommended intakes of this important nutrient.[12]  

Choline and DHA actually work together to support brain and eye health. Research suggests adequate intake of choline and DHA are important for fetal brain and eye development. [5,7]

Do All Prenatals Have Choline?

No, all prenatal multivitamins do not have choline, so it’s important to check the ingredient label to see what’s inside. Good prenatal multivitamins are specifically formulated to meet the unique nutritional needs of women who are pregnant or trying to conceive. What are the nutrients to look for in prenatal multivitamins? A basic prenatal supplement should, at a minimum, include vitamin A, all 8 B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K (plus key minerals). But the best prenatal vitamins should also contain these seven vital nutrients: folate/folic acid, iron, iodine, calcium, vitamin D, DHA, and choline.

When Should Pregnant People Take Choline?

Because choline plays such an important role in the health of both mom and baby, women should get enough of this key nutrient throughout pregnancy. A pregnant woman can get dietary choline intake through a variety of animal- and plant-based foods. Which choline-rich foods are safe for a pregnant woman to eat? Foods that contain choline include beef (especially liver), chicken, eggs (including yolk), legumes, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, potatoes, quinoa, milk, yogurt, and wheat germ. [6,8,9,10]

Note on seafood: For healthy brain development, babies also need DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid often found in fatty fish (such as cod and salmon). To be safe, choose seafood with low levels of mercury, eating two to three 4 oz. serving a week. According to the FDA, that includes cod, flounder, salmon, shrimp, and tilapia. [11]

If you’re concerned about getting enough choline, ask your healthcare provider about taking a choline supplement or multivitamins specifically formulated for a pregnant woman’s unique nutritional needs. For instance, Nature Made’s Prenatal Gummies include 55 mg of Choline per serving. As always, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, talk with your doctor first before taking any dietary supplements. 

Bottom Line

Choline is a nutrient found in many foods that helps support healthy brain and nervous system function. Everyone needs daily choline intakes for optimum health. But the amount of choline you need daily really depends on your sex, age, and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. How much Choline for pregnancy should you get every day? For maternal Choline intake, experts recommend that pregnant teens and women take 450 mg of Choline per day, while breastfeeding teens and women need even 550 mg of Choline per day. The best way to get Choline is from dietary sources such as beef, chicken, eggs, low-mercury fatty fish, and milk. If you’re pregnant and taking prenatal vitamins, check the ingredient label to see if it contains Choline.

Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.


† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


References 

  1. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. “Choline.” February 2015. Accessed on: June 16, 2022. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/Choline
  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Nutrition During Pregnancy.” 2022. Accessed on: June 16, 2022. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/nutrition-during-pregnancy
  3. National Institutes of Health. “Consumer Fact Sheet: Choline.” June 2, 2022. Accessed on: June 8, 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-Consumer/
  4. Current Developments in Nutrition. “Providing Infants with the Best Start in Life: Identification of Nutrient Gaps in Women of Childbearing Age in the United States.” May 29, 2020. Accessed on: June 21, 2022. https://academic.oup.com/cdn/article/4/Supplement_2/971/5844553?login=false
  5. “Choline and DHA in Maternal and Infant Nutrition: Synergistic Implications in Brain and Eye Health.” May 21, 2019. Accessed on: June 21, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31117180/
  6. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. “Nutritional Importance of Choline for Brain Development.” June 18, 2013. Accessed on: June 21, 2022. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2004.10719433
  7. PP Devarshi, et al. Total estimated usual nutrient intake and nutrient status biomarkers in women of childbearing age and women of menopausal age, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 113, Issue 4, April 2021, Pages 1042–1052
  8. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Choline.” 2022. Accessed on: June 16, 2022. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/Choline/
  9. Nutrition Today. “Choline.” November-December 2018. Accessed on: June 10, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6259877/
  10. National Institutes of Health. “Health Professional Fact Sheet: Choline.” June 2, 2022. Accessed on: June 10, 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/#en17
  11. Food and Drug Administration. “Advice About Eating Fish.” July 2019. Accessed on: September 27, 2021. https://www.fda.gov/media/102331/download
  12. S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.

Authors

Lisa Beach

NatureMade Contributor

Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.

Read More

Sandra Zagorin, MS, RD

Science and Health Educator

As a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Sandra educates healthcare professionals and consumers on nutrition, supplements, and related health concerns. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Sandra worked as a clinical dietitian at University of Chicago Medicine in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Sandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, with minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from RUSH University in Chicago, IL. As part of her Master’s program, Sandra performed research on physical activity participation and correlates in urban Hispanic women.

Read More