Prenatal Vitamins: What you need to know!
Updated: Oct 15, 2021
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So without further adieu…
Let’s talk about prenatal vitamins! Why are they important? When should you stop taking them?
Prenatal vitamins differ from regular vitamins for women because they have increased levels of certain vitamins, such as folate and iron (due to your baby's growth).
In fact, these vitamins are specially made to improve birth outcomes and prevent birth defects, such as neural tube defects.
Specialists say that you should take a prenatal vitamin in the few months after giving birth as well -- and maybe more for those planning to breastfeed.
Some people even take a postnatal vitamin, however, nutrient levels in a prenatal vitamin do not change postnatally. Therefore, we recommend simply using your prenatal vitamin after giving birth.
Pro tip: You should start taking your prenatal vitamin before you get pregnant OR if you know you are trying to conceive in order to optimize your baby’s health.
Pregnancy is an important time for a woman to ensure she is getting enough nutrients from a well-balanced diet.
Most people living in the United States do not consume adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals in their diet. This is due to a lack of understanding regarding what exactly a balanced diet is, low socioeconomic status, and/or poor food availability.
A balanced diet and lifestyle requires time and effort that many individuals may not be prepared for. This effort is increased during a time like pregnancy, making a healthful/balanced diet even more difficult for a woman that is expecting to achieve.
As healthcare providers, we tell all women to take a prenatal vitamin while pregnant (or trying to become pregnant) in order to be certain that the future mother is consuming adequate amounts of folate, magnesium, etc. We rely on the prenatal vitamin as a safety net to 'cover' what the mother does not receive through her diet.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that this method still may not be enough.
A study found that even with a prenatal vitamin, many women were short on a few vital nutrients. Out of 1,000 pregnant women, 48% were low in magnesium, 36% low in vitamin D, 43% low in vitamin E, and 36% low in iron. Likewise, 95% had intakes that were too high in sodium and even on the flip side, 25% were too high in iron.
Clearly, this 'giving out supplements' approach isn't working, but what can be done differently?
We need a more individualized approach, where dietitians and other health care providers sit down with women and see what their specific needs are. Through this, we can find out what exactly each mother's strengths and weaknesses are in their diet.
With this approach, a prenatal vitamin is not the only line of defense for proper nutrition. It simply becomes the extra 'cushion' of nutritional support that it was originally intended to be.
With this in mind, we wanted to give you more information on what your nutrient needs are so that you can make the best decision about your dietary intake and prenatal vitamin of choice.
Iron - 27mg/day while pregnant (increased from 18mg/day before preg. )
Magnesium - 350mg/daywhile pregnant (increased from 310mg/day before preg.)
Choline - 450mg/day while pregnant (only increased from 425mg/day before preg.)
Folate - 600mg/day while pregnant (increased from 400mg/day before preg.)
Calcium - 1,000mg/daywhile pregnant (same as women who aren't pregnant, but still very important)
B12- 2.2 mcg/day while pregnant (increased from 2.0mcg/day before preg.)
Omega-3s (DHA and EPA) - 200mg/day while pregnant of DHA and 200mg/day while pregnant of EPA
We recommend finding a vitamin that has acceptable amounts of these nutrients, focusing on finding one that is not a gummy -- because we are unable to add iron to gummy vitamins -- DM for more info, we swear we're telling the truth! Also, not all prenatal vitamins have omega's added--so make sure your vitamin includes them before purchasing.
We have reviewed the following vitamins. They contain adequate amounts of the needed nutrients during pregnancy and postpartum. Please note that, again, prenatal vitamins are not meant to fully meet all of your nutrient needs. Prenatal vitamins are not a replacement for a well-balanced diet.
NatureMade Prenatals + DHA
Centrum Prenatal + DHA
One a Day Woman's Prenatal
Baby & Me 2™ Prenatal Multi (w/ Folate)
Ritual Prenatal (w/ Folate)
Modern Fertility (w/ Folate)
Thanks for reading and as always...
Your health today is a LIFETIME of health for you AND your baby.
Until next time!
Coaches Cassie and Mikayla
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So clearly this 'giving out supplements' approach isn't working, but what can be done differently?
At Mamas Maternal Health, we offer one-on-one prenatal nutrition and lactation coaching that is 100% individualized to your needs for this exact reason. If you are interested in working with us 1:1 or in a group setting, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time!
Mikayla and Cassie
Mamas Maternal Health Registered Dietitians/Lactation Counselors
Reference: Average Pregnant woman in U.S. may have poor nutrition