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Prenatal Vitamins And Tips To Get The Most Out Of Them

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Best Prenatal Vitamins And Tips

Prenatal vitamins are essential for the healthy growth of the fetus. Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E need to be supplemented during this stage, so are folic acid, iron, and calcium. While you can get these through synthetically-derived and store-bought supplements, there are natural source of prenatals, too. Good quality natural prenatals can be derived from substances like raspberry leaf, olive oil, milk thistle, ginger and more. Cod liver oil, probiotics and pregnancy teas are also popular sources of prenatals.

Are you a first-time mom? You’re probably confused about prenatal vitamins or don’t know what they’re for and how they will help your baby and you. Prenatal vitamins and minerals are the cornerstone of every healthy pregnancy (along with a nutritious diet, adequate rest, and exercise, of course). During these 9 months, your body does a lot of superhuman things to make sure your baby grows safely and healthily inside you. They not only ensure proper fetal growth and keep birth defects at bay, but also help you cope with the many changes pregnancy brings about in your body.

But why take prenatal supplements? Why not just keep popping your regular all-in-one multivitamin? The main difference here is that prenatals contain vitamins and minerals in the amounts recommended for conception and pregnancy, whereas regular multivitamins are generally tailored to the requirements of non-pregnant women.

List Of Prenatal Vitamins

There are many benefits of taking prenatal vitamins. The most important vitamins for pregnancy are vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin C (prevents Barlow disease), vitamin D, vitamin E (useful for the treatment of toxemia of pregnancy, intrauterine growth retardation, and neonatal jaundice) and vitamin K (guards against neonatal hemorrhage).1

You can get most of these in a healthy diet. But some vitamins and minerals need to be supplemented.

While pregnant, a woman’s daily requirements for certain nutrients, such as folic acid, calcium, and iron increase. It is, however, possible to overdose on some nutrients, which could have adverse effects on you and your growing baby. That’s why it is important to be well-informed about prenatal vitamins and supplements.2

So here’s the dummy’s guide to prenatal vitamins and supplements.

1. Folic Acid

  • Recommended Daily Intake: 400 mg

One of the most important B vitamins, folic acid is something all women of childbearing age should consume. So even before you plan a little one, get your hands on folic acid or folate (another form of the vitamin) at least a month in advance. About 0.4 mg or 400 micrograms of this prenatal vitamin are required daily to prevent two common and serious birth defects that occur very early in pregnancy–spina bifida and anencephaly. Long before you even know you are pregnant, a folic acid deficiency could put your baby at risk for these neural tube defects.3

Some people may have trouble processing folate. MTHFR (methyltetrahydrofolate reductase) is an enzyme that plays a role in how folate is processed in the body. If this enzyme is not working optimally for you, starting with folic acid supplementation three months in advance can help.4

It is likely that most multivitamins for women already contain the recommended prenatal vitamin dose of folic acid as it is required to make new cells in the body.

2. Iron

  • Recommended Daily Intake: 20-30 mg

Iron is one of the most important prenatal supplements to have by your side. A woman must enter pregnancy with iron stores of 300mg or more to meet the baby’s requirements fully. However, the amounts that can be absorbed from even an optimal diet, cannot meet the iron requirements in later pregnancy. A reduction in iron absorption in the first trimester is followed by a progressive rise in absorption throughout the remainder of the pregnancy, which is why iron supplements must be added after the first trimester.5

According to German health authorities, pregnant and lactating women need 20 to 30 mg of iron every day. It can be especially difficult for vegetarians to get that amount from their diet alone so it is all the more important to have a prenatal supplement. However, too much of it may cause constipation, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. It is best to take iron supplements with food as they can damage the lining of the stomach if consumed on an empty stomach.6

3. Calcium

  • Recommended Daily Intake: 1000 mg

Well, guess what? If you are low on calcium, the baby is just going to take it from your bones to meet its requirements. So it is necessary to have an adequate and steady supply of calcium, especially in the second and third trimesters when the fetus is busy building bones.

According to a study, women of childbearing age in USA do not consume the required amounts of calcium. Women who chronically consume less than 500 mg per day may be at risk for increased bone loss during pregnancy. If you begin pregnancy with the daily recommended 1000 mg of calcium every day, you may not need additional calcium. However, most women may need additional amounts to meet both maternal and fetal bone requirements. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy also reduces the risk of osteoporosis in women, especially after menopause.7

And it’s not just the bones you need calcium for. Studies reveal that there is an inverse relationship between calcium intake and pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH). This has been estimated to complicate 5 percent of all pregnancies and 11 percent of first pregnancies, often resulting in preterm birth. Low calcium intakes during pregnancy can cause physiological changes in the body, leading to the development of PIH and preeclampsia. However, too much of calcium may lead to calcium toxicity in the body, resulting in renal issues such as kidney stones.8

4. Vitamin D

  • Recommended Daily Intake: 1000-2000 IU

Vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium. Unless you spend a major part of your day in the sun, you will need a vitamin D prenatal supplement, too. A lot of calcium supplements for moms-to-be already contain vitamin D. If your prenatal doesn’t contain vitamin D, make sure you pop the supplement with your calcium pill. This combo is recommended from the second trimester onwards when the body’s demand for calcium goes up.

