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What You Should Know About Prenatal Vitamins.

Rooted Family Team
 | 
July 18, 2022

Do you want to know how to provide your baby with optimal nutrients to support their development? We've got you covered.
 

This blog explains how optimal nutrient intake during this time period is critical to avoid deficiencies that can impact long term health of both mother and baby, and why you may need more than just a prenatal supplement. 

 

While creating a new life can be a joyous experience, it comes as no surprise that during pregnancy, expectanting mothers/pregnant people can easily become deficient in certain vitamins and minerals due to the physical demands on their bodies. Since nutrient deficiencies can lead to pregnancy complications and detrimental effects to a baby’s development, optimal nutrient intake is critical for both mother/pregnant person and baby. 

For this reason, many people in their pregnancies rely on a prenatal vitamin as an "insurance policy” to cover their nutrient requirements. But not all prenatal vitamins are created equal and that can make it challenging to ensure your nutrient needs are being met. Below you’ll find some helpful information to consider when taking a prenatal vitamin.

 

You may need more than just a prenatal vitamin:

There is a common misconception that taking a prenatal vitamin will provide us with sufficient nutrients to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby. Although most prenatal vitamins contain many important vitamins, there are a few key nutrients that may be offered in a less than optimal dose, or simply not exist in the supplement. This means that we can’t meet all of our prenatal needs by simply taking a prenatal vitamin. 

  • Vitamin D:
    Many of the prenatal vitamins being sold contain less than the current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D which is 600 IU, and this amount may not even be adequate. A study that compared vitamin D blood levels in pregnant women taking 400 IU, 2000 IU and 4000 IU per day, found 4000 IU to be the most effective at increasing vitamin D levels.1  With this in mind, consider investigating your vitamin D levels with your physician or naturopathic doctor through lab testing to determine if you should incorporate additional vitamin D into your supplementation regimen. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids:
    Omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in the formation of cell membranes in the eyes and brain, however despite their importance, EPA and DHA are generally not found in prenatal vitamins. If you are consuming seafood several times per week, you may be obtaining sufficient amounts of omega-3 vitamins. If not, you can choose to take omega-3 supplements that contain EPA and DHA, such as cod liver oil or krill oil. Although some plant sources such as flaxseed contain omega-3 in the form of ALA, this isn’t easily converted to EPA and DHA. A vegan alternative to fish oil is an algae supplement which contains omega-3’s in the EPA and DHA form.
  • Choline:
    One nutrient often not found in prenatal supplements is choline despite its importance for baby’s long term cognitive development. This is one nutrient that can be easily incorporated into the diet to ensure adequate intake. Eggs are an extremely good source of choline. Additional sources include liver, high quality grass-fed dairy foods, and to a lesser extent in cruciferous vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes. 

Look for the methylated forms of vitamins:

Some nutrients that are available in supplements are not necessarily in their naturally occurring form.  Often the synthetic forms of nutrients that are used in supplements are not as well utilized by the body. 

When choosing a prenatal, look for the methylated form of key B vitamins, including B9 (folate) and B12. Vitamins such as folate need to be converted in the body into their active, or “methylated” form in order to be used. Supplementation of the natural methylated form means that the vitamins may be more easily absorbed and utilized by the body.2 

Look for these methylated forms of B vitamins in your supplement:

  • Folate (L-methylfolate, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate)
  • Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin)

 

How many and how often:

When choosing a prenatal, take a moment to consider the contents before you instinctively reach for the convenient one-a-day prenatal. Oftentimes these types of supplements offer less than optimal doses of nutrients, or even leave some out altogether. You may find that the higher quality prenatal vitamins require several capsules per day to reach the full recommended daily dose. More capsules could mean that you are receiving a more comprehensive supplement.

Also consider how you take your prenatal vitamins. Taking prenatal vitamins with food rather than on an empty stomach can help with nutrient absorption and can also reduce the occurrence of side effects, like nausea. Timing is also a factor when it comes to taking your supplement. Some find that prenatal vitamins affect their ability to fall asleep, so if this is something you are experiencing, take your supplements earlier in the day to prevent any disturbance to your sleep patterns.

Obtaining an optimal nutrient intake through pregnancy and postpartum is very important for both your wellbeing and that of your baby. Working with a Holistic Nutritionist or Naturopathic Doctor can offer guidance on your journey.  

  

References:

1. Hollis BW, Johnson D, Hulsey TC, Ebeling M, Wagner CL. Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy: double-blind, randomized clinical trial of safety and effectiveness. J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Oct;26(10):2341-57. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.463. Erratum in: J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Dec; 26(12):3001. PMID: 21706518; PMCID: PMC3183324. 

 

2. Obeid R, Holzgreve W, Pietrzik K. Is 5-methyltetrahydrofolate an alternative to folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects? J Perinat Med. 2013 Sep 1;41(5):469-83. doi: 10.1515/jpm-2012-0256. PMID: 23482308.

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