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Nutrient Spotlight: The Benefits of Choline During Pregnancy

Nutrient Spotlight: The Benefits of Choline During Pregnancy
When it comes to protecting your baby’s brain as it develops in utero and during infancy and childhood, choline is essential. Let's dive in to learn about the benefits of choline during and after pregnancy for both baby and mother.

When it comes to protecting your baby’s brain as it develops in utero and during infancy/childhood, choline is absolutely essential. Choline is a vitamin-like compound that research has identified as having a role in fetal brain development, supporting healthy placental function, and preventing neural tube defects. This is due to choline’s role in the process of methylation. Choline is the major dietary source of methyl groups which drives and controls gene expression. 


Yet it doesn’t stop there. Some research links higher levels of gestational choline supplementation to greater self-regulation in infants exposed to maternal infection, such as the flu and respiratory illness. Also, children of women who were provided choline supplementation vs. a placebo had fewer behavioral problems and less social withdrawal at 40 months of age. Thanks to choline’s role in brain circuit development, supplementation has even been associated with lower rates of mental illness and may serve as protection against conditions such as schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder later in life. 


Dietary reports estimate that up to 50% of pregnant women have a choline deficiency, and levels naturally dip in the second trimester, which makes pre-pregnancy deficiency even more concerning. If choline is so important, how can we prevent deficiency? 


Choline can be made by the body naturally in the liver, but not to the level that would meet metabolic needs, especially in later stages of pregnancy. That makes this nutrient essential and it must be obtained from diet and/or supplementation. In fact, in 2017, the American Medical Association published advice suggesting that prenatal supplements contain ‘evidence-based’ amounts of choline. The established adequate intake (AI) level of choline for women of reproductive age is 450mg daily during pregnancy and 550mg daily during lactation. The tolerable upper limit (UL) is 3,500mg daily, so getting choline both from evidenced-based supplementation and diet is quite safe.

Dietary Sources of Choline

Choline is found in both animal and vegetable sources, but animal foods are more concentrated and bioavailable. 


Here are the top five animal and vegetable sources, along with the amount of choline in each:


Food | Serving Size | Amount of Choline (mg)

Beef liver | 3oz | 356mg

Eggs (primarily the yolk) | 1 whole egg | 147mg

Beef top round | 3oz | 117mg

Chicken breast | 3oz | 72mg

Cod | 3oz | 71mg


Food, cooked | Serving Size | Amount of Choline (mg)

Navy beans | 1 cup | 81mg

Collard greens | 1 cup | 73mg

Brussels sprouts | 1 cup | 63mg

Shiitake mushrooms | 1 cup | 53mg

Swiss chard | 1 cup | 50mg

Benefits of Choline Supplements During Pregnancy

Given the many functions of choline during and after pregnancy, this nutrient should be on the radar of every mom-to-be. While getting enough choline from the diet is achievable for most women with the proper planning, there are still certain people and situations that increase the need for choline and put a woman at risk for deficiency. 


Here are a few reasons why we made sure that WeNatal for Her contains therapeutic, evidence-based levels of choline: 

  • Women who follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet without eggs often have low choline levels. 
  • People with certain genetic polymorphisms, especially of the PEMT and MTHFD1 genes, may have increased choline requirements and supplementation should be considered in combination with methylated B vitamins, especially folate, B2, B6, and B12.
  • Women with low estrogen levels may have higher dietary choline requirements because they are less able to make phosphatidylcholine in the body.

How Much Choline do YOU Need?

With so many potential variables, your choline needs may be very different from the person sitting next to you and most would benefit from supplementation. Unfortunately, most of the leading prenatals fall short. In fact, many of the leading brands add zero choline to their products! Of the remaining leading prenatal brands, choline levels range between 30mg and 450mg despite such compelling evidence for the need for higher levels while breastfeeding. WeNatal for Her is one of the only prenatal supplements on the market that contains 400mg of choline.


If you want to find out more about your unique choline needs, be sure to work with a licensed practitioner. We recommend you look for someone trained in the area of functional medicine, which is a systems biology approach to addressing the root cause of disease. You can find a practitioner near you through searching this database: or you can email us at and one of our team members can help you find a practitioner. 

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Lisa Dreher

Lisa is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Integrative Health. She has been practicing for over a decade and works full time at Dr. Mark Hyman's UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.

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