The animal-derived vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol form) is the most absorbable and well-utilized, but if you are vegan you should opt for ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and other all natural prenatal vitamins. Few of the best prenatal vitamins recommended by The American Pregnancy Association are Nordic Naturals Vitamin D3 and Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA with added vitamin D3.9

In healthy pregnant women, 1000-2000 IU can be supplemented daily in the second and third trimesters, precisely from the 12th week of gestation onwards. This can easily be done without running the risk of vitamin D toxicity or causing any threat to the fetus.10

5. Vitamin A

  • Recommended Daily Intake: 2800-3000 mcg

According to the World Health Organization, around 9.8 million pregnant women have xerophthalmia (dryness of the eyes, night blindness) as a result of the deficiency of this important prenatal vitamin. Pregnancy and lactation demand extra vitamin A for fetal growth and tissue maintenance and for supporting the mother’s metabolism. A deficiency could also increase maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, increased anemia risk, and slower infant growth and development.

This fat-soluble vitamin is stored in the body and too much of it can be toxic, especially during pregnancy. It can lead to malformations of the eye, skull, lungs, and heart in the fetus. Ask your doctor to review your diet and figure out if at all you need this prenatal vitamin.11

What Are Natural Prenatals?

While prenatal vitamins and minerals fill in any gaps that may not be fulfilled by your diet, most of them are synthetically derived. Many moms-to-be prefer to take the natural route and try to meet their nutritional needs through food or natural prenatals. Good quality natural prenatals pack in nutrients derived from natural substances like raspberry leaf, olive oil, milk thistle, ginger, and more.

Cod liver oil is one such natural prenatal that provides fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A and D. According to a study, maternal intake of liquid cod liver oil early in pregnancy was associated with a higher birthweight. This means a lower risk of diseases later in life.12

Probiotics like yogurt and kimchi salad are also said to be good for pregnant and lactating women. Studies reveal that they can possibly immunize the infant against atopic diseases.13

Pregnancy teas are also becoming popular with the au naturel set, as they are believed to have many benefits. They often contain red raspberry leaf, which can be consumed safely during pregnancy. Studies reveal that they can decrease the length of labor and even reduce chances of artificial rupture of membranes (AROM), assisted delivery, and cesarean delivery.14

Tips To Get The Most Of Prenatal Vitamins

Taking good prenatal vitamins isn’t just about pill-popping. These prenatal tips will help you make the most of your prenatal supplements to stay healthy during pregnancy while ensuring the best for your baby.

  • Do not use other vitamin and mineral supplements while using prenatal vitamins.
  • There are many drugs that can interact with prenatal vitamins or prenatal supplements. Make sure your doctor knows about all medications you are on.15
  • Avoid taking several different supplements all at once unless so advised. Stick to one multivitamin that packs in a variety of required nutrients in one dose. Most healthy pregnant women won’t need customization.16
  • Forgot a dose? Take your prenatal vitamin as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait for it and take a regular dose. Taking extra prenatal supplements to make up for a missed dose is not a good idea.17
  • Most prenatals are best consumed with food, preferably with some healthy fats.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea and sodas, as they hinder the body’s capacity to absorb certain nutrients like calcium. If you must have them, make sure you keep a gap of a couple of hours before consuming your prenatals.18

References   [ + ]

1. Yoshioka, T. “Vitamins in pregnancy.” Nihon rinsho. Japanese journal of clinical medicine 57, no. 10 (1999): 2381-2384.
2, 16. Prenatal Vitamin Limits. APA.
3. Recommendations. CDC.
4. Frequently Asked Questions. CDC.
5. Bothwell, Thomas H. “Iron requirements in pregnancy and strategies to meet them.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 72, no. 1 (2000): 257s-264s.
6. Pregnancy and birth: Do all pregnant women need to take iron supplements? PubMed.
7. Hacker, Andrea N., Ellen B. Fung, and Janet C. King. “Role of calcium during pregnancy: maternal and fetal needs.” Nutrition reviews 70, no. 7 (2012): 397-409.
8. Hacker, Andrea N., Ellen B. Fung, and Janet C. King. “Role of calcium during pregnancy: maternal and fetal needs.” Nutrition reviews 70, no. 7 (2012): 397-409.
9. Vitamin D And Pregnancy. APA.
10. Mithal, Ambrish, and Sanjay Kalra. “Vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy.” Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism 18, no. 5 (2014): 593.
11. Vitamin A. NIH.
12. Olafsdottir, Anna S., Anna R. Magnusardottir, Holmfridur Thorgeirsdottir, Arnar Hauksson, Gudrun V. Skuladottir, and Laufey Steingrimsdottir. “Relationship between dietary intake of cod liver oil in early pregnancy and birthweight.” BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 112, no. 4 (2005): 424-429.
13. Rautava, Samuli, Marko Kalliomäki, and Erika Isolauri. “Probiotics during pregnancy and breast-feeding might confer immunomodulatory protection against atopic disease in the infant.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 109, no. 1 (2002): 119-121.
14. Herbal Tea And Pregnancy. APA.
15, 17. Prenatal Vitamins. UMM.
18. Yeh, James K., and John F. Aloia. “Differential effect of caffeine administration on calcium and vitamin D metabolism in young and adult rats.” J Bone Miner Res 1, no. 3 (1986): 251-258